Q&A: Lost in the Translation

Q Our association holds monthly meetings on the same time, day and location every  month. Notices are posted in the elevators and common areas one week in  advance, yet no one attends. If binding votes are required to be in the  presence of owners in an open meeting, what happens when there are no  attendees?  

 —Absentee Owners

A “The question of how to conduct business with insufficient attendees at a meeting  is one that, unfortunately, associations often confront. As with many issues, some answers may be derived from your documents,” says Gary M. Daddario, a partner at Perkins & Anctil, P.C. in Westford, MA. “First, you will want to make sure that the notice provided for any meeting meets  or exceeds the time required by the documents for notice. Sometimes providing greater advanced notice will yield increased attendance. The facts provided indicate that notice is provided through public posting. Note  that some documents require notice to be delivered to unit owners.  

 “Assuming that notice provisions are complied with but that attendance is still  insufficient, the issue becomes whether or not the association can actually  conduct business. Again, some documents are instructive. For instance, some  documents provide that the association’s business may be conducted at the meeting and take effect upon being ratified  by unit owners subsequent to the meeting. Such provisions typically require  that unit owners sign off on a written statement of the business conducted. If your documents have such a provision, this may allow you to conduct business.  Some documents provide that a meeting with insufficient attendance may be  rescheduled and that the rescheduled meeting may be subject to less-stringent  attendance standards.  

 “I have worked with some associations whose documents lack any of the provisions  referenced above. Some of these have taken to calling a vote among those  actually present at the meeting to determine whether or not those present agree  to conduct business knowing that the required attendance is lacking. While this  would leave the business of the meeting subject to challenge, if all present  agree then the challenge would need to be taken by a unit owner that failed to  attend the meeting. Some boards are willing to take this chance in order to be  able to effectively operate.  

 “It may be worth mentioning that some boards will ‘bribe’ unit owners in order to obtain sufficient attendance. By this I mean that some  boards will offer something to entice people to attend. In some cases, this may be a guest speaker, such as a community police officer  if the community is interested in a neighborhood crime watch or the like.  Sometimes, it may simply be refreshments (i.e., food and drink) offered to  attendees.  

 “If insufficient attendance continues to plague the board’s attempts to conduct business, you may be required to examine the possibility  of amending your documents. Provided you follow the proper procedure for the  amendment, you may be able to institute a less-stringent standard for the  attendance required to conduct business at a meeting.”