All homeowners associations require a set of board members to run the community. These board members, while volunteers, don’t just assume their position without going through a voting process. Here’s your guide to understanding and carrying out smooth HOA elections.
In this article:
The Laws Presiding HOA Elections
How are HOA board members elected? For guidance on the exact procedures of an HOA election, there are two areas you must check — state laws and your governing documents.
Some associations follow a system known as Robert’s Rules of Order to guide their HOA board of directors election. There are places where Roberts’ Rules of Order come into conflict with state law, though.
Your governing documents should also contain details on you should go about the election process. HOA board election rules can typically be found within your bylaws or your CC&Rs. Your bylaws should tell you how the process should go, including the number of board members, term limits, quorum requirements, and more.
Serving on the HOA board is done on a volunteer basis. Homeowners are nominated to run for positions on the board, and homeowners then vote for them. The number of open positions can vary depending on the association. Not all associations need to vote for the full set of board members.
There are a few ways candidates can earn nominations. Homeowners can collect signatures to nominate a candidate or be nominated by their peers. There’s also self-nomination, which is when you nominate yourself as a candidate for a position.
The nomination procedures you can use will depend on what your state laws and bylaws say. The same applies to setting candidacy qualifications and requirements. For instance, some HOAs might only allow a resident to run for a board position if they have lived in the community for at least a year.
Who Is Eligible to Vote?
All members of the homeowners association can vote. Though, some associations may be able to suspend a homeowner’s voting rights if they are behind on their dues, i.e. delinquent, according to state laws or their governing documents.
Most associations will require a quorum to proceed with HOA elections. A quorum is simply a minimum number of members that must be present to allow the association to conduct business. For example, if your HOA requires 50 percent of all members to attend the meeting for elections to proceed, then failing to meet that quorum will render the HOA unable to hold the elections.
There is no standard number or percentage for a quorum since it can differ from one association to the next. A good way to establish a quorum without requiring attendance, though, is to use proxy votes.
Can renters vote during HOA elections? The short answer is no. HOA voting rules and condo voting rules generally don’t allow renters to have a say in the elections. This is because voting rights are normally reserved for the legal owner of the property within the association.
What Voting Methods Are Available to HOAs?
There are a number of HOA voting procedures you can use depending on what your bylaws say. Typical options include a ballot, secret ballot, and voting by proxy.
- Ballot. This is the standard written ballot that contains the voter’s name or other identifiable details.
- Secret Ballot. As its name suggests, the secret ballot is similar to a standard ballot but without the voter’s name or other identifiable details. Using the secret ballot method, the voter stays anonymous.
- Voting by Proxy. If a homeowner can’t attend the meeting where votes will take place, they can give their voting power to another person. In essence, voting by proxy is allowing someone else to vote on your behalf. This usually requires proper documentation such as a proxy form. In some cases, the HOA can collect proxy votes prior to the meeting.
You can also choose from three voting systems: On-site, Mail, and Online.
- On-site. For a majority of HOAs, voting takes place on the day of the annual meeting. On-site voting allows for more control and convenience.
- Mail. Larger associations typically can’t hold HOA elections during their annual meetings because finding a place big enough to accommodate all homeowners can be tough. For these HOAs, it’s usually best to send ballots to homeowners and ask them to mail the ballots back after filling them out.
- Online. If your governing documents permit, you can hold online elections as an affordable and convenient way to vote.
The Voting Process
It’s worth noting that associations will likely have different provisions or procedures for their elections. Generally, though, the HOA election process usually follows these steps:
1. Determine Which Positions Are Open
The first step is to establish which board positions are open for election. This could be anywhere from one to all of them. A majority of associations, though, space out the term durations of each position. This way, there will always be someone on the board at any given time.
2. Prepare the Electoral Roll
The electoral roll consists of the names of all eligible voters in your community as well as their member numbers, addresses, and contact information. Make sure to update this list by removing any members who are no longer part of the association and adding any new homeowners who have just moved in. If there are any members who can’t vote, make sure to mark them down as well.
3. Open Nominations
The next step is to let all homeowners know that HOA elections are coming up and to open nominations for candidates. Make sure that candidates possess the qualifications necessary and follow your bylaws on the proper procedures for nominations and notices.
4. Prepare for the Election
After opening nominations, you can then move on to preparing for the election proper. This is when you would create your ballot papers and organize candidates. You should also determine how voters can cast their ballots (via mail, in-person, or online). Again, your bylaws should contain specific information tackling all of these.
5. Elect Board Members
When setting the election period, make sure to set a clear start date and end date. See to it that all homeowners are informed of the election period as well so that they can cast their ballots on time. After the end date, you can no longer accept votes. Any votes cast after closing the election period must be disregarded.
To end the election, count the ballots and determine the winner. There’s a lot of room for error when counting out the ballots, though. Therefore, you should recount the ballots a few times to make sure you arrived at the correct result.
Homeowners Association Voting Ballot
Your governing documents will normally indicate how your voting ballot should look. But, if you need a guide of sorts, take a look at the HOA board election ballot template below:
Objecting to an Election
Homeowners who feel that an election has been conducted inappropriately can choose to challenge it. Although the process can differ according to your location, this usually involves legal action such as petitioning the court.
What can deem an election invalid? A number of things can subject an election to objection. For instance, if the HOA failed to provide homeowners with appropriate notice, the election may be rendered invalid. The same applies if the HOA failed to establish a quorum or if voting fraud occurred.
To avoid election challenges, make sure to follow your governing documents to the letter. Give homeowners sufficient notice and use the method of notice mandated by your bylaws. You should also make sure to document your quorum by asking members to sign in at the annual meeting. As for fraud, you can prevent it by including all properly casted ballots in your count.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about HOA elections:
How long can a HOA board member serve?
It depends on what your state laws and governing documents dictate. Some states, such as Florida, have imposed term limits for board members.
Who elects the officers of a homeowners association?
Homeowners elect other homeowners to become board members. In turn, these board members are the ones who then appoint officers in a homeowners association.
What happens to an HOA if no one wants to be on the board?
Homeowners associations can fall to ruin without an HOA board. That’s why most HOAs stagger the term durations of board positions so that the board isn’t completely vacant at any point in time. If you’re having trouble filling open positions on your board, consider adopting some creative recruitment strategies.
When an HOA board is completely vacant, creditors and members can initiate a lawsuit. The court will then appoint a receiver to conduct association business on the HOA’s behalf. Keep in mind that receivers cost money, usually demanding a fee of $150 to $200 per hour. Homeowners will, of course, shoulder the cost of these receivers in the form of increased HOA dues. As such, it’s best for homeowners to volunteer for the board rather than suffer the consequence of a fee hike.
A Key Takeaway
Smooth HOA elections are critical to the success of any homeowners association. That’s why it’s important for you, as a board member or homeowner, to learn the ins and outs of conducting the process. When it comes down to it, you should always look to your governing documents and state laws for guidance.
An HOA management company can also help you manage your elections. Look for the best HOA management company in your area today with the help of our online directory.
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