Unruly board meetings a problem?

The below Q&A can be found in the Las Vegas Review Journal.  Barbara Holland answers a question about unruly meetings.  Barbara is a certified property manager, broker and supervisory certified association manager, is president and owner of H&L Realty and Management Co.

Q: Our homeowners association meetings have turned into a three-ring circus. We have one homeowner, who is apparently mentally unstable, who shows up at board meetings and makes unfounded allegations against the board and the management company and threats against individual board members. Many homeowners have quit attending the meetings because of his disruptive theatrics. Can such an individual be barred from attending future meetings?

A: Many communities have had this problem. Below, I have included what one association added to its community rules to address a similar situation. It states that a homeowner can be suspended from attending board meetings.

Note, before any HOA includes this rule in its regulations, I highly advise you to have your legal counsel review the issue and the language as he or she may wish to make changes or even advise you not to adopt such a rule.

“The board of directors has the right to establish and enforce reasonable limitations and restrictions on the manner in which members of the association may participate in meetings of the association in order to maintain proper decorum during the meetings of the association.

In addition to the restrictions and limitations recognized in Robert’s Rules of Order, the board of directors shall have the right to impose restrictions and/or limitations and fines on members of the association who engage in disruptive behavior during meetings of the association, including but not limited to, speaking out of order, use of profanity, yelling and/or otherwise being loud and boisterous, etc.

“In the event a member of the association engages in such disruptive behavior during a meeting of the association, the member of the association will be issued a warning letter the first time the member engages in such conduct. Should the member engage in such disruptive behavior a second time, the member may be fined and/or suspended from one meeting by the association depending on the nature, severity and flagrancy of the conduct.

Should the member engage in such disruptive behavior a third time, the member may be fined and/or suspended from two or more meetings by the association depending on the nature, severity and flagrancy of the conduct.”

Do you have something to add?  Has your community done something similar?  Let us know if the comments.

In the News

Lakes can become liabilities if not maintained

The   prospect of a nice home situated on a lake in a suburban community is very   appealing to prospective buyers. In many communities, the lakes continue to   be an attractive feature as residents or homeowners associations diligently   maintain the shared amenity. In other neighborhoods, what once was an asset has   become an eyesore and a liability, for a variety of reasons. U.S.   Environmental Protection Agency regulations now require on-site retention of   stormwater, making the lakes more than just an amenity.  Cincinnati.com

Lawyer: Association reserves benefit community
Condo buyers should make sure the community association has reserve funds, lawyer Donna Berger writes. Although some homeowners are wary of a large sum of money in the hands of association board members, having the funds to cover unexpected costs not only can save a community in a challenging time, but it can make the community more appealing to potential buyers. Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)/Condos and HOAs blog

Seeking out and engaging new community association leaders

Perhaps you’re tired of seeing the same old faces sitting up at the front of the room at board and membership meetings. Maybe you own one of those faces and are tired of being up there, waiting for reinforcements to come in. We all recognize that an infusion of new energy, ideas and talent can stimulate any organization whether it’s a business, a sports team or even a community association. The real question is: How do you attract that new talent? Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)/Condos and HOAs blog

Community Association Management SmartBrief

Have you signed up for Community Association Management SmartBrief yet? A few weeks ago, NBC-CAM launched a free, weekly e-mail newsbrief specifically designed for community association managers. Sign up here.  Almost 3,000 of your CMCA colleagues have subscribed already.

This complimentary resource is aimed at bringing you a quick, two-minute read that will help you keep up-to-date with the latest news and trends in our profession. SmartBrief will provide short summaries of the news articles that will be of interest to you as a community association manager. We know it will save you time, keep you informed and add to your success. I hope you will subscribe.

Last week’s issue had an interesting article from Inc.com about diffusing complaints: Listening, refusing to engage in a fight and being willing to take a complaint to a higher authority are among the first steps in dealing with an unhappy client, writes Matthew Swyers. Other tips: Put yourself in the person’s place and offer empathy, work to resolve the issue and conclude your actions with a summary e-mail. Sign up here to get the full story.

A Reporter Calls: Part 2

By Frank Rathbun

“No Comment”

I talk to reporters almost every day, and one thing is clear: Many of the most negative stories we see are generated by homeowners who have turned to the media for public redress of their personal grievances—valid or not. Reporters love David-and-Goliath stories that pit underdogs against an “all-powerful” community or condominium association. Like it or not, that’s our reality.

More often than not, the reporter is given what seems to be a distorted, one-sided perspective.  That’s bad enough, but here’s the disheartening part: All too often I’m told that the association won’t talk to the reporter—hiding behind the incriminating lament “No comment,” or simply not returning calls. Hiding is exactly how reporters see it, and that’s usually viewed as an admission of guilt, incompetence or worse.

Can some residents be unresponsive? Yes! Irresponsible? Absolutely!  So why give them added credence by taking the functional equivalent of the Fifth. If you’ve made sound decisions—if you’ve acted in good faith to meet your fiduciary responsibility to your residents—you should be able to support your actions with facts and perspective. HOA critics are more than happy to speak up, in some cases pushing the limits of credibility.

Faced with even the possibility of negative media coverage, you need to plan a thoughtful response. Talk to board members and solicit the advice of the professionals who support your association, such as managers, management companies, attorneys, accountants, reserve specialists, and so on. Convey the decision-making and business principles necessary to govern your community. Explain how your actions support the best interests of the community as a whole. Go into every interview with 3-5 clear and concise message points that will resonate with a lay audience, and don’t hesitate to repeat them

Yes, there are risks. You may be misquoted. Your statements may be taken out of context. And you’ll be lucky to get equal space or air time. But, more often than not, you’ll get something. Most importantly, you’ve tried. If nothing else, in the eyes of your residents and general public—not to mention public policy leaders—you were willing to stand behind your actions, your board and your community.

As Woody Allen once said, half of life is just showing up.

Frank Rathbun is Vice President of Communications and Marketing for Community Associations Institute.  He can be reached at FRathbun@caionline.org.


See what you’ve missed!

Have you signed up for the Community Association Management Smartbrief yet?  If you haven’t, here’s a little of what you’ve missed:

Miss. HOA heads to court over right to ban rentals — The Northbay homeowners association in Madison, Miss., along with the support of Madison Organization of Neighborhood Associations, is seeking court backing to enforce its ban on rental homes. “Rental properties are often not adequately maintained and degrading to the neighborhood. … We believe this issue is important to all neighborhoods in Madison. MONA has long supported any covenant that increases the value of property, which we think this one does,” MONA Chairman Carl Crawford says. Read the full article.

What do to when the customer isn’t right — What do you do when a customer is convinced he’s right, but isn’t? Cabinet-maker Paul Downs writes that he had to answer that question when a large client wanted an expensive repair to a table the client had damaged. Downs outlines his strategy for keeping customers happy while preventing costly mistakes.  Read the full article.

How a leader resolves problems— Problems are sure to arise in any small organization, but how a boss resolves them can either make or break the situation. A leader should be direct and clear about their desires, rely on partners for support and remain consistent in order to get a good outcome for a problematic situation.  Read the full article.

This complimentary resource is aimed at bringing you a quick, two-minute read that will help you keep up-to-date with the latest news and trends in our profession. Community Association Management Smartbrief will provide short summaries of the news articles that will be of interest to you as a community association manager. Sign up here to get the full stories.

Learn How to Create Fantastic Communities

Insights from the CEO of Capital Consultants Management Corporation

Bart Park, the 46-year-old CEO of one of the nation’s most successful management firms, draws on Old Testament insights – the Golden Rule – when managing communities.

“CMCAs perceive this business as a paper business. It’s not,” Park says.  “It’s a people business. When you treat people the way they want to be treated, it just works.”

Authoritarian vs. Humanitarian Approach — “I hate the stereotypical homeowners association,” Park confesses. “I find them dogmatic, draconian, and all about the rules.”

In his view, HOAs should stop nitpicking about covenant violations and focus on creating ways for people to bond with their neighborhoods. Examples include sponsoring daddy-daughter dances, 10Ks, volunteer outings and Little League.

“HOA management is about understanding people.” Park continues.  “People are nice. And the more you can get them connected to each other and their neighborhood, the better your communities and the more property values go up.”

“The tangential benefit is that you don’t have to enforce the rules because people do it on their own,” he adds. “Fewer homes go on the market, and when they do, they sell for more.”

The Golden Rule — Park’s management philosophy is ‘treat others as you’d like to be treated.’ But what happens when a resident has been harboring too-tall weeds, or a boat in the driveway?

Instead of jumping on the homeowner, assume he or she simply doesn’t know the rules. The first step, then, is education. After you’ve explained the rules (try language like, ‘when you bought your home, you liked the neighborhood because the yards were clean. That’s why we have this rule…’) help the homeowner find a solution. Refer him or her to a boat storage unit with a 5 percent-off coupon. If the problem is overgrown weeds, give him or her a discount at a landscaping business.

Cap off the interaction with the message, “Here’s the place all your neighbors are using.”  Of course, a smart CMCA will have set up those discounts with business partners ahead of time.

And never, ever send out a covenant violation letter on a Wednesday. If you do, so it lands in the homeowner’s mailbox on Friday at 5:03 pm. That gives the recipient all weekend to stew over it, and call you Monday morning in a fury.

From chlorine to a corporate chieftain –  Park, who calls himself a “straight shooter,” is anything but conventional. He dropped out of high school to work first as a lifeguard then an auto mechanic. He entered the industry as pool manager, then moved up to covenant enforcer; then community manager. He worked under mentors such as CCMC founder Ed Budreau and David Gibbons, former CAI educator of the year.

Today, his 600-employee company has a client roster that includes Celebration in Orlando, Florida; Las Vegas’ Mountain Edge; and Dallas’ Craig Ranch and Heartland.

 Bart Park is a member of the NBC-CAM Board of Commissioners.

Trayvon Martin shooting = high cost for homeowners?

Residents of the Retreat at Twin Lakes development in Sanford, Fla., could face high costs for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by a member of the community’s crime-watch program. “They may wind up getting sued and getting hit with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and damages,” says Donna Berger, a lawyer who specializes in homeowners association law. “Who will pay is every member of the association, and they will have to make special assessments. … It’s a cautionary tale for other associations.” Get the full story.

Great Board Members Share 8 Important Traits

Board members can make or break your homeowners association. You’ve run enough meetings to see great members share a number of characteristics. Recognize these?

  1. They want to help the community.They don’t get on the board to work out a vendetta or serve themselves. Instead, they have the best interest of their community at heart.
  2. They’re fair and can see both sides.They can’t be a “do as I say, not as my friends and I do” kind of person. They have to apply the rules fairly to everyone, including themselves. They can also mediate disputes by seeing both sides of an issue.
  3. They can run a meeting.Not every HOA decision is a life-or-death matter, but in order to carry on, decisions must be made. Great board members can set forward an agenda, give things necessary time for discussion and help reach decisions, one by one.
  4. They listen.  Perhaps the most important thing for board member to do is listen to the community. “If community members have taken the time to come to a meeting, chances are they have something to say,” said Kelly Moran, Vice President with Rampart Properties of Tampa, Fla.  “The quickest way for a board to be overturned is to not listen to homeowners.”
  5. They’re honest.That means being willing to admit not knowing the solution to a problem. It also means being law-abiding, and giving honestly and freely of one’s time.
  6. They have foresight.“A board member can’t get caught up in the here and now,” Moran said.  “They need to have foresight as to where the association is going and move the association forward. That’s what makes great communities.”
  7. They can do nothing.Not every argument or issue needs to be reacted to, especially if it takes the board’s focus away from bigger, or more uplifting, issues.  “The two hardest things for a volunteer board of directors to do, is ‘do nothing,’ and ‘say nothing,’” said Bart Park, CEO of Capital Community Management Corporation, Cave Creek, Ariz.
  8. They have fun. Board members who can laugh when things are good—or bad—are well on the way to being a great board member.

Your turn: What makes a great HOA board member? What makes a bad one? Respond in the comment section.

U.S. Community Association Data

As you know, community associations have become increasingly popular because they help protect home values and help meet increased demand for privatization of services as public officials off-load services that were traditionally provided by government, e.g., trash pickup, snow removal, landscaping, street lighting and street and sidewalk maintenance.  Below are the most recent industry statistics.

Estimated number of association-governed communities and individual housing units and residents within those communities:



Housing Units





2.1 million



3.6 million

9.6 million



11.6 million

29.6 million



17.8 million

45.2 million



19.2 million

48.0 million



20.8 million

51.8 million



23.1 million

57.0 million



24.1 million

59.5 million



24.8 million

62.0 million



25.1 million

62.3 million

Association-governed communities include homeowners associations, condominiums, cooperatives and other planned communities. Homeowners associations and other planned communities currently account for 52-55% of the totals above, condominiums for 38-42% and cooperatives for 5-7%.

Estimated number of community association managers:  60,000.

Estimated number of community association management companies: 10,000.

Almost two million people serve on community association governing boards, with almost 400,000 more involved as committee members. Assuming the typical board or committee member spends just one hour a week on association business—and for most it’s much more than that—these volunteer leaders dedicate more than 110 million hours of service to their communities every year. Combined, the estimated value of these community association governance services is about $450 million.

An estimated four out of five housing starts since 2000 have been in association-governed communities, including condominiums converted from existing rental units.

The value of the homes in all community associations is estimated at $4 trillion, approximately 20 percent of the value of allU.S.residential real estate.

Estimated annual operating revenue for U.S. community associations is close to $40 billion. Community and condominium association boards also maintain investment accounts of more than $35 billion for the long-term maintenance and replacement of common property, e.g., roads, swimming pools, structures and elevators.

The estimates provided above for associations are derived from U.S. Census publications, the American Housing Survey, IRS Statistics of Income Reports, consultation with CAI professional members and state-specific data from California and Florida and related trade organizations.