The Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors’ decision to open its meetings to members only has prompted the question of whether the board can legally do that.
The answer is, yes, it can. State law governing homeowner’s associations says board meetings “shall be open to all members of the homeowners association or their agents.” The law says nothing about HOAs or condominium associations having to allow the public to attend their meetings.
Although the definition of “agents” isn’t made clear, common sense would dictate that it’s someone with legal ties to the property owner, whether that might be a family member, a legal advisor, or some other appointed representative.
As surprising as the board’s decision was, given its long practice of opening the meeting room doors to almost anyone, the members-only approach appears to be the preferred method of many HOAs and condominium associations, according to the numerous property management advisors.
What makes Ocean Pines’ case seem different is its size as compared to Worcester County’s smaller incorporated communities and the outlying areas. With two of the seven members of the Worcester County Commissioners, its influence goes beyond its own confines.
Consequently, what the OPA board does or doesn’t do might be of interest to other county residents, some of whom probably found this new members-only rule unsettling.
Nevertheless, the board can conduct its sessions however it chooses within the law. But what it should consider, according to association management experts, is establish a policy and stick with it, rather than switch back and forth depending on the circumstances.
To that end, members-only meetings make sense, but with one improvement: the board should consider some accommodation of the community’s year-round non-member residents. One way to do that would be to open meetings to these year-rounders who have ties to the association through work or memberships in certain amenities. That would be an approach worth adopting and keeping.