When it is time to elect a set of new board members, the HOA board must follow a few key rules. Perhaps one of the most important, though, is to stay as a neutral HOA board. More often than not, it is easier said than done.
Tips to Remain a Neutral HOA Board During Election Season
Every homeowners association holds elections in some form or another. The frequency varies from state to state and association to association. However, when the time does come, the HOA board must remember to stay impartial. Remaining a neutral HOA board can be difficult, though, if you don’t have a set of guidelines to follow. To help you out, here some tips you can adopt during the HOA election process:
1. Check State Laws
Some states have laws governing how HOA elections should go. For instance, in Florida, the board must list the names of HOA candidates in alphabetical order. Furthermore, HOA elections must be held by mail or written ballot, limiting how involved board members can get. Violating HOA election rules in Florida can result in civil penalties.
As a member of your HOA board, you have a responsibility to check your state laws concerning elections. It is part of your fiduciary duty to follow the rules and protect your association from liability. When in doubt, it is best to consult with your HOA attorney to ensure you are not violating any laws.
2. Follow Your Governing Documents
An association’s governing documents contain information on HOA governance. Your bylaws or CC&Rs will typically outline the process of HOA elections.
These documents may also include stipulations on how you can remain neutral HOA board members. It is important to follow the provisions set forth in your governing documents to avoid any legal trouble.
Remember that if your CC&Rs conflict with the law, the law does take priority. If you have any questions or doubts about what to follow, speak with your attorney. You can also call on your HOA manager to help you deal with any conflicts of interest among members.
3. No Playing Favorites
Perhaps one of the most obvious ways to remain a neutral HOA board is to stay away from bias. Sure, as a member of the community, you naturally want to vote for the best candidate. However, as a board member, you should not endorse any specific candidate either.
Homeowners can form their own opinions on the candidates and choose who to vote for by themselves. Although you may have a certain favorite in mind, that does not give you the right to announce who it is.
In the same way, you should not badmouth any candidates running for board positions. Keep your opinions to yourself. Of course, that isn’t to say you can’t correct a candidate if they spout false information. You can certainly correct them, but do it in a respectful manner. Never accuse them or attack their character. Don’t say, “John Doe is a liar.”
4. Remain Unbiased Online, Too
Remember that there should not be any leanings towards one candidate or another even online. If you have a personal social media account, refrain from posting any endorsements. Keep in mind that social media is a very public platform, so community members can easily view your profile. The same goes for the HOA website and newsletters, whether online or offline.
5. Reassess Your Election Process
Some election processes have too many cracks and opportunities for impartiality. If you feel that yours falls under this category, then it is time to reevaluate your HOA elections process. The HOA voting rules and elections process can differ from community to community. Generally, though, your procedure should include the following:
- Specific qualifications candidates must possess for each position
- The defined voting power of each membership (one vote per unit or one vote per person), including whether renters can vote
- Exact rules about proxies, quorum, and the like
- The voting period for elections, including when to send notices
You can also schedule a time when candidates can discuss their platform with the rest of the community. Although not all associations do this, it is a good way to give homeowners all the information they need to make a smart decision on who they should vote for.
6. Stay Transparent
Other than actually staying a neutral HOA board, it is important for homeowners to perceive your board as such. This strengthens the trust homeowners have for your board. A good way to do this is to practice transparency by constantly communicating with residents.
Make the elections process known to all homeowners. Announce the upcoming elections ahead of time so that homeowners can send in their nominations or file for candidacy before the deadline. Include the qualifications of each position and the rules you expect everyone to follow, such as rules on proxies. You can list all of these down on your HOA website or disseminate the information through your newsletter.
7. Seek Outside Help
An honest homeowners association election can only be done with an honest board. Too many associations have committed fraud in an effort to rig the elections. And while some of them get caught, others get away with it.
Besides relying on your own board, though, you can also hire professionals to oversee your elections. This can be in the form of an HOA management company or an accounting firm to tabulate the votes. Third parties don’t have a stake in who wins or loses, so they have no reason to interfere.
Setting a Good Example for Future Leaders
As with many organizations, elections can be a point of contention within a homeowners association. Some members have a personal interest in who wins or loses. This, in turn, can create a lot of discord and even open up the possibility of fraud and impartiality. If you want a smooth election and be a model member of your HOA board, it is important to remain objective. A neutral HOA board can ensure a successful and honest election, ushering in a new set of equally competent leaders for the new year.
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