Given the current state of the world, many homeowners associations have yet to hold their annual meetings for health and safety concerns. But, there is a way to hold an HOA annual meeting during COVID without endangering everyone.
Planning an HOA Annual Meeting During COVID
The year 2020 was difficult for everyone — homeowners associations included. In fact, a lot of HOAs failed to even hold their 2020 annual meeting because of the pandemic. Since the coronavirus easily spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets, in-person meetings, especially large ones, were impossible. Many states even adopted Executive Orders that limited the number of people in indoor and outdoor spaces.
A majority of HOAs held off on their annual meetings, postponing them until the situation improved. Fast forward to a year later, and in-person gatherings are still largely ill-advised. Thanks to modern technology, though, HOA members can meet in a virtual format to carry out association business.
What Does the Law Say?
Homeowners associations in North Carolina will be relieved to know that skipping the annual meeting does not necessarily impact the validity of the HOA’s actions. The NC Nonprofit Corporation Act makes sure of it, even if your bylaws require you to hold an annual meeting. You also don’t need to worry about an empty HOA board since a separate statute states that a current director will continue to serve as one until a qualified successor is chosen or elected even if said director’s term has reached its expiration.
While the NC Nonprofit Corporation Act provides you with reasons not to hold an annual meeting, there are also reasons to do otherwise. First of all, the NC Planned Community Act states that HOAs must hold membership meetings at least once a year. Similar provisions exist within the NC Condominium Act and the NC Nonprofit Corporation Act.
Secondly, it makes more sense to hold a meeting so that essential actions can take place. This includes board nominations and elections as well as budget ratification. In contrast, voting on such matters through a written ballot without a meeting can be quite cumbersome.
Executive Order Allowing HOAs to Hold Virtual Meetings
An in-person meeting during this time is not only unwise, though, it is also downright risky. Additionally, in North Carolina, COVID restrictions are currently in place, which means you can only have 10 people in attendance for indoor meetings (25 for outdoor meetings).
Similar restrictions were adopted the year prior. To address the matter of HOA meetings, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order No. 136 on April 24, 2020. This Executive Order permitted non-profit corporations such as HOAs and condos to hold virtual membership meetings under certain conditions. It went through a few expirations and extensions until, recently, the Governor extended it once more through March 1, 2021.
Under Executive Order No. 185, an HOA board can decide in its sole discretion whether to conduct a meeting virtually. Members of an association can use online meeting platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and GoToMeeting. Other specifics include:
- The association must send a notice of the meeting, following the procedures and requirements set forth within the governing documents.
- The notice should clearly state that the meeting will be held virtually and provide the platform to be used. It must also include the agenda.
- No motions must take place during the virtual meeting.
- No voting by voice or hands must take place during the virtual meeting.
- Since the association won’t conduct any business, it does not need a quorum to hold the meeting. However, it does need a quorum for written ballots.
- The association can make decisions through written ballots, which can also use electronic methods such as email. A verification process must exist, though, so that members can mail their ballots back, attach them to an email, or cast them using an online voting platform.
Virtual vs In-Person HOA Annual Meetings
Virtual meetings are a great option for homeowners associations, though they do have some downsides when it comes to larger meetings. If you are familiar with electronic meeting platforms, then you know they have limitations. For instance, you can’t see everyone simultaneously. Typically, only the speaker appears on the screen, maybe accompanied by a presiding officer. It is also easier to talk over one another, so recognition becomes harder due to how many participants are involved. This usually requires you to mute everyone.
Here are some problems you can expect to encounter when holding a virtual HOA annual meeting during a pandemic with a larger number of participants.
One of the most common problems you will face has to do with the technology itself. Even though many platforms have upgraded their systems, you will still run into some technological challenges, especially when you have a large number of participants. Some platforms simply can’t take the sheer volume of traffic. In fact, they may even malfunction when you reach a certain number. Additionally, not everyone has the same Internet quality, so some members may experience delays, lags, and even drops.
When you have in-person gatherings, grabbing and retaining everyone’s attention is simpler. Virtually, though, people have more distractions available. Members might try to multitask or just keep themselves busy with less important things. They might surf the web, browse social media, or do other tasks that don’t even require the Internet. That means you don’t really have their full, undivided attention.
A Different Feel
When it comes down to it, virtual meetings just don’t offer the same feel as physical meetings. It is also significantly harder to build relationships, strike a rapport, and establish a sense of community if you’re just seeing everyone online. This is because you can’t really socialize to the same extent through a screen as you would in-person. In fact, most of the social interactions take place outside of the meeting itself, such as during breaks, before meetings, and after meetings.
Might Encourage Bad Behavior
Discussions happen at HOA annual meetings, so it is only normal to have spirited debates. But, for some reason, people tend to not hold back during virtual meetings as opposed to in-person meetings. Members might say meaner or more inconsiderate things because they feel less intimidated or less shy. It is close to the equivalent of a comments section or chat room where people generally have more courage to speak their minds, even if their thoughts might hurt someone else. The element of emotion simply disappears.
The Future of HOA Meetings
The annual meeting is integral to managing any homeowners association. With the coronavirus pandemic, though, HOAs are having a hard time making compromises while still following state guidelines, CDC recommendations, and their governing documents.
But, it is entirely possible to hold a virtual HOA meeting, especially with the Executive Order extended in North Carolina. Although virtual platforms make it possible to hold an HOA annual meeting during COVID, it is likely such methods are here to stay.
During times of crisis, homeowners associations can depend on their HOA management company for guidance. If you have yet to hire one, choose Cedar Management Group. We provide HOA management services to associations in the Carolinas. Call us today at (877) 252-3327 or contact us online for a free proposal.
- Coronavirus HOA Community Guidelines
- HOA Board Members And Covid-19: Duties And Responsibilities To The Community
- Coronavirus Activities For Community: Staying Together Despite The Distance