By now, you’ve probably been experimenting with virtual homeowners’ association board meetings. Have they gone smoothly? Are you unsure about how best to structure them to ensure you are staying legal while keeping the peace? We interviewed attorney Benjamin Rooney at Keay & Costello, P.C. to share his advice.

How to structure virtual board meetings

The law allows for virtual community association board meetings so long as everyone participating can communicate with each other. Both the Illinois Condominium Property Act and the Common Interest Community Association Act (CICAA) require that every board meeting (except executive session) be open to every unit owner. Phone conferencing or, ideally, video conferencing, counts for this. But, remember to revise your meeting notices to explain how members can participate. All other standard notice provisions apply; the notice must still comply with applicable law and the association’s governing documents.

Virtual board meeting legalities

Although a virtual board meeting is likely a new format for your community association, it is important to uphold both the legal obligations and the rights of the board and association members. Quorums must still be met, and you must still take and retain meeting minutes. Finally, members must be able to view or listen to all meetings. Remember, boards should always take advantage of the right to have certain discussions in executive session. Benjamin tell us,

This may require a separate conference call or virtual breakout room, but there is no reason to do away with executive sessions simply because it may now take some extra steps.

Here’s an HOA meeting minutes template.

Keeping the peace

Be careful to keep order by conducting the meeting with best practices in place. If you find your owners difficult to control in in-person meetings, you may be concerned about virtual meeting participation. Here are a few tips to keep the peace.

  1. For community associations that are not condominiums, the law requires that only a portion of the board meeting must be open for comments by members. For condo associations, unless the governing documents require a portion of the meeting be reserved for owner participation, you have the right to hold meetings without allowing members to comment. Members must still be “open” to hear or watch, but if you desire, or if you are not tech savvy, you may choose to keep virtual meetings closed to comment.
  2. Consider altering how owners participate. Even CICAA allows for the duration of the meeting allowed for member comment to be up to the discretion of the board. On virtual board conferences, try limiting member comment to a pre-determined time window.
  3. Set the ground rules up front. If the owners know what to expect, they’ll find it easier to participate respectfully. Share how and when owners can participate, and how you’ll keep the meeting at a reasonable length. Show them you’ve thought it through. Also, it is easier to cut a long-winded homeowner short if there’s a time limit, and others need a chance to speak. It then becomes about the rules, rather than feeling like a personal dig on that owner’s opinions.