Happy New Year from all of us at Winzenburg, Leff, Purvis & Payne! As we begin 2014, I thought I would continue with my annual tradition of providing HOA boards with New Year resolutions for consideration. This year, please consider the following resolutions with a focus on building community and putting a halt to disputes before they get out of hand.
1. Commit to Transparency. While open meetings for HOA boards are the law of the land in Colorado, some HOA boards utilize “working sessions” in an attempt to get work done without interruptions. While working sessions should not be utilized to take formal action and one could argue do not constitute a “formal meeting,” shutting members out of these meetings could result in a perception that the board has something to hide. As a result, with the exception of permissible executive sessions, commit to ensuring that all meetings are open to the members and utilize your Conduct of Meetings Policy to avoid inappropriate interruptions.
2. Ensure that Members Have an Opportunity to Speak Prior to the Board Taking Formal Action. While meetings of the board are business meetings and members should not be permitted to inappropriately interrupt the work of the board, it is also important to remember that Colorado law permits members to speak prior to the board taking formal action on a matter. As a result, in addition to an open forum at the beginning of a meeting, make sure that owners are permitted to speak to an issue prior to the board voting to take formal action.
3. Use Surveys and Special Member Meetings to Obtain Essential Input. When considering a tough issue that could be controversial or significantly impact the members, utilize a survey to educate the members on the issue and to obtain their input prior to taking formal action. If the issue is truly a hot button, you should also consider holding a special meeting of the members for the purpose of explaining the issue fully, answering questions and obtaining essential input.
4. Use Mediation to Address Disputes Before They Blow-up. There is no question that when left unaddressed, small disputes between members and their associations can fester and blow-up into ugly disputes. Don’t let this happen! Utilizing an independent 3rd party to mediate a dispute can get to the heart of the problem and resolve the dispute before it becomes destructive. There’s no doubt about it, mediation can be a cost-effective and positive way to resolve disputes.
By implementing these easy New Year resolutions, HOA boards can take essential steps to promote a harmonious and productive 2014!