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SCS will Host Two CAI-SC Events this Spring

Southern Community Services is hosting two Community Associations Institute (CAI-SC) Lunch and Learn events in spring 2018. Join us!

Register online online at or 

Stay tuned for more details on speakers and session topics!

April 26, 2018: Columbia

Southern Community Services
King’s Grant Clubhouse
300 North Kings Grant
Columbia, SC 20209
Capacity: 50

May 3, 2018: Charleston

Southern Community Services
Park West Clubhouse
2701-P1 Park West Blvd
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29466
Capacity: 50-75

Snipers & Terrorists

Out of the blue, an irate homeowner launches a smear campaign aimed directly at the board. It’s relentless and focused. The motivation may be some personal grievance, hatred of a board policy, disagreement on how the board does business in general or loathing for the whole HOA concept. Rather than seeking redress in an orderly and open way, however, often it takes the form of poison pen letters, back alley rumor mills or a terrorist-like assault at a board meeting.

Board meeting terrorism is designed to hold the board hostage to relentless rants and demands. This form of HOA terrorism is designed to directly challenge board authority and to disrupt the orderly process. As with any terrorist attack, the board’s initial reaction is usually disbelief. But, the cold reality of the assault soon becomes clear and the need to act urgent.

How should the board deal with this kind of attack? When presented a list of demands, should the items be discussed point by point? Should they be recorded in the minutes? What should be done?

Rule #1: Never negotiate with terrorists. The board is not obligated to discuss anything off the agenda. And it’s unreasonable to expect informed answers to firing line questions. The response should be, “Thanks for making your points. We’ll review them and give you a response in writing or consider them at the next board meeting.”

Rule #2: Don’t record a list of demands.

Minutes are intended to discuss in broad terms the business accomplished by the board. Specific motions should have enough detail to describe them and the outcome of the vote. It is not a forum for soap boxing, editorializing or where items are entered into “evidence”. It’s enough

for the minutes to state, “Mr. Sniper asked that the board consider issues relating to (general description).”

Rule #3: Control the Owner Forum. To encourage owner input, an Owner Forum before the meeting should give each speaker owner up to, say, 5 minutes to speak, so the board can get on with its business. Letting someone hold the board hostage should never be allowed and it’s up to the president to control such actions. An abusive person should not be allowed to continue for any length of time.

Rule #4: When attacked, respond quickly and firmly. When the attack becomes apparent, it’s the president’s job to interrupt and, if necessary, ask the attacker to leave the meeting. If the attacker refuses to comply, the president should adjourn the meeting and advise that such conduct will not be allowed at future meetings.

HOA terrorist attacks are designed to fan the flames of emotion and to promote rash response. The board needs to walk the high road and refuse to “dance”. While this isn’t easy when the attack is intense, the directors outnumber the attacker and with a unified response, should be able to defeat the challenge and even help point the terrorist toward a better way.

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter.

Why are Quorums Important to HOAs?

A quorum is the minimum number of North or South Carolina homeowners who must be at a meeting before business can be discussed. State law tells us what that minimum number is for our associations. It’s relatively low, but we still have a tough time reaching our minimum. This is a common problem in many homeowner associations.

Meetings that don’t reach a quorum must be adjourned and rescheduled at a later date. This costs the association money and creates more work for their teams. Further, achieving a quorum at a second meeting—if we couldn’t get one the first time—is even harder.

So, why bother to try again? The Home Owners Association board is legally obligated to conduct an annual meeting and it’s an important part of conducting association business. During the annual meeting, new board members are elected and the coming year’s budget is presented to the Carolina homeowners for approval. No quorum means no election and no budget. This means the current directors will have to continue serving until an election can be conducted. It also means that last year’s budget will remain in effect until a valid meeting can be held to approve a new budget.

Good news: You can be “at” a meeting in the Carolinas and across the country at the same time by signing a proxy! That’s how you assign your vote, in writing, to another person. Proxies count toward the quorum, so they’re very important to the association.

We ask you to complete a proxy form even if you plan to attend the meeting. That’s just in case something comes up that prevents you from attending. When you do attend the meeting, your proxy will be returned to you.

Since proxies are so important to achieving a quorum, you may find us knocking on your door, calling on the phone or even stopping you in the common areas asking you to sign a proxy form. We’ll do anything to achieve a quorum. Without it we can’t do business, and eventually that affects you, the Carolina homeowner.

What’s a Motion

A motion is a proposal the homeowners association’s membership take action or a position on a specific topic or issue. The following are six types of motions any member can make at a HOA membership meeting:

  • Main motion: Introduces a specific topic for consideration and cannot be made while another motion is before the group.
  • Subsidiary motion: Amends or changes how to handle a motion that’s already being considered. A subsidiary motion is voted on before the motion it affects is voted on.
  • Privileged motion: Represents urgent or important matters that take precedence over regular or pending business.
  • Incidental motion: Responses to procedure and must be considered before a main motion.
  • Reconsidered motion: Generally are brought up when there is no other pending business so that the membership can revisit an unresolved issue.
  • A pending motion: A motion that has been stated by the chair but has not yet been brought to a vote.

Minimizing Meeting Mayhem

For many people, meetings are a fact of life. Whether it’s a board or member meeting in your homeowners association, a volunteer meeting at your child’s school or a department meeting at work, being adept at participating effectively and managing meetings is a useful skill.

Sometimes one or two participants will dominate the discussion, steer it off topic and interrupt others, causing long, uncomfortable or unproductive meetings. Whether you’re the meeting chair or a participant, there are techniques you can use to help engage others, limit intrusions and minimize distractions.

  • Table the discussion. If a conversation is getting particularly heated, the chair of the HOA or a participant can move to table the discussion for a later date. This helps clear the air and allow for a more calm and meaningful conversation at the next meeting. It also sends the signal that debates will be conducted rationally and with respect.
  • Take it offline. When a meeting attendee takes a topic off course, everyone’s time is wasted. A good tool for anyone to use to get the meeting back on track is to invite the member to continue the discussion privately. Saying, “Let’s take this offline so we can talk more,” is an easy way to get back on the subject without alienating the sidetracked speaker.
  • Use the agenda. The agenda is a useful tool for keeping a meeting moving efficiently. When a chair starts a meeting by saying, “We have a full agenda today,” he or she sets the stage for productivity. Periodically referring to the agenda during the course of the meeting keeps all attendees focused on the discussion. If the chair doesn’t have a written agenda, ask the group to pause for a minute, in order to create an informal agenda that simply lists the topics to be covered or goals to be accomplished.
  • Call on community members. To engage more reticent members of the group and balance the impact of more vocal participants, it’s helpful to call on members by name to ask for their opinions. “What do you think, Mary?” or “Do you have some input here, Steve?” ensures all members’ opinions are valued. You don’t have be the chair to ask for others’ opinions, anyone can freely engage with their fellow community members.

Guidelines for the Homeowner Forum

Residents are encouraged to attend and observe homeowners association board meetings. If you’d like to bring an issue to your HOA board’s attention, you should speak during the homeowner forum. So that everyone who attends has an opportunity for a meaningful exchange with the board, it is imperative that you observe the following guidelines:

  • Homeowner forums are corporate business meetings. Behave accordingly.
  • The homeowner forum is an exchange of ideas, not a gripe session. If you’re bringing a problem to the HOA’s attention, it is encouraged that you bring forward ideas for a solution as well.
  • Refrain from speaking if you’re particularly upset about an issue. Consider speaking privately with a board member or putting your concerns in writing and e-mailing them to the board.
  • Be courteous to others’ opinions by remaining silent and still when someone else has the floor.
  • Please respect the volunteers’ time by limiting your remarks to not take more than a few minutes.
  • If you need more than a few minutes, put your comments in writing. Include background information, causes, circumstances, desired solutions and other considerations you believe are important and send them to your board.

Your community HOA may not be able to resolve your concerns on the spot, and they will not argue or debate an issue during the homeowner forum. The HOA board usually needs to discuss and vote on the issue first, but will answer you in a timely manner.

Speak Easy

Whether you’re making a presentation to the homeowners association board, at work for your boss or out in the community, public speaking is no easy task. Once you overcome the nerves, you need to be coherent, informative and interesting. Here are a few keys to grab and keep your audience’s attention:

  • Talk about their concerns. Begin your speech by discussing the issues important to your audience. Describe the problems or challenges on their minds. You can get their attention and lead them to where you want to go.
  • Keep it simple. Fine tune your main message. Be concise with the details and drive the main points home, otherwise you risk losing people’s attention.
  • Anticipate what your audience is thinking. When you express one view, it’s likely the audience will begin thinking about other, unstated parts of the subject. Anticipate questions and concerns that may come up and address them fully.
  • Learn to pause. Pause to let the audience catch up, let them rest, let words resonate and give the impression of composure and thoughtfulness. There are no set rules for the right time to pause. It takes practice. Try breaking up / your paragraphs / like this / into short phrases. / Take a breath / at each mark / to teach your body / and mind / to slow down.
  • Master your body language. Focus on a single attribute, such as relaxed, fluid, calm or assertive, and begin acting it in the everyday things you do. If you choose to focus on calmness, once the behavior becomes a part of your routine, practice calmly walking up to the front of a room, calmly arranging papers and calmly delivering your speech.

The best way to become a good public speaker is practice. Southern Community Services advises everyone to find a local Toastmasters International club at to perfect your public speaking approach.

How to Make Sure You Are Heard at Membership Meetings

All homeowners association members have a right to be heard at membership meetings by presenting, seconding, debating and voting on a motion. A motion is a proposal that the membership take action or position on a specific topic or issue.

To make a motion, wait until the previous person has finished speaking, then stand and address the chair by stating your name. “Mr. Chairman (or Madame President), my name is….” When the chair recognizes or acknowledges you, state your motion clearly and concisely. “I move that our community….”

Once you have stated your motion, another member must second it so that debate and discussion on the issue can commence. If no one seconds it, your motion will not be considered. If it is seconded, the chair will announce the motion so it can be discussed or voted on.

If the topic is one that will be discussed or debated before voting occurs, the person who introduced the motion is allowed to speak first. Direct your comments to the chair and briefly explain the motion. You and other speakers participating in the discussion are expected to respect any predetermined time limit for comments. Whoever introduces the motion may also be the last to speak on the matter.

Voting on the motion can take place when the discussion or debate is completed. The chair will ask, “Are you ready for the question?” Members can vote by a show of hands, roll call or ballot. General consent, meaning there’s no opposition to the motion, is another method of voting. The chair announces, “If there is no objection…” and members show their consent by their silence. Those who oppose the motion should speak out politely but audibly, “I object.” In conclusion to the motion, the chair announces the results of the vote.

All Residents Welcome at Annual Meeting

Your homeowners association’s annual meeting is a great opportunity for you to learn about the upcoming year’s neighborhood events and get caught up on everything happening in the community. Here are a few agenda items and meeting activities you won’t want to miss:

  • Meet the board, committee members and the community association manager.
  • Learn about the homeowner association’s mission.
  • Get an update on all current and future scheduled projects that the HOA is planning.
  • Review the proposed budget and hear the association treasurer explain how your assessments are being used and how reserves are being invested.

Be an active member of the community and attend the annual meeting. Introduce yourself to your board, the manager and your neighbors!



Calling all Homeowners

Homeowners association board meetings are open for the community to attend. Residents are encouraged to go to meetings and read the approved minutes. At the beginning of each HOA board meeting there should be a homeowner forum where residents are welcome to discuss concerns with the board.

Here are few tips for participating:

  1. Put it in writing. You will get the best response if you put your question or opinions in writing prior to the meeting. This isn’t mandatory, but it helps you and the board to have more time to look over it. Some issues may require a little research by the community manager, if your association has one. By having more time, the board will be able to better address your concern.
  1. Call ahead. As a courtesy, the HOA would appreciate it if you called and let the association manager or board president know that you wish to address the board. This also allows the board to notify you if a meeting is cancelled or rescheduled for any reason.
  1. Plan your remarks to last no longer than five minutes. Board members enjoy visiting with residents; however, the meeting agenda is always very full, and a timed limit ensures that all business gets conducted. It also ensures that all residents who wish to address the board have the opportunity. That being said, this doesn’t mean that the board will not hear a more time consuming problem. If your concern requires additional time, please use your allotted time to summarize your statement or question and the board will add it to the agenda for the next meeting.
  1. Don’t expect an immediate response. Board members don’t act independently. All issues require discussion and sometimes a vote. Sometimes an immediate answer is possible, but it’s just as likely that you won’t get a response until after the meeting when the board has had ample time to discuss your problem.
  1. If you need information, call your association manager. The purpose of the homeowner forum is for residents to share opinions and concerns with the board. If you are seeking general information – like a status report on a project or the board’s position on an issue – you can get a more immediate answer from the community manager.

If your neighborhood would like to see other benefits of having a paid association management firm please feel free to contact us at Southern Community Services.