Homeowner’s Association (HOA) voting mostly happens when it’s time to elect officers for the board of directors. Voting might also be necessary for board member removal, changes in fee structure or to approve special assessments.
Whatever the case, it’s imperative for association members to understand what their HOA policy says about voting procedures and rights. That’s because decisions taken at official HOA meetings affect the quality of life and ownership of a members’ property.
In the following article, we’ll share some of the general procedures involved in the HOA voting process. Note that there may be a few discrepancies based on individual state law, but the following concepts are general in nature and offer guidance that’s relevant to election issues.
HOA Voting Rules
HOA voting rules are typically contained within the community rules and bylaws. These documents have all the information that members need to understand the voting procedures to be followed.
An understanding of this knowledge makes it easier for members to make smart and informed decisions when voting on important association matters.
There are certain rules of order that must be followed by an HOA during the voting process. These rules depend on the relevant state laws and association bylaws.
Robert’s Rules of Order is one such example of a common system that most associations use to determine basic election procedures among other things. But, Robert’s Rules of Order don’t always coincide with state law and some associations only turn to these rules as a last resort when other systems won’t work.
Note that HOAs are governed by a set of documents known as Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions as well as bylaws that provide a framework for all association processes. These documents should be the HOA’s north star and the first place to look for guidance on how to hold elections and moderate voting.
Notice Requirements for Annual and Special Meetings
The notice period and method of notification required are usually contained within the association’s bylaws and it also depends on state regulations.
In the past, associations were required to only notify members via traditional mail but most states do allow online communication methods like email notification because they’ve become ubiquitous in the modern technological age. At the end of the day, every association has its own way of doing things.
The notice period for special meetings is usually 7 to 10 days, while the notice period for annual general meetings can be 14 to 30 days depending on the association. Generally, HOAs require a lengthy notice for weighty issues related to bylaw and CC& R changes.
Lastly, the notice should contain all the important information about the meeting, especially if elections are involved. That way, members have enough time to do their research and find out as much as they can about the issues being tabled.
There are different voting methods available to associations that cater to all types of different scenarios. These include a ballot, secret ballot, proxy, etc.
The voting procedure that works for a particular association may not work for another, and different scenarios require different voting methods.
HOA bylaws should offer guidance on the following voting methods as they’re widely recognized by most states:
- Secret ballot: As the word implies, this method offers anonymity to the voter.
- Ballot: A written voting ballot is when a voter writes his name and other identifying credentials when entering their vote.
- Proxy voting: This is when a voter gives their voting rights to another person who will cast the vote on their behalf. Members are required to assign proxy rights to other voters when they know that they won’t be present at the meeting and proxy votes are collected prior to the meeting.
Quorum and Majority Vote Requirements
The term “majoriy vote” refers to a scenario where a majority of the members who are eligible to vote are present at the meeting. The majority vote requires the presence of at least 50% of qualifying members.
Another common issue related to majority votes in HOA meetings is that of a quorum. A quorum is when a majority of qualifying voters are present at the meeting. For instance, if the HOA bylaws stipulate that 50% of the board is required to vote on a certain issue, that is the quorum.
If an association is unable to meet quorum requirements, then the meeting cannot proceed because any decisions taken from that point will be null and void and illegal.
To pass a vote on certain issues, the association board might require more than a quorum. For instance, most HOA bylaws require a 2/3 majority to remove a board member.
What about renters?
Should renters have voting rights just because they live within the association community? Not necessarily. Most HOAs don’t offer voting rights to renters and the legal right to vote is reserved only for unit owners, especially when it comes to HOA board elections and other important issues.
Challenging an Election
HOA election results can be challenged due to a number of factors. For instance, if the HOA doesn’t provide proper notice prior to the meeting according to its bylaws, or when there aren’t enough members to reach a quorum.
To contest an election result, one would have to file a petition with the court and follow the process provided by state legislation. Of course, the HOA might have its own recourse for such matters, but this depends on the way in which the association operates.
Accessing HOA Voting Rules
HOA voting rules are typically contained within its bylaws and CC &R documents. It used to be that members would have to visit the HOA secretary’s desk to acquire their copy of the rules. Nowadays, HOAs have made it easier for members to access this information by publishing it on the association’s website.
It’s possible to create a bespoke community website that serves as the online “face” of the community, while providing access to HOA documents and community activities through a private side of the website.
Prior to an election, some HOAs may even distribute flyers or an email newsletter informing members about the upcoming election and the voting procedures.
Changing Voting Rules
Should a community member wish to change an aspect of the association’s voting rules, they’d have to follow the requisite process. Usually, it starts with a special meeting but it depends on individual association bylaws.
In most cases, the dissatisfied member must first make a suggestion to the Board of Directors who will add the amendment to a special meeting notice. An amendment of this magnitude requires majority approval and members must be given enough time to process the information and ask questions if they want to.
What is a Proxy?
A proxy is when one member provides consent for another member to vote on their behalf. If a unit owner knows that they won’t be able to attend a meeting, they can provide consent for another member to vote on their behalf. This document must be signed well in advance of the meeting and include details such as an authorization statement as well as the meeting time and date.
Most association bylaws advise unit owners to appoint other owners as proxy representatives. Other associations might allow renters to vote on behalf of the unit owner if another owner is not available. But, this depends on a combination of unique association bylaws and state regulations.
Owners should be very careful and thoughtful when appointing as a proxy because it’s a huge responsibility. A proxy should be someone who shares the owner’s point of view on the issues being discussed. Keep in mind that the proxy document provides its holder with the authority to sign legal documents on behalf of the owner.
The bylaw section concerning proxies should offer clear and detailed guidance on the time limit for the submission of proxy documents, and the level of responsibility that can be assigned to a proxy.
Every now and then, a homeowner’s association must hold an election or vote on important issues that’ll determine the community’s fate. To ensure a fair voting process, it’s important for association members to be aware of their rights and obligations.
Usually, all of the relevant information regarding HOA voting is contained within the community bylaws and CC&R documents. But, it always helps to provide members with a refresher in the form of educational e-flyers, email newsletters and public notices on voting procedures prior to an election or an important meeting.
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