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Manager’s Advice: How to Keep Calm & In Control When Board Meetings Become Tense

group of people meeting at HOA board meeting

In this series, we ask our experts for their advice on real-life situations that residents and board members of a homeowners’ association (HOA) are currently facing. Read on to learn about this HOA’s dilemma and what our experts advise.

HOA Dilemma: How to Keep Calm & In Control When Board Meetings Become Tense

Several homeowners in our neighborhood want a tennis court repurposed into a pickleball court. Our last HOA meeting deteriorated quickly, as it seems there’s tension between the HOA president and the lead homeowner advocating for the pickleball court. The board president was incredibly hostile to this person and everyone else who showed up to voice a desire for a pickleball court. As a witness to the drama, it appeared that by just showing up, the pickleball advocate was getting on the board president’s last nerve.

What should the board do to ease tempers, get back on track, and finish the meeting on a positive note?

Manager’s Advice: Act Quick on Your Feet

“It’s best to go into a meeting with a plan, but we can’t always guarantee the outcome. We might know our board and our community, but we don’t always know what will set off someone’s temper. In this instance, you must act quickly and defuse the situation without taking sides.

I’d direct the attention away from the board president. I’d encourage a different leader to stand up, take control of the conversation, and give the president time to compose themselves. Thank everyone for coming and thank the homeowner who spoke up about the hot-button topic. Acknowledge their concern or request and let them know that you and the board are interested in hearing what they have to say. Then, ask them to send a detailed proposal to the board, so it can be properly reviewed.

Communicate to residents that you value their input, but emphasize there’s a procedure that must be followed to ensure requests are reviewed appropriately. Provide the next steps and give a clear time in which the board will have a response.

Finally, remind the resident that there’s an agenda to follow, time restrictions, and that the meeting must continue to other items.

By taking this approach, residents feel heard, the board member has time to cool down, and there’s a window of opportunity for the board to jump into their next item on the agenda.” 

- April Herrick, Community Association Management Director, Associa McKay Management

Manager’s Advice: Let Owners Vote on It

“The pickleball versus tennis issue is one we have here in Vancouver, Canada, too.

In British Columbia, a homeowners’ association is called a strata corporation. Strata corporations are governed by the Strata Property Act of British Columbia. It’s a comprehensive set of regulations that apply to the governance and management of all strata corporations throughout the province.

As such, the approach to the tennis-to-pickleball conversion is managed differently here in Canada. Within the Strata Property Act is Section 71, which focuses on significant changes to the use and/or appearance of common property. Section 71 reads as follows:

‘Subject to the regulations, the strata corporation must not make a significant change in the use or appearance of common property or land that is a common asset unless:

A. The change is approved by a resolution passed by a 3/4 vote at an annual or special general meeting, or

B. There are reasonable grounds to believe that immediate change is necessary to ensure safety or prevent significant loss or damage.’ 

In this situation, a pickleball court isn’t safety-related, nor will it be required to prevent loss or damage. So, I’d recommend that the matter be taken to the full ownership at a general meeting as a special voting resolution. Let the owners decide!”

- Bruce Adanac, BA, Director of Community Managers, Licensed Strata Manager, Associa British Columbia, Inc.

7 Ways to Better, More Productive Board Meetings

During board meetings, leaders review operations, settle disputes, and plan for the future. Holding effective meetings is the key to board members fulfilling their role within the community; however—like the situation that this board faced—they don’t always go as planned. Read our article, “7 Ways to Better, More Productive Board Meetings,” to access tools to enhance your board meetings and deliver on the goals for these important get-togethers.