Homeowner Leader Q&A - Legal Experts Answer Your Questions
Q: Our Board of Directors can't come to an agreement regarding resident comment at Board Meetings. Is there a better time during the meeting to allow for comment or do we allow for comment after each point or topic? How do we limit (and should we) length of comment? Are comments better outside of the meeting, after adjournment? We all agree that community input is very important as it keeps people engaged, informed and we remain transparent. While we value input we want to keep the meeting professional and organized. We need some direction - please help!
A: Pursuant to CCIOA, associations are required to have 9 good governance policies. One of those policies is a conduct of meetings policy. This policy should dictate how the meetings are run and the expectations of the owners and the board regarding the behavior at such meetings. Typically, boards will have an owner forum either at the beginning or end of each meeting. This will allow for owners to present any general concerns or comments they have for the board. Most policies will limit the time for any owner to speak to 3 minutes, which can be extended by the board. The board should note that if you are extending the time for one owner, you should extend the time for all owners. After the open forum, the floor should be opened to any owner for comment before any decision is made by the board. Again this comment section should be limited to a uniform time for any owner wishing to speak. The open forum should take place after the board has discussed whatever they are planning to vote on, but before the vote actually takes place.
Having transparency and input from the members of an association is paramount to a successful association. The board should listen and taken into consideration the thoughts and concerns of those members who attend board meetings. The board should also consider that it is often a small minority who attend board meetings and way their concerns against those members who may not regularly attend board meetings. Ultimately the board does not serve just those vocal members who attend board meetings but the association as a whole when coming to a decision.
Q: Are we required to share Association Contracts with owners? I ask because an owner wants to see and review our landscaping contract as she "knows someone" who might do it cheaper. This has made our Board question how we handle sharing contracts with our community in general. What are the best practice standards?
A: Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA) (and specifically Section 38-33.3-317) provides guidance to Associations by clarifying what are, and are not, association records. The section provides that “current written contracts to which the association is a party and contracts for work performed for the association within the immediately preceding two years” are records of the association for purposes of document retention, and more importantly and as it relates to your question, subject to production to owners. As such, you must provide association contracts to owners when requested.
An association may require a unit owner to request production of an association record in writing, describing with reasonable particularity the records sought, at least 10 days prior to inspection or production of the documents. Additionally, examination and copying times can be limited to normal business hours or the next regularly scheduled board meeting if the meeting occurs within 30 days after the request. Finally, a reasonable charge may be imposed and can be collected in advance to cover the costs of labor and materials incurred for the production of requested documents (but the charge may not exceed the estimated cost of production of the records).
It’s important to remember that transparent governance is key to having a successful and thriving community. The Colorado HOA Information and Resource Center reports that transparency issues continue to be a primary inquiry and/or complaint received by their office.
Further (as I’m sure you’re aware), cheaper isn’t always better. If members of your community take issue with the contracts that the Association’s board members have entered into, remind them that they have the opportunity to attend board meetings and provide comment on board decisions. As fiduciaries of the Association, your board members have the obligation to consider what is in the best interest of the Association as a whole and not its individual members. Make sure that your board is practicing due diligence when reviewing contracts to ensure that your selected vendor is the best suited for the needs of your community (and know, they may not necessarily be the cheapest!).
And finally, make sure that you have a policy regarding the Inspection of Records policy in place in your community. It’s one of the required governance policies required by CCIOA. If you’re unsure of whether your policy is compliant, contact your attorney for review. Thanks for your question!