Guest blog by Deborah Goonan
Exploring Solutions and Empowering HOA Residents
CAI proposes the following in Community Association Living:
“… the board has an obligation to listen to the owners’ concerns and to take those concerns into consideration in making its decisions. Formal means for obtaining owner input include the:
- Resident/owner forum at board meetings
- Participation of owners on committees
- Annual membership meeting
Other means of owner input include owner surveys and letters and suggestions from owners. Just as a board has the responsibility to encourage owner input via these means, owners have the responsibility to use them to make their views known.”
Sounds good in theory, right? Put the onus on the owners to speak up and be heard!
But, suppose the Board does not care to listen, and resists serving the interest of HOA residents?
The truth is, the person who comes forward with ideas or suggestions is often ignored or rebuked by the Board. That has been my personal experience, and one frequently recounted by many other HOA residents. How often have we experienced or heard accounts of the following?
- Owners sit through 2-hour long meetings, only to be told that there is “no more time” for comments at the end of the meeting.
- Owners are told to sit down and “shut up.” Some meetings even result in physical altercations, or police or security escorting owners out of the meeting.
- Meetings are adjourned prematurely to prevent input.
- The Board avoids meetings altogether. If there are no open meetings, how can there be owner participation?
- Meetings are not openly announced, or are held in secret.
Bottom line: HOA governance structure must be legally modified to comply with Federal and State democratic processes. Additionally, States must enforce these processes by allowing members to legally challenge non-compliant governance without having to file a civil suit and pay out of their own pockets, while also paying for the HOA to defend its actions.
Unless fundamental Constitutional rights are incorporated into their governance structures, HOAs will continue to operate as closely held corporations and/or de facto oligarchies.