Re: Meeting quorum questions
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 20 Jun 2009 14:31:22 -0700 (PDT)

On Jun 19, 2009, at 8:36 AM, David Entin wrote:

A neighbor at adjacent Pathways Cohousing called me to inquire about quorum requirements for their meetings, which are one over half the member households. However, they are having difficulty achieving a quorum at meetings where business decisions need to be made. I told her that our community had recently lowered our quorum from 14 (exactly half of the 28 households) to 10 to ease obtaining a quorum at meetings.

We have the same quorum and often have difficulty meeting it. One of our new members was trying to understand how we work had a good insight into quorum. The 51% standard is from the tradition of parliamentary rule. Of the 51%, it takes 51% to make a decision. Thus it only takes 26.1% of the entire membership to make a majority vote decision.

Since cohousing communities work by consensus, if only 26.1% of the households or members were present, it would be the same standard. Of 28 households, 8 could make decisions based on households.

Ann Zabaldo told me of a community that set their quorum at 2 and the effect was that everyone came to meetings because they were terrified that any two other people could make a decision.

She pointed out the problem is a quorum requirement is listed in the by-laws, which are often incorporated into mortgage documents, as required by lending institutions. To make a change would in turn therefore require amending all mortgages in the cohousing community, a difficult and perhaps expensive task.

That (1) banks care at all about the bylaws in an established organization, and (2) that paperwork is difficult, is one of the biggest myths in cohousing. A myth that supports the status quo, undeniably the strongest force in established cohousing communities.

I called my mortgage holder, Wells Fargo, a few years ago to ask about bylaws changes. It took three phone calls before I got to a department that understood my question and sent our bylaws to them. They were dumbfounded. "There is nothing in here that we would care about," they said. "All we want to see is the Certificate of Insurance."

Jessie can speak to this more directly but I understand that Eastern Village changed their bylaws a few years ago and it was no problem at all.

1. You agree on your amendments (this is probably the biggest hurdle).

2. You get a list of all the mortgage holders from your members (they could give you a redacted copy of their statements.) Not so difficult since many will have the same bank.

3. Find the appropriate addresses. (Time consuming but you can probably Google and get this information.)

4. Send a letter explaining the changes, and a copy of the new bylaws.

5. Send followup letters and call as necessary.

As I think about it, where is it written that they have to approve? I've submitted bylaws for a new mortgages and refinancing but I think they only want to know the place is legal.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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