The Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities has launched a new online training program for common ownership community board members. The CCOC developed this training to meet requirements of Bill 45-14, which was passed by the County Council last February.
The measure, which was signed into law by the County Executive on February 11, 2015 and took effect January 1, requires members of the board of directors of all common ownership communities, or Home Owners’ Associations in Montgomery County who are elected, re-elected or appointed to a term of office on or after January 1, 2016 to successfully complete the online training program within 90 days of taking office.
The new law is designed to promote more knowledgeable and responsible management of common ownership communities. Such self-governing residential communities include condominiums, cooperatives, and homeowners’ associations. There are more than 1,000 common ownership communities in Montgomery County, comprised of more than 130,000 common ownership units. More than 30 percent of Montgomery County residents live in common ownership communities.
By the end of each year, common ownership communities are required to report to the CCOC when board members have completed the online training program.
The legislation stems from a case brought before the CCOC in which two homeowners, in the Fountain Hills community of Germantown. The homeowners claimed that members of the Fountain Hills Home Owners Association Board of Directors improperly held closed meetings by email, improperly conducted an election by permitting the nomination of a candidate who was not present, and failed to maintain complete and accurate minutes.
As a result, in 2014 Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities, which oversees homeowner associations, rebuked the Fountain Hills Home Owners Association. Saying that the board had, “on a number of occasions and in a variety of ways failed to comply with the open meetings requirements of Maryland Homeowners Association Act.”
While the Fountain Hills Board was rebuked by CCOC, the Commission also drew a clear line for other homeowner association boards. As long as the board is not making a decision, then a meeting has not occurred, and the “open meeting” requirements are not triggered. This means that a board may discuss association business, whether in person or by some other means such as email, and it will not constitute a meeting unless an action is taken.
The new training program addresses ethics, roles and responsibilities of board members and homeowners, community governing documents, financial management, meeting rules, and general administration. The training also is available to members of the public interested in learning about operating common ownership communities.
The mission of the 15-member CCOC includes advising the County Executive and County Council regarding public policy issues that impact these communities; educating owners, residents, and professionals associated with these communities regarding community management and governance; and, resolving disputes among owners or residents and their governing bodies. The CCOC members serve without pay.