Oregon law requires that incorporated homeowners associations hold at least one membership meeting per year—what is commonly called the annual meeting. ORS 64.201 (1). While associations may hold multiple owner meetings throughout the year, the annual meeting provides association members the opportunity to hear a recap of their association’s activities from the past year, and gives owners a snapshot of the association’s budget and plans for the upcoming year. The annual meeting also gives owners an opportunity to have a voice in the operation of the association by voting to elect their newest board members. Below are four tips for having a more successful annual meeting.
First, use Robert’s Rules of Order. Robert’s Rules help the meeting’s chair balance the minority’s right to have a voice in the affairs of the association against the majority’s right to control the association’s affairs and conduct an orderly meeting. Most meetings—especially contentious meetings—become long and cumbersome because the chair fails to follow Robert’s Rules, allowing particularly vocal owners undue influence over the meeting. To avoid this pitfall, the chair should follow Robert’s Rules—particularly, the chair should insure that owners are recognized before speaking, that all owner comments are addressed to the chair and not other owners, that an owner who has the floor is not interrupted, that no owner speaks twice until every other owner has had the opportunity to speak once, and that the time limits for speaking from the floor are observed.
Second, in the annual meeting notice, let owners know that, should the association fail to obtain quorum, the meeting will be adjourned and immediately recalled at a reduced quorum requirement. Oregon statutes allow the board to lower the annual meeting quorum requirement if the notice of the meeting indicates that, should the association fail to obtain quorum, it will immediately recall the meeting at a reduce quorum requirement. Keep in mind, however, there are some limitations on this tool. The association cannot use the statute to reduce the quorum twice for one meeting, and the association cannot reduce the quorum requirement below twenty percent.
Third, carefully review and follow bylaw provisions regulating voting and elections. Small differences in bylaw language may have a large effect on the legality of the actions the owners attempt to take at the annual meeting. For example, do your bylaws allow for election by plurality vote, or do they require majority vote? Can owners elect directors to two vacancies at the same time, or do they have to vote for directors separately? Do the questions you are voting on require approval by a majority of all owners, or only by the majority of a quorum? The board should be prepared with the answers to these and other voting-related questions.
Fourth, amend the meeting agenda if a different order of business better suits your association. While it’s comforting to follow a tried-and-true agenda, sometimes an association is best served by addressing business out of the typical order. For example, if tallying votes takes a long time for your association, you may want to amend the agenda to have voting done at the beginning, and have officers present their reports to the membership while the votes are being tallied. Small adjustments in business can make for a much more efficient and enjoyable meeting.