Homeowners association boards are made up of different members of the community. But, what if there are spouses on the HOA board? Is that even allowed?
It is common for homeowners and fellow board members alike to feel concerned when spouses serve or run for positions on the HOA board. After all, would that not be considered unfair? Does the law even allow a couple on the HOA board at the same time? The answer is, it depends.
Broadly speaking, it is permissible for spouses to simultaneously serve on an HOA board if they are eligible. Many states either allow it or remain silent on the matter. This is akin to saying that it is, in fact, legal. Examples of such states include California, Colorado, and Minnesota.
On the other hand, there are also some states that explicitly forbid having spouses on the HOA board at the same time. Florida easily comes to mind.
According to the Florida Condominium Act, co-owners of a unit may not be on the condo board simultaneously. There are exceptions to this, though. One, if the co-owners own more than a single unit; and, two, if there are not enough qualified candidates to fill the vacant positions on the board.
The laws on this issue can vary dramatically from one place to another. Therefore, it is imperative that you check your own state laws for guidance. When in doubt, it is always a good idea to consult with an attorney who is familiar with the subject.
Your state laws may not say anything about the issue. In that case, the next place to look is within your association’s governing documents. Sometimes, the law will defer to your governing documents by including phrases like, “unless an association’s governing documents say otherwise.”
More often than not, HOAs will explicitly prohibit it in their bylaws for two or more members of the same household to serve on the board at the same time. As such, even if your state laws remain mum, there is a good chance your HOA does not allow it.
Although most associations prohibit spouses from serving on the board simultaneously, there are a few arguments that support it.
First of all, the couple may be exceptional candidates for the board. But, the existence of a ban could rob the association of two great leaders serving at the same time. Of course, a good counterargument to this is to have them serve separately in different terms.
Secondly, a ban on spouses serving on the same board is not favorable to associations with a small population. Smaller associations, in particular, often find it hard to completely fill the board. If there are two willing candidates and they happen to come from the same household, smaller HOAs will take it because they typically don’t have any other choice.
Furthermore, some associations allow spouses to run for positions on the board if they qualify and simply leave the decision up to the voters. The reasoning behind this goes like this: “If the owners are so against the idea, then they should not vote for them. After all, they have the power to block spouses from serving on the same board.”
Although there are reasons to support this setup, the pitfalls far outweigh them. For smaller boards, i.e. those that only have three or four positions to fill, a couple could tip the scales. Having two people with presumably the same motivations and goals on the board would mean that certain decisions would always get the majority vote. Allowing spouses on smaller boards is equivalent to letting them essentially control the association.
This, of course, sows distrust between the board and the rest of the community’s members. When a single unit or household automatically gets two votes on issues, it can produce an unfavorable atmosphere. Pretty soon, members will start questioning the board’s decisions. They will wonder whether or not the decisions are good for the community or simply good for the couple.
Even if the spouses have good intentions, that is not always how other owners will interpret it. Simply permitting them to be on the board together can create the appearance of misconduct or dishonesty. Owners will think that the spouses are conspiring specifically to benefit their interests by influencing the voting scale. And while it is entirely possible for spouses to have differing opinions on issues, they are more likely to be in agreement.
Obviously, a big part of why it is generally not recommended to allow spouses on the same board is due to an imbalance in voting power. It is essentially giving a single household the ability to tip the scales in their favor when the board is voting on issues.
But, do spouses even have two votes on the same board? Is voting not limited to one vote per household?
When it comes to elections and issues where the membership gets a vote, the rule is usually one vote per household — that much is true. But, the one vote rule does not apply when it comes to issues placed before the board. If your HOA permits spouses to serve on the board simultaneously, they each get one vote when the board votes on association matters. And therein lies the problem for most members.
Since this article has been talking about spouses serving on the same board this entire time, you might take it to say that everything here applies only to spouses. But, all of this actually applies to any two or more members of the same household.
That means the same benefits and dangers exist if, say, a mother and daughter or two brothers run for positions or simultaneously serve on the board.
It is generally legal for a couple to be board members at the same time, though some states do have laws that say otherwise. Whether or not you should allow spouses on the HOA board depends on your association’s circumstances.
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