Homeowners’ Association Board Meetings can be stressful. Often there are discussions that lead to disagreements that can become personal and vindictive if not handled properly. Disagreements are not the problem – they are natural for any organization, but especially with a volunteer board. The key to keeping any conflicts under control and keeping disagreements productive is how you handle them.
Keep Conflicts Controlled In Board Meetings
You can’t stop conflicts, but you can control how they are handled. If you don’t control them properly you can end up with battle lines drawn and bickering that goes beyond the board meeting. This can lead to lots of problems, including personal attacks, arguments, and people leaving the HOA board in anger. It can also give HOA community members a poor impression of the board and its work. There are several ways to keep things under control.
Let Others Speak in the Meeting
Every board member has the right to speak up when they disagree with a decision or have information to contribute to a discussion. The manner in which they do this can keep the conversation positive.
When the floor is open for discussion, whether in a closed meeting or an open forum where any HOA member can ask questions, make it clear there is a time limit for each person. Usually, a few minutes is all anyone needs to make their case. Also, make it clear that no one speaks until they are recognized by the chairman or director of the board, then make sure everyone has their chance to speak.
Set Some Ground Rules
Anytime someone speaks, there should be strict rules on how they present their opinion and how they treat others who disagree with them. Here are some simple guidelines to follow.
- No personal accusations are permitted.
- No one interrupts another speaker.
- If the conflict can’t be resolved at the board meeting, a time and place for further discussion should be suggested or scheduled to ensure everyone has a say.
- Board members should not form alliances outside the board room to further their own agenda. If they have a grievance, it needs to be brought to the attention of the board and handled internally.
- Board members should not gossip to the media, social media, the HOA community or the HOA community at large. Productive discussions are encouraged but should include all board members, not just factions.
Preventing Conflicts Before They Happen
Conflicts often arise when there is not enough structure or oversite for HOA board members or officers. It also occurs when there is no clear mission statement or understanding of the role of the HOA board. To minimize the opportunities for these kinds of conflicts, the HOA board of directors need to address some common issues before they turn into battles.
Have a Clear Mission Statement
A clear mission statement outlining what the HOA Board’s purpose is and how it functions to achieve those goals lets everyone know why the board exists and what it can and can’t do.
Have Guidelines in Place for Evaluating the Director
Many conflicts arise when the Director of an HOA board tries to wield more power than the position should have. The expectations for the Director should be outlined clearly so there is no misunderstanding about the position’s limits of power and the fact that the Director answers to the board and not the other way around.
Allow the HOA Board to Evolve
Many conflicts arise at board meetings when a younger or newer faction of an HOA board doesn’t agree with the “Old Guard.” It is important for everyone to realize that HOAs must evolve over time to meet the changing needs of a growing community. Keeping an open mind and periodically revisiting rules or regulations that may have become outdated is one of the most important functions of HOA board meetings.
Keep in Mind the Greater Good
There will be times of crisis when board members’ emotions will run high. It may be due to a lawsuit, someone has done something illegal or disagreement about how to proceed with a new ordinance. It is key for all members of the board to remember the overall goal. Even if they disagree with a decision, once it has been made, they need to support the Board. Community members will cease to trust in the board’s ability to represent their best interests.
Leave it at the Door
Finally, any conflicts at a board meeting need to be left there. Never take it outside the meeting and don’t allow it to become personal. If you see this happening, it needs to be brought up at a closed-door meeting. With all members involved tough situations can be defused quickly.