Robert’s Rules Part 2 – The Agenda

The Agenda – Composition of Rights & Abuses

It is imperative that issues of a pertinent and important nature are the only items that should be placed on a meeting’s agenda. If it does not require board consideration, an email notification to the board of directors is probably a better method. For time efficiently and to move the meeting along, the meeting’s agenda should include an explicit starting time for each major section. Timed agendas force the chair and attendees to respect everyone else’s time at the meeting. A common and simple way to defeat or avoid an issue is to expend or waste meeting time by not maintaining a pace or time. A seasoned HOA property manager will tell you that this will result in your meeting time being used up, and as a result, an issue at the bottom of the agenda does not receive adequate time for discussion or even never comes up. If an agenda has specific times for the main sections or topics, it can be assured that the issue will be addressed properly before the meeting is adjourned. According to HOA management companies, timed agendas that are adhered to are one of the cornerstones of a successful and productive meeting. When everyone at a meeting understands and accepts the time constraints, the meeting is generally deemed more equitable for all parties. Please reference Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR (10th ed.), p.342-351).

Sample Timed Agenda Layout (with Tips or Points)

Call to Order 6:00 PM (The chair calls the meeting to order)

Establish Quorum 6:01 PM (Business cannot be conducted unless there is a quorum of the board of directors.)

Reading and approval of minutes. 6:02 PM (A motion to approve the minutes is not necessary. The minutes can be approved as read or as corrected, but a vote is not necessary. However, a vote to approve can be taken, and in some organizations, this is customary or has been prior practice.)

Reports of Officers, Board, Standing Committees. 6:07 PM (This includes correspondence, treasurer’s report, financial review, etc.)

Reports of Special Committees. 6:27 PM (Each report should be brief and can possibly conclude with a motion which the assembly must address.)

Unfinished Business and General Orders. 6:42 PM (Issues which were not concluded, that were postponed, or that were tabled during the prior meeting. The secretary’s minutes should inform the chair which items that need to add to this section. The chair should never ask the board ‘Is there any unfinished business?’ Note: There is no such item as “Old Business.” There can be unfinished business, but there is no “old” business.)

New Business. 6:57 PM (Issues that have not been previously addressed by the board of directors can be presented or introduced.)

Adjournment. 7:10 PM (A motion to adjourn can be made at any time during the meeting. The board should never be forced or required to meet longer than it is willing to meet.)

Source: Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised 10th ed.

It is the chair’s duty and responsibility to move the meeting along at an appropriate pace and in a timely fashion. Your HOA property management company can assist you in adhering to Robert’s Rules of Order. Robert’s Rules of Order allows the chair and the other members of the HOA board of directors the ability to conduct the meeting in a manner that allows for everyone to be heard and to make decisions clearly and effectively. A well-planned agenda will result in an efficient and productive meeting.

Quick TIPS

Points that are Always in Order

Point of Order: A question or enquiry about a process, or an objection about a process, and recommendation of an alternative process. A point of order could include a request for the chair to rule on the process in question.

Point of Information: A request for information on a specific question, typically about process or about the content of a motion.

Point of Personal Privilege: A comment addressing a personal need. A point of personal privilege could be to address a wide range of topics such as to directly response to a comment defaming one’s character, or as mild as a request to turn the air-conditioning down.


Motions must be seconded and are adopted by a majority vote unless noted below. All motions may be debated unless otherwise noted. Motions are in order of precedence: motions may be made only if no motion of equal or higher precedence is on the floor (i.e., do not do item 5 (move to end debate) when the body is discussing an item 4 (move to suspend rules).

  1. Motion to Adjourn: Not debatable; goes to immediate majority vote.
  2. Motion to Recess: Not debatable. May be for a specific time.
  3. Motion to Appeal the Chair’s Decision: Not debatable; goes to immediate vote. Allows the body to overrule a decision made by the chair.
  4. Motion to Suspend the Rules: Suspends formal process for dealing with a specific question. Debatable; requires 2/3 vote.
  5. Motion to End Debate and Vote or Move the Main Question: Applies only to the motion on the floor. Not debatable; requires 2/3 vote.
  6. Motion to Extend Debate: Can be a general, or specific time. Not debatable; requires 2/3 vote.
  7. Motion to Refer to Committee: Applies only to the main motion. Refers question to a specific group with a specific time and charge.
  8. Motion to Divide the Question: Breaks the motion into at least two parts, to move discussion.
  9. Motion to Amend: Must be voted for by a majority to be considered and by a 2/3 to be passed.
  10. Main Motion: What is being debated & amended.

Your HOA property management company knows all the important points regarding Robert’s Rules of Order.

Unfinished Business, Yes; Old Business, Never!

“Old Business,” in actuality, would be the board reconsidering already disposed of issues.

“Unfinished Business” are issues the board is continuing with which are currently not completed (RONR (10th ed.), p.346). Before the current agenda is approved or set, the secretary advises the chair of the outstanding issues which were not disposed of from the previous meeting, and which can be carried forward as “Unfinished Business”.

There are typically only a few reasons why an issue may be considered for the “Unfinished Business and General Orders” section of the current meeting’s agenda. Questions from the previous meeting that have been left pending:

  • A question was being discussed or considered when the previous meeting was adjourned.
  • A question was listed in the unfinished business section on the previous meeting’s agenda, however the agenda did not advance to that question before the meeting was adjourned.
  • A question had been postponed (made prior to General Order) to the previous meeting, but was not reached on the agenda before the meeting was adjourned.

Questions NOT left pending at the previous meeting:

A question was postponed (made current General Order) to the current meeting.

Though not technically “Unfinished Business”, any tabled matter may be taken from the table at this time as well.

For example, a HOA board meets monthly.

  • At the July board meeting, an issue is listed as “Unfinished Business” for the first time.
  • At this July board meeting, the group adjourns without dealing with the issue.
  • At the August board meeting, the issue can be brought up again as “Unfinished Business.”
  • If at this August board meeting and the issue is not dealt with, the issue dies!

Of course, the issue may be introduced again at the September board meeting, but only as “New Business.” So, understanding what can be considered under “Unfinished Business,” can protect issues certain issues from being ignored. Vice versa, manipulating the adjournment can defeat an opponent’s question/issue. Your HOA property management company can advise you on all questions regarding motions. WDMC

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