Re: Consensus and voting bylaws
From: Willow Murphy (
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2013 10:05:37 -0800 (PST)
Thank you all so much for your input.  Our community discussion on this
starts in a week, so your input is timely and helpful.  Two more questions.

Does your community require consensus in order to decide to vote in
community meetings?
A suggested amendment to our bylaws has been put forward by our board which
states that if a decision has not been made by consensus during three
community meetings, then any community member can ask for a vote at any
time until a decision is reached.  Even though we can't legally deny a
request for a vote, can we codify that our priority is to use consensus in
order to make that decision to vote?

What kind of back up process do you use?  Our community does not yet have a
policy for when consensus is blocked, other than a general understanding
that the block should relate to what is in the best interests of the
community or fits our guiding principles, which are also unclear right now.
 Should that be accomplished as part of this and included in the amendment?
Thanks again!

On Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 10:11 AM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at]
> wrote:

> On Jan 9, 2013, at 7:07 AM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]> wrote:
> > I don't know your jurisdiction, but your state likely has enabling
> legislation for condos or HOAs, and this legislation probably spells out
> strict notice and voting rules for certain decisions, like Board elections
> or special assessments.  To stay legal, you should comply with BOTH state
> regs AND your own consensus practices
> Agreeing with Philip, and adding: Legislation for condos in DC does not
> say they have to actually take a vote. It only states the minimum number of
> votes necessary to make certain decisions--sometimes 51% and sometimes 75%.
> Consensus represents a 100%  positive majority vote which is recorded in
> minutes from organizations using parliamentary procedure as a unanimous
> vote. I doubt if it is necessary to state this equivalency in your bylaws
> but there it is.
> Another helpful thing our lawyer told us about the board dominance
> specified in condo legislation is that the Board can always delegate
> authority for decisions. The thing it cannot absolve itself of is the
> responsibility for the decision. This means if the membership makes a
> decision that affects the standing of the homeowner's association, the
> board is still responsible for that decision.
> This is good because the Board can be inexpensively insured against bad
> decisions made in good faith so Board members cannot be financially
> endangered personally.
> So when our membership makes a decision, the Board at the next meeting
> "ratifies" that decision. It assures the powers that be that the decision
> was properly and legally made and the Board stands behind it. (I doubt if
> "stands behind it" is legalese but Phillip would know the correct
> terminology.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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