Every homeowners’ association (HOA) is required to hold critical meetings, including board meetings, annual meetings, executive sessions, and more. While vital to the success of a community, these meetings often lack proper planning, structure, and attendance. That’s why a lesson in parliamentary procedures can help you run more effective board meetings today.
What are Parliamentary Procedures?
Parliamentary procedures are a set of rules that guide conduct at a formal meeting. These procedures ensure all attendees’ voices get heard and facilitate easier decision-making. Robert’s Rules of Order is the most well-known and documented manual of parliamentary procedures, and it’s still widely used today. A book that addresses meeting conduct for several different organizations, Robert’s Rules of Order provides a complete framework for meeting rules, so board and other organization members don’t have to write extensive rules for themselves.
Robert’s Rules of Order is guided by three primary tenets:
- Meetings should be conducted in a consistent, orderly, and respectful manner.
- Meetings should be time-efficient and productive, with one task completed before moving on to the next.
- Voting should be democratic, reflecting the preferences of the majority while still protecting the rights of the minority. Every person in attendance should have an equal opportunity to express his or her perspective.
Following Robert’s Rules of Order can allow for a more orderly meeting, increasing productivity and, consequently, increasing attendance, too.
Basic Parliamentary Procedures to Consider
If the association is required or the board approves the use of parliamentary procedures, board members should review and practice the guidelines to ensure every member feels prepared and ready to fully participate in meetings. Here are some adaptations of Robert’s Rules of Order and verbiage that help move a meeting along in an orderly, respectful, and cordial manner.
Permission to speak must be granted by the president or meeting chair, and comments should be directed to him or her, not to other attendees. To request permission to speak, the attendee raises their hand, stands, or says, “Mister/Madam President.” After being recognized by the board president, the speaker has the floor for up to three minutes. In general, each person only has one opportunity to speak about a particular issue.
Making a Motion
For the board to take action on a particular matter, a motion is required. A motion is a proposal to do something, and making a motion starts the process of forming a decision. The member who wants to introduce the motion requests permission to speak from the president. After being acknowledged, the member makes a motion by saying, “I move that,” and then states the desired action, such as asking for discussion, “I move that our community consider a new landscaping vendor,” or requesting a decrease in dues, “I move to decrease monthly assessments by 12%.”
To move a motion forward, another member needs to second it. After asking for permission to speak and being granted the floor, that member says, “I second the motion.” Discussion is then allowed, with each member requesting permission from the president to speak.
There are three possible outcomes after a motion has been introduced and seconded.
- If no one says anything, the discussion terminates, and no action is taken.
- Any speaker or the president requests a vote by saying, “I call for the question.”
- The matter is postponed until the next meeting by any member saying, “I move to lay the motion on the table.” After being seconded, a simple majority vote is taken on the motion to table.
Amending a Motion
A motion can be amended once. A member says, “I move to amend the motion by,” and then states exactly how the wording of the motion should be amended, usually either the addition, deletion, or replacement of specific verbiage. Another board member needs to second the amendment, and then the members vote. If the amendment fails, discussion resumes on the original, non-amended motion.
Reopening a Tabled Motion
The terminology to reopen discussion on a tabled motion is to state, “I move to take from the table” and include the motion name. After being seconded, it goes to a vote. If it passes, the tabled motion becomes the next agenda item for discussion.
Best practice is to determine the method of voting in advance and follow the same procedure at all meetings. Options include a show of hands, calling out aye vs. nay, doing a roll call, having members stand to indicate their vote, or a secret ballot. Even if a vote seems unanimous, the president should ask for opposition votes. Refer to your governing documents for the number of votes required for a motion to pass. Following the vote, the president states either “the motion passes” or “the motion fails.”
To end the meeting, a member says, “I move that we adjourn.” A second is required, and then attendees vote whether or not to end the meeting. Make sure all business is handled before adjourning. While some HOAs attempt to follow Robert’s Rules of Order, all associations are different and may use a modified version of the rules. It’s best practice to always check your governing documents or ask your community manager for meeting guidance in your community.
How to Run Better Meetings
Successful, well-attended meetings are often difficult for board members to attain. But there are ways to prepare, plan, and run better board meetings for your community, in addition to implementing parliamentary procedures. Read our ebook, “A Board Member’s Guide to Running Better Meetings,” for tips on increasing attendance, working with different personality types, agendas, and much more.