How Are Board Members Elected in My Association?
Did you know your association board election is an annual event? Your governing documents have the answers!
Every HOA and condo association board is required to have meetings, including an annual meeting that serves as the association board election. The annual election meeting is the most important because it determines who will lead the association for the coming year. It may be part of a larger annual meeting that includes significant items like the association’s annual budget.
Will my association board cancel the election because of COVID-19?
Since the beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, some associations have stopped having meetings. That is not a best practice.
Conducting business as usual to the best of the board’s ability is part of the board members’ responsibility to the association, and that includes having meetings as required by the governing documents. Whether by conference call, video conference or safely in person, association meetings must happen. That is especially true of the annual meeting. If you’re not sure about how to conduct your meetings in the era of social distancing, contact your association attorney for more information.
What are the governing documents?
When your community was established, the first board (or the developer) created a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, also called CC&Rs. The CC&Rs include all the rules and regulations of living in the community, including items like how to apply for an architectural modification, what colors homes can be painted, what shrubbery can be planted, membership and maintenance fees, and more.
The association’s bylaws cover how the community is run. That includes how and when meetings and association board elections should be held. Together with other documents like plat records, the bylaws and CC&Rs are the association’s governing documents.
All homeowners in an association are entitled to copies of the governing documents. Everyone who buys a home in an association, whether an HOA or a condo association, should read and understand what they are agreeing to before moving into the community.
If you don’t have a copy of your governing documents, you are allowed to ask for them under Florida law. Before associations went online, that request typically had to be put in writing and the association had to respond within 10 days with a hard copy of the documents.
That is still the law, but many associations have made it easier for homeowners by having the governing documents available on the community’s website. They may be password protected to ensure that only owners can access and print them. (Note that if you ask for hard copies from your association office rather than printing them yourself, the association is allowed to charge fees to cover the cost of copying and the time for personnel to handle the task.) You can also read the documents in person at the office and take photos of pages at no charge.
Why do association board elections matter?
The association board makes decisions for the community about everything that affects it. That includes how policies are enforced, what the policies are, how association members are penalized for violations of policies, and more. It’s important that the people who are making those associations have knowledge in a variety of areas. You want them to be qualified and experienced at looking at the big picture in a complex business environment. Some of those areas you want to look for knowledge include the following:
- Vendor management
- Real estate
Although board members are volunteers, they are bound to fulfill their obligations to the association. They need to be able to fill the roles of enforcing policy, resolving conflict in the community, dealing with complaints, creating the annual budget, managing the reserve funds and otherwise making sure the association stays financially fit. Those responsibilities are detailed in the governing documents. Those running for board election need to consider carefully whether they have the time to dedicate to this important task.
Most importantly, board members need to be able to put personal feelings and emotions aside to run the association like the business that it is.
How does state law affect association board elections?
The State of Florida handles HOA and condo board association elections differently. For condo associations, the rules for association board elections are prescribed in great detail. That includes prohibitions against proxy voting, floor nominations during the meeting and nominating committees.
Candidates who want to run for the board must personally file a notice of intent. Notice has to be sent to all voting members of the association 60 days before the board election, and candidates who want to be considered must submit that notice of intent in writing 40 days before the election to be placed on the ballot.
In HOAs, community bylaws usually govern association board elections. That means limited proxies may be allowed, as are nominations from the floor. Many associations are moving to the same written intent model as required of condo associations.
The 2015 Florida legislature voted to allow electronic voting for all HOA and condo associations. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation established the regulations to implement that in the spring of 2016. Associations have to choose to adopt a resolution offering electronic voting to the members.
In the era of social distancing, associations may be more interested in adopting electronic voting for association board member elections. Although no one can be forced to vote electronically, it is now a legal option. At the annual meeting, both paper and electronic votes are counted together.
Your association board election is one of the most important events that homeowners can participate in. Make sure you know exactly what will happen and when by reviewing your governing documents. If anything in the governing documents is unclear, contact our team today for assistance in the Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Orlando areas.