Residents and HOA board members sometimes feel passionately about issues related to their community, whether it’s a new policy on solar panels or a discussion on yard signs. Engaged residents who care about their community is good, but sometimes this passion can result in outbursts of unpleasantness during HOA meetings.
Here’s how to handle these situations.
Use Parliamentary procedure. Some HOAs use a casual meeting format, and that’s fine as long as they’re making progress with minimal crankiness. But if someone tries to dominate the discussion or you aren’t reaching a consensus, consider a more formal meeting format using Robert’s Rules of Order to give meetings more structure. This includes setting an agenda, recognizing speakers, as well as the chair making motions and others seconding those motions. Some people find Robert’s Rules of Orders to be overly stiff and ceremonial, but this approach can help set expectations for how the meeting will run. If you have a board member or community member who tends to interrupt or gives long-winded monologues about their personal beefs, you could also set time limits on how long each person has to talk. This keeps things fair and ensures that everyone gets to speak.
Consider fines if needed. If an owner gets really nasty, perhaps using racist language or threatening a board member, you may need to take more extreme measures to keep that person in check. “I have seen foul language and personal attacks on board members," Robert E. Ducharme, founder of Ducharme Law in Stratham, N.H., who specializes in representing community associations, told HOALeader.com. "Nobody sitting on a board is supposed to be subjected to abuse—period.” If your governing documents allow it, fine the unruly resident for their bad behavior to send a message that nastiness will not be tolerated. This also shows solidarity with the person they’re targeting. If fines aren’t effective and the abusive language continues, the HOA may need to go to court and get a restraining order against the person but that takes more time and money.
Take a moment after the meeting to post an update to your website. Thank your residents for sharing insights and gently remind everyone to be respectful and cordial. Invite everyone back to the next meeting and encourage members that a great way to stay involved in the community is to join the board or a committee.