Robert's Rules for Condominiums and HOAs

Most community associations use parliamentary procedure to govern board and owner meetings. In the United States, the most popular form of parliamentary procedure is Robert’s Rules of Order. Complicated? Surely. But if you understand a few basics, you can learn how to run a civil and efficient meeting. Here’s the key to Robert’s Rules: 1) Motion 2) Second 3) Debate 4) Vote. The entire meeting should follow those steps.

First, a member of the assembly makes a motion. This is how business is brought before the group. Standing up and complaining, or voicing a concern, is not a motion and is “out of order.” Instead of standing up to complain about the state of disrepair of the clubhouse, I can make a motion. For example: “I move that we spend $2000 to repair the clubhouse.”

Next, another member of the assembly must second the motion. This simply ensures that at least one other member wishes to debate the motion. If a second is not received, the motion dies and a new motion may be entertained.

Now is the time to debate the motion. Members of the assembly take turns explaining why the assembly should vote for or against the motion.

Once the debate is closed, the assembly votes on the motion. Then the chair announces the outcome of the vote and a new motion may come before the assembly. The process repeats itself until a motion to adjourn the meeting is made.

To be sure, there are dozens of nuances and technical details. For example, during debate of a motion the maker of the motion speaks first, you alternate between those for the motion and those against the motion, those who haven’t spoken get precedence over those that have, etc., etc. Don’t get hung up on the technical aspects—-just remember: Motion, Second, Debate, Vote. That’s 99% of knowing Robert’s Rules.

Click here for a simple chart of parliamentarian motions: Motions Chart

Amending Governing Documents

Amending your condominium or homeowners association governing documents is no easy chore. It can be a long and costly process, and even then, you may not receive enough votes to approve the amendments. The process of amending goes like this:

1. Identify the reasons for amendments 2. Determine any statutory requirements 3. Determine voting requirements 4. Decide on the method of voting 5. Solicit owner feedback on proposed amendments 6. Conduct the vote 7. Prepare the amendments for recording 8. Sign and notarize 9. Secure any governmental approvals 10. Record the amendments with the county recorder

Here are some things to consider before embarking on an amendment project:

Identify the Reasons for the Amendments

There are many reasons to amend governing documents. Common reasons include:

1. Legislative changes 2. Ambiguous provisions 3. Outdated provisions 4. Community demographic has changed 5. Removal of “declarant” language 6. Adding or removing restrictions

It’s critical that the reasons for each amendment are conveyed to the owners. After all, most amendments require owner approval. Making a convincing case to the ownership will result in higher voter turnout and more “yes” votes.

Find out What’s Required

Most CC&R amendments require a vote of between 65%-75% of the entire ownership. Bylaw amendments typically require a majority vote of the owners. However, sometimes state law will require different approval requirements. For example, in Oregon condominiums the approval of 75% of all owners is required for any amendment related to pet restrictions or the rental or leasing of units. (ORS 100.410(4)). In Washington, a homeowners association may amend its governing documents to remove discriminatory provisions by a majority vote of just the board of directors (RCW 64.38.028)

Method of Voting

Most associations will find it impossible to approve a governing document amendment at a physical meeting of the owners. For a CC&R amendment requiring 75% approval, the chances of that many owners attending a physical meeting in person or proxy is slim. The most common method is to conduct the vote by written ballot. Better yet, some communities may conduct the vote via online ballot. This often generates the most voter turn out. For an example of an online ballot, click here.

Finalize and Record

Once the required number of votes have been received, the amendment must be prepared for signature and recording. In some cases, approval by the state or a governmental authority must be received and reflected on the amendment. The amendment should contain references to the original documents which are subject to the amendments, and must be signed and notarized. The amendments do not become effective until recorded with the county recorders office.

To learn more, check out our document amendment timeline.

Turnover in Condominiums and HOAs - Oregon

Organization of Association The Oregon Planned Community Act (PCA) and the Oregon Condominium Act (OCA) require that an association of owners be formed for the purpose of administrating, managing, and operating the development. The PCA specifically requires the declarant to organize the association as a nonprofit corporation under the Oregon Nonprofit Corporation Act (See ORS chapter 65) and adopt and record the initial bylaws not later than the date on which the first lot is conveyed.   With respect to a condominium, upon the recording of the declaration and bylaws, an unincorporated association is created by operation of law. Typically, the governing documents require the declarant to incorporate the association as a nonprofit corporation under ORS Chapter 65 prior to the conveyance of the first unit or by the turnover meeting discussed below.

Declarant Rights Relating to Control of Association.  

Subject to certain statutory limitations, a declaration may provide for a period of declarant control of the association. A declarant’s control of an association may include the authority to appoint and remove officers and members of the board of directors of the association, to exercise powers and responsibilities otherwise assigned by the declaration and bylaws to the association, to approve amendments to the declaration or bylaws and, to allocate a greater number of votes to lots or units owned by the declarant. However, even though a declarant may initially control an association, the association itself is a separate entity.

Transition from Developer Control to Control by Owners

Transition is frequently characterized as a process and not an event. This concept is reflected in the PCA and OCA, both of which require the formation of a transitional advisory committee. This committee provides for the transition from administrative control by the declarant to administrative control by the association and its board and is generally referred to as a “turnover.” The timetable and procedure for turnover is established by the PCA or OCA and the declaration. A smooth transition, one that is well organized and amicable, will minimize conflicts and be in the best interests of all involved parties. A successful transition significantly contributes to the success of a development.

Transitional Advisory Committee

As mentioned, the PCA and the OCA provide for the formation of a transitional advisory committee to facilitate the transition from the administrative control by the declarant to control by the association. For condominiums, the formation of a transitional advisory committee is only required if the condominium consists of at least 20 units or, if it is a staged or flexible condominium, the number of units that may annexed or created totals 20. For a planned community created on and after January 1, 2002, a transitional advisory committee is only required for Class I Planned Communities. A transitional advisory committee is advisory only. However, it can request access to the information, documents and records that the declarant must deliver to the owners at the turnover meeting. Serving on the committee provides owners an opportunity to become familiar with the governing documents, budgets, architectural and other restrictions, rules and other critical aspects of association operation and management. Members of the advisory committee are often those owners who ultimately run for, and are elected to, board positions at the turnover meeting.

Turnover Process

Turnover marks the time when legal control of an association is transferred from the declarant to the owners. However, a developer who retains a majority of the units may still practically control the association.

Calling of the Turnover Meeting

The PCA and OCA require the declarant to call the turnover meeting within 90 days of the expiration of any declarant control specified in the declaration. If no such control has been reserved in the declaration, the PCA and OCA specify a time by which such meeting must be called. The declarant must give notice of the turnover meeting in accordance with the bylaws and PCA or OCA. If the turnover meeting is not called by the declarant within the time specified, for a condominium, the meeting may be called and notice given by an owner. In the case of a planned community, the meeting may be called and notice given by an owner or the transitional advisory committee.

Turnover Meeting

At the turnover meeting, owners elect a board of directors and the declarant has the obligation to deliver all property of the owners and association held or controlled by the declarant, as well as all items specified in the PCA and OCA. This includes the association’s governing documents and financial records. Turnover is a critical time in the life of an association. It is therefore important that the association consider retaining the assistance of an attorney experienced in HOA law to ensure a smooth transition and enable the new board to function in a manner that is consistent with all applicable laws and meets the needs of the development.

Three-Month Period After Turnover Meeting.

To facilitate an orderly transition, during the three-month period following the turnover meeting, the declarant, or an informed representative, is required to be available to meet with the board of directors on at least three mutually acceptable dates to review the documents delivered at the turnover meeting.

Review of Financial Statement

For communities with annual total assessments of more than $75,000, the PCA and OCA require the financial statement of to be reviewed in accordance with statements on Standards for Accounting and Review Services issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Audit of Association Affairs

After the turnover meeting, the owner-elected board of directors should conduct an audit of the affairs of the association. The board will ultimately need to decide the breadth and scope of the audit. However, consideration should, at a minimum, include a review of the following:

(1) Property Inspection. An inspection of the physical components of the association’s property is critical. In conjunction with such inspection, the following are recommended:

(a) An inspection of and written report regarding the physical condition of the development by someone with experience to recognize faulty workmanship, shoddy maintenance and construction defects.

(b) A written report by an engineer or other qualified person to determine if plans and specifications were followed in construction of the development.

(c) Determination of the status of any unfinished construction repairs.

(2) Association Status. The declaration and bylaws govern matters relating to the operation of the association, including whether it must be incorporated. Unless the declarant provided a copy of the articles of incorporation at the turnover meeting, the board of directors must review the governing documents and determine whether the association is required to be incorporated. If so, after confirming with the Corporation Division in the office of the Oregon Secretary of State, the board should cause the articles of incorporation to be drafted and filed in accordance with Oregon law.

(3) Association Records. As noted above, the PCA and the OCA require that the declarant deliver to the association at the turnover meeting specific documents and items. If not provided by the declarant, the board should specifically request:

-An original or photocopy of the recorded declaration and copies of the bylaws and articles of incorporation;

-A deed to the common property, unless contained within the declaration;

-The recorded minutes of the association and board of directors;

-All rules and regulations adopted by the declarant;

-Financial statements;

-Any and all records of association funds and accounts;

-Any and all tangible personal property of the association and an inventory of such property;

-Records of all property tax payments to be administered by the association;

-Copies of all income tax returns filed by declarant in the name of the association;

-Any and all bank signature cards;

-Reserve account and reserve study information;

(4) Assessment Collections Audit. There should be a complete analysis and evaluation of the collection process and the adequacy of the reserves fund. If there are a significant number of past due assessments, immediate action should be considered. Even if there are only a few assessments that are past due, it is recommended that if there is a transition committee, that it have a collection resolution drafted and ready for adoption by the owner-elected board of directors to facilitate the collection process. A professional reserve study may be needed to help properly fund this account.





Dealing With Marijuana in Your Community Association

Last month Oregon voters passed Measure 91, legalizing marijuana, and following in the footsteps of Washington and Colorado. Many community associations are asking "what can we do about it?" One possible solution is an amendment to your governing documents that specifically addresses any nuisances that may result from marijuana smoke or growth operations.  In other cases, adopting a rule or regulation may be feasible.

However, one issue (which remains undecided by the courts) is what authority does a homeowners association have to regulate the use of marijuana by owners with disabilities? Under the Fair Housing Act, homeowner associations must grant reasonable accommodations or requests to owners or residents with a qualifying disability. Community Association Law Group can help you navigate these Fair Housing issues.

Associations wanting to take a proactive approach should consider an amendment to the governing documents.  Community Association Law Group will prepare an amendment to your governing documents which addresses the use and growth of marijuana for a flat fee of $800.00.

Here are some news articles from different states discussing the issues:

Oregonian: Marijuana may be legal in some states, but homeowner agreements can still ban it

NerdWallet:  Is Marijuana Covered By Homeowners Insurance?

MainStreet: Marijuana Legalization Meets Challenges With Homeowner's Associations