Strata FAQ – Meetings

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Why is it important to keep accurate records of meeting minutes?

Meeting Minutes

An owners corporation’s only official record of its decisions of actions. Therefore, it is imperative that these records are properly taken. These points will help.

  • A resolution is a formal determination by an organised meeting. A motion is a proposed resolution before it has been carried by the meeting.
  • In the absence of any legislative requirement or rules of the strata community itself, a motion does not require a mover or a seconder. There are no such legislative requirements for strata communities in Australia.
  • Minutes may be either ‘minutes of resolution’ or ‘minutes of narration’. The former describe the decisions but not the discussion. We prepare minutes of resolution to avoid subjectivity and bias.

Motions must:

  • Start with “that”;
  • Be quite specific;
  • Be unambiguous;
  • Not be worded in the first person; and,
  • Not contain more than one sentence.
  • Confirmation of minutes is a formal declaration of the facts recorded in the minutes, e.g. that a particular motion was carried or lost. It is not the ratification of any decisions made. No such ratification is necessary.
What content is appropriate for “closed” meetings?

The following issues may be appropriate for “closed” meetings:

  • Pending litigation, i.e. Building defect claims;
  • Personnel issues where schemes employ concierge, maintenance, building manager or security staff, i.e. job performance or harassment allegations;
  • Contract negotiations, where schemes outsource services of building management for example.

Items for discussion should be listed on the agenda of the EC meeting, by doing so,attendees are less likely to be offended when asked to leave a meeting.Even though the meeting may be closed, the results should be recorded in the minutes. If appropriate, communicate the results of a closed meeting, but remember: the information discussed is confidential.

Though closed meetings are sometimes necessary, EC committees must be careful not to abuse the privilege.Closed meetings should not be used simply because the EC wants to discuss an unpopular subject or avoid confrontation.EC members may think closed meetings are appropriate but proprietors of the scheme may see them as secret meetings. Avoid that perception by limiting the number of closed meetings, announcing the sessions in advance and explaining the reasons for the sessions.

What are parliamentary procedures ?

The strata legislation will tell you when and how to call a meeting and provide rules aboutvoting, but in the main, the manner in which a meeting is conducted is left to the community.A basic understanding ofparliamentary procedure can help with the orderly flow of ameeting.

The basic rules of parliamentary procedure that everyowner’scorporation can follow include:

  • Follow the agenda;
  • Discuss one subject at a time;
  • Give each person a chance to speak onceuntil all speakers have had their turn, thenpeople may have a second opportunity;
  • Speak only on the issue being discussed;
  • Speak only when recognised by the chair;
  • Address questions and comments to the chair; and
  • Decide procedural issues throughmotions, seconds and votes from the floor
How do you reduce meeting time ?

If your meetings are lasting forhours,it could be that your members are not properlyprepared. A good meeting pack sent out before the meeting will help.

Here are five tips:

  1. Put the finishing time on the agenda–all agendas will have a starttime,but few have afinishing time; it’s amazing what a difference this can make. Most people agree that 2hours is enough for a good meeting. Anything longer becomes tedious and ineffective;
  2. Start your meeting right on time out of consideration for those that made the effort to bepunctual. Latecomers will catch up and will soon learn that you mean business;
  3. Include benchmark times in the agenda, for example, ‘Call to order 10:00 am, Approval ofMinutes 10:05 Financial Reports 10:10 etc. This tells people how long has been allottedto each segment of the meeting if you are to finish on time;
  4. Be descriptive in the agenda to push towards desired outcomes;
  5. Meeting papers should appear in the pack in the same order as the agenda
How do you prepare an effective meeting ?

Strata communities are renowned for meetings that seem to lack purpose or drag on too long.This is one of the reasons why it is hard to get people involved. A well-run strata community should pride itself on purposeful meetings that run for no more than two hours.

The basic ingredients for this are:

  1. A well thought through agenda;
  2. Papers provided in advance;
  3. An understanding of what decisions are needed;
  4. An appropriate balance between monitoring what has been done and strategising about what needs to be done; and
  5. Active debate (more about this and how the chair can promote active debate next week).

A well thought through agenda will pace the group by suggesting time frames for certain business.For example:First fifteen minutes–agree additional agenda items (if any), confirm previous minutes and identify outstanding matters from previous meetings.Second fifteen minutes–an update from the strata manager on tasks completed and the progress of tasks outstanding.One-hour discussion–the main matters requiring decisions at meetings.Last half hour-reviewing accounts, budgets and outstanding levies.If a Committee has only four meetings a year, then for the one-hour substantive discussion you might plan to deal with some predictable issues.

First meeting after the AGM-spend one hour to induct new committee members and adopt the draft strategic plan for the Committee (see part 2 in this series).Second meeting–spend one hour to review compliance issues.Third meeting–spend one hour on repairs and maintenance to ensure preservation of value.Fourth meeting–agree the budget for the forthcoming AGM.

The most important thing that a Strata Manager/Body Corporate Manager or Chair person can do to ensure a purposeful meeting apart from preparing a meaningful agenda, is to ensure that the meeting starts on time and finishes two hours later. Everything expands to the available time so by publicising the time for the meeting to end, you will ensure a more purposeful meeting.

How do you make meeting minutes matter?

Meeting Minutes an owner’s corporation’s only official record of its decisions of actions. Therefore, it is imperative that these records are properly taken. These points will help. Meeting minutes reflect what the organization decides, not what its members say.

A request by somebody to note in the minutes their particular objection to a matter ought to be refused as this tends to “high jack” the minute.

Minutes should show each motion as voted upon and how it was dealt with i.e.passed, defeated, tabled, returned to committee or ruled out of order.

Minutes should include points of order, appeals–whether sustained or not–and the chair’s reason for the ruling.

Boards should destroy meeting tapes and notes when the minutes are adopted.A motion passed is properly described as a “resolution”.All resolutions should begin with the word “resolved”.

How can you keep the meeting moving ?

The chairperson has the responsibility to not let rambling discussions impeded progress.Thirty-minute monologues, gossip sessions and searching for someone to blame for a problem, all waste valuable committee meeting time.Here are some suggestions from experienced managers and chairpersons about how to keep business flowing:

  1. Never present an issue–particularly a minor one without a proposed solution. Any time you dangle a topic in front of people and invite opinion, everyone will feel challenged to weigh in with off the cuff opinions;
  2. Meetings are for making decisions and are not the time to begin the decision making process or discuss minor issues.
  3. Good preparation and pre-meeting discussions will ensure that decisions are taken at meetings rather than discussions beginning;
  4. Meetings should not be an occasion to micro-manage the strata manager. The committee should be making major decisions about important issues like contracts and larger expenditure(within committee limits, if any);
  5. Excluding people from debate will harbour resentment so on controversial issues, give every person the chance to talk so that the dominant personalities do not hijack the meeting; and
  6. At a committee level, look for consensus rather than forcing votes that could destroy a group’s functionality by creating winners and losers.
How can I find a suitable time and place for a meeting ?

Eliminating distractions is essential for running a good meeting, that’s why having a committee meeting at someone’s home is not a good idea if it can be avoided. A committee meeting at someone’s home will invite more distractions, from pets to the television.A more formal setting is best. If the community does not have a meeting room, then an available room at the strata manager’s office could be used.

If that does not suit, many public libraries have meeting rooms available for reasonable fees.Some meeting experts believe a business-like setting does not include food. Food can bed is ruptive. Munching on corn chips is not generally thought to be conducive to good listening.Refreshments might be served either at the beginning or end of the meeting but not during the meeting. Certainly, alcohol during the meeting should be avoided.

Controversial decisions may be challenged if drink is involved.As to the best time for a meeting, opinions are divided. Managers would prefer all meetings to be held during working hours and owners would like them to be held after hours or on Saturday.

There is no right or wrong answer to this.Most experts agree however, that meetings should not last more than two hours, at this point it becomes more productive to continue at another time. When people are tired or frustrated,rash decisions might be taken. These last minute decisions can often result in disputes and even longer meetings in the future as the parties attempt to recover from their haste

Am I allowed to videotape a meeting?

The Executive Committee’s guide to better owners corporation meetings every owner’s corporation needs accurate, permanent minutes. One way to accomplish this is by videotaping meetings. But is taping a meeting a good idea?

What are the pros?

  • Members can review how decisions were made;
  • Tapes help create accurate minutes;
  • Minute takers can transcribe minutes without rushing;
  • Minute takers can participate in discussions; and,
  • Owners corporations don’t need paid staff to take minutes.

What are the Cons?

  • Tapes can be used as ammunition by opponents;
  • More business may be conducted in private, away from tapes;
  • Some attendees may be hesitant to speak when being taped;
  • Others may “grandstand”, adding to meeting time; and,
  • Tapes are not always reliable–information may be lost.

The decision to tape a meeting, or not, should be made by those at the meeting, not the chair. Once taped, the meeting becomes part of the records of the owners corporation and must be kept and provided upon a search of the records

Should I tape record my meeting?

Taping helps the secretary prepare the written minutes accurately. Although it is not necessary (indeed ill advised) to quote each speaker verbatim, it allows the secretary to quote important phraseology about motions and resolutions.

If disputes erupt, the owners corporation can save the recordings to determine what was actually said at the meeting.The fact that the meeting is being taped may cause some committee members to think about the propositions put forward and make more rational decisions.Some people may object to the taping of the meeting, they can either leave the meeting or remain and choose not to speak.

On occasions someone with something important to say will refuse to speak into a tape recorder. There is a danger in permitting unrecorded communication–the individual may later deny actually making such statements, rendering it worthless.Sometimes speakers want nothing that proves they are making accusations against another owner.

They may not want to be on tape suggesting something unpopular. Yet, the chair may consider such information to be crucial. In an appropriate situation, the Chair could hold a vote to suspend taping.Sometimes committee members either openly or secretly tape meetings without permission.

Once it is learned that a member is recording the meeting, a decision needs to be made whether or not to allow the taping to continue.

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