Remote HOA meetings became the norm during the COVID-19 crisis as they allowed associations to continue conducting business without risking the health and safety of owners. But, should such meetings persist post-pandemic?
Remote HOA Meetings and the Role of COVID-19
For many homeowners associations, remote meetings were not always the standard. In fact, a lot of HOAs were explicitly required to conduct association business and vote on issues at in-person meetings as such matters often needed a quorum to be established. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, changed all of that.
As COVID-19 spread across the globe and countries closed down, it soon became apparent that HOA boards could not continue with business as usual. There was simply no way to hold face-to-face meetings without jeopardizing the health and safety of members. After all, COVID-19 and its many variants are highly contagious.
Before long, states like North Carolina issued an executive order after executive order permitting nonprofits like HOAs to hold virtual meetings. This allowed association matters to proceed and gave boards a way to run their respective communities even from home.
Now, as vaccines continue to roll out, many associations are wondering whether or not remote HOA board meetings should — or even can — continue.
The Benefits of Remote HOA Meetings
The COVID-19 pandemic certainly brought on overwhelming hardships and stress to HOA boards. It is only because of virtual HOA meetings that boards were able to perform their regular duties.
Through virtual meetings, board members were able to discuss issues, vote on important matters, and make smart decisions.
But, apart from being handy during a health crisis, here are the top reasons why holding a remote HOA meeting can be beneficial to associations.
1. Higher Attendance Rate
Many owners are either too occupied with work or their home lives to attend meetings in person. As such, when owners don’t have to carve time out of their busy schedules, virtual HOA board meetings see a higher attendance rate.
With remote meetings, owners can listen in on discussions while juggling other activities. They are also not restricted by their location. Remote HOA meetings are just generally more convenient because owners can attend them from anywhere with an Internet connection.
2. Better Participation
A higher attendance rate will naturally lead to more active participation, but the virtual setup of the meeting also has a direct impact on engagement.
With remote HOA meetings, those who are afraid of public speaking or just generally shy are encouraged to be more involved. After all, it is far easier to voice your concerns when people are not staring at you.
While the rule can vary from one HOA to another, cameras can be turned off during virtual meetings, resulting in less pressure for the one talking. Additionally, some people are just more comfortable expressing themselves when they are in a familiar environment — and meetings from home allow for that.
3. More Board Candidates
Many associations have problems finding interested owners to volunteer for positions on the board.
Owners usually feel apprehensive about joining their board precisely because of the level of commitment required. Board members have to attend regular meetings and just generally be present when called on.
Virtual meetings change that, though. Through such meetings, board members can attend meetings even when they are out of town. This is particularly true for snowbirds.
Removing the limitation of location allows for a wider net to be cast when it comes to volunteer board members. Given the flexibility, homeowners are more likely to want to serve on the board of their association.
4. Reduces Costs
If you are a cost-conscious HOA, remote meetings will definitely sound more attractive to you. The most obvious way remote HOA meetings help save money is by cutting travel expenses. This applies not only to board members and owners but also to association attorneys.
Sometimes, you are not sure whether or not you will need legal counsel at a particular meeting. You call your attorney to attend anyway just in case, but that still incurs the HOA legal fees. In comparison, with virtual meetings, you can simply ask your attorney to hop on the virtual conference when the need arises.
In addition to this, remote meetings are more environmentally friendly. The cost of printing out notices, agendas, and ballots as well as the cost of mailing them will be reduced greatly with virtual meetings. This saves both money and paper, thereby reducing your eco-footprint.
Are Remote HOA Meetings Even Allowed After the Pandemic?
It is one thing to want to continue holding virtual meetings after the COVID-19 pandemic. But, whether or not it is allowed is an entirely different matter.
As previously explained, many states issued executive orders allowing nonprofits like HOAs to conduct remote meetings so that business can continue. With the expiry of such orders and the lifting of restrictions, though, the question comes to mind, “Can homeowners associations still hold virtual meetings after the pandemic?”
The answer depends on two things: state laws and your governing documents. If you live in a state where remote HOA meetings are permissible even in non-emergency situations, then you likely have the ability to continue with such a setup. For instance, in Florida, state statutes do allow non-profit corporations to hold virtual meetings. Similar statutes exist in New Hampshire, provided their declaration or bylaws permit it.
This brings us to the second factor — your governing documents. In states where such a requirement is not clearly defined, it is an association’s bylaws or declaration that will shed light. If your documents allow you to hold remote meetings and perform business that way, then you may certainly do so.
The past year or so has seen many homeowners associations hurriedly amend their governing documents to allow for virtual meetings precisely due to an event such as the COVID-19 pandemic. As with all decisions with legal implications, though, it is best to consult your HOA attorney on this issue.
Remote HOA Meetings Are Here to Stay — But Not Exclusively
Considering the benefits that virtual meetings offer and how many members seem to like them, many expect such meetings to become a mainstay for a lot of associations — especially those that have already amended their documents to allow for them. It is also going to be more common in HOAs that typically consist of vacation homes since owners are not always readily on-location.
Though, that isn’t to say that remote meetings will remain the sole method of communication. It is more likely that the future of HOA board meetings will be a combination of remote and in-person setups.
While virtual meetings are convenient, a lot of members do like the closeness and ease that come with face-to-face meetings. It also makes more sense for annual meetings to take place in person. Therefore, boards will probably utilize remote HOA meetings on a case-to-case basis.
From Here on Out
There is no doubt that remote HOA meetings provided associations with a safe and easy way to continue business amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Given their advantages, remote meetings will likely assimilate into the normal procedures of many associations, assuming state laws and their governing documents permit it.
Running a homeowners association is often lined with difficulties, and navigating your way through endless federal and state laws can feel overwhelming. Allow Cedar Management Group to help. Call us today at (799) 252-3327 or contact us online to know more.
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