Q&A: Can Everyone Attend Meetings?

Q. Understanding that Massachusetts law enables all condo members to attend board meetings, my question is whether this also holds true if meetings are held in a board member's private residence. Are there any guidelines that differ between the two and is there a cap on attendance??

                                     —Feeling Left Out

A. “The Massachusetts Condominium Act does not provide for an open board,” says Stephen Marcus, partner in Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, PC, in Braintree, Massachusetts. “Some boards have open meetings in any event, but they are not required to. While not required in Massachusetts, we encourage boards to have open meetings. It eliminates suspicions that the board is acting in secret. We also think minutes should go to or be accessible to unit owners.

“Keep in mind that board meetings are like selectmen meetings, so we suggest that boards have unit owner questions and comments for either the first half hour or last half hour of the meeting. Unit owners may attend the rest of the meeting, but may only listen to the board conduct its business. Whether held in a larger location or residence, we don’t believe there should be any limit to those who may attend, but it is fair for the board to ask owners prior to meeting if they plan on attending so the board may plan for number of attendees.

“Some states do require open meetings, so the suggestions we give above as best practices apply by law in other states. In all states, whether open meetings are required or not, the board has the right to go into an executive session closed to owners for specific reasons where confidentiality is needed — such as meeting with their attorney to discuss litigation, discussions of personnel, discussion of specific unit owners who are delinquent in the payment of common expenses, etc.  

“Look at your state’s open meeting law for municipalities for the types of discussions where executive session would be appropriate meetings. States that have open meetings for municipal boards refer to them as ‘sunshine laws,’ where generally discussions are held in the open. For states requiring association open meetings, board should not make decisions through e-mail, since owners are to privy to those discussions.”

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