By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Does your homeowners’, condominium, or cooperative association operate transparently? Are Board meetings open to all owners to attend? Are Board and Annual Member meetings recorded? Are owners permitted to speak at meetings?
Over and over again, in response to criticism of HOAs, the industry trade group Community Associations Institute insist that:
- Your HOA Board consists of neighborhood volunteers elected by neighbors
- If you’re dissatisfied, get involved: attend meetings, volunteer to serve on the board, and elect a new Board.
Aside from the fact that millions of Americans reside in Association Governed Housing that is still under full or partial control of a developer (therefore the owners cannot elect a new board and cannot oust board members appointed by the developer), there is also the common problem that, in reality, homeowner board members quite often do NOT want participation from homeowners.
HOA reform activist Jan Bergemann of Cyber Citizens for Justice (CCFJ) in Florida has provided a real-life example of a homeowners’ association that has created some crazy rules governing homeowner attendance at its meetings. Check out the link below.
CCJF Opinion letter by Jan Bergemann:
Here are some highlights:
1.1 C,D. Notice that Association Members do NOT include all Owners, just the representatives of Neighborhood Associations. It is a common arrangement in larger planned communities to create a “Master Association” whose Board is made up of one member from each neighborhood, village, or voting district. Most often, that person is the President of the Neighborhood Association. The planned community is usually divided up based on phases of original construction. Essentially, homeowners at large don’t get to vote on matters at the Master Association level, even though decisions of the Master Association clearly affect all homeowners and residents in the HOA subdivision.
1.2 C (i) Note that only Neighborhood Association Members (representatives) have the right to speak at Board meetings. Parcel Owners can observe only, unless granted permission by the Board Chairperson. It’s the same as living with old-fashioned parents: Don’t speak unless you are spoken to.
1.2 C (vi.) Parcel Owners do not have the right to speak unless granted by the Board Chairperson. Then they get 3 minutes and cannot ask questions. That’s right, you can only make statements, because, why should the Board be expected to answer questions?
1.4 A- D. Board of Directors may fine any person who fails to comply with these rules. They can take legal action and physically remove any person from a meeting, using law enforcement if necessary. Talk about major deterrents to attendance at HOA meetings. Who in their right mind wants to risk being fined, sued, or taken away by a police officer?
Rules regarding Audio and Video Recording of meetings:
24 hour notice to record, cannot live stream the meeting, cannot post online. If you violate this rule you can be fined $100 per incident or the HOA can seek Injunctive Relief (sue you)! So much for Free Speech in America. Apparently this HOA Board believes that the First Amendment need not apply to private organizations such as HOAs.
More information on civil liberties in your HOA.