J.B. from New Haven County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
A previous notice for a special meeting states that there will be a vote, and the details of what they are going to vote on are specific. My question is this: can those specifics be changed at the meeting and then proceed to a vote? What about the right of previous notice, those who decided not to attend that meeting? They will not have been informed of the new change so can there be a vote?
Mister Condo replies:
J.B., you entered into a very technical part of the Common Interest Ownership Act, also known as CIOA that requires associations to give adequate notice and provide an agenda for items that are to be discussed and voted upon at an upcoming meeting. From what you are telling me, most of that was followed. The fine line between notice of agenda and actual agenda may have been crossed but without knowing the specifics it would be hard for me to offer you a particularly useful opinion. Let me paint a couple of pictures for you and you can decide if the association behaved properly.
Let’s say the agenda included an item stating that a vote would be held on painting all unit owner doors “red”. After discussing the agenda item at the meeting it was determined that “white” would be the actual color the doors would be painted and the vote was held and in favor of the doors being painted “white” I would argue that the spirit of CIOA was upheld even though the actual door color voted upon was not as proposed in the meeting notice.
Now, let’s say that the meeting included a discussion about borrowing money for a major capital improvement, something like repaving a parking lot or replacing siding. After discussion, it was decided that instead of a loan the association would simply assess all unit owners $5,000.00 per unit to cover the cost. In that case, I would argue that the spirit of CIOA was not followed and that unit owners who were expecting an increase to their common fees to cover a loan were surprised by the special assessment which they may have objected to had they been properly informed.
In both examples, a vote was held on an item that was not “technically” on the agenda. However, it could be argued in the first example that door painting was on the agenda and that the color was the secondary concern. A better way to have worded the agenda item would have simply been to state that painting of doors was an agenda item. Similarly, in the second instance, a better way to word the agenda item would have been to state a vote would be held on how to finance an upcoming capital improvement project.
The bottom line is that Boards need to do a great job of communicating with unit owners in advance of their meetings if they wish to hold votes on items that cannot be questioned by typical unit owners. Otherwise, they face the possibility of a unit owner questioning the legality of their votes and decisions. For a unit owner to prevail on such an issue the unit owner would have to bring suit against the Board which is not uncommon but generally reserved for big money items, such as association loans or special assessments. All the best.