With most elections occurring between the beginning of January and the end of March, election season for HOAs is now upon us. Even the word “elections” can bring a feeling of dread upon board members, but the process does not have to be a painful one. In fact, there are several tips you can follow to ensure a successful HOA election. Let’s take a look at them here.
Learn How to Hold a Successful HOA Election
Much like a democratic nation, a homeowners association relies on elections to appoint a set of leaders — the HOA board — to run it. In addition to a multitude of other duties, the primary responsibility of the board is to maintain the HOA to make sure property values do not plummet. This is why it is important for members to elect the right people. But, how can members do that if the HOA election process is in disarray?
A successful HOA election all depends on a few key aspects, each one as significant as the last. To help your HOA board hold elections without a hitch, follow the tips listed below:
1. Study Your Governing Documents
All HOA boards should be careful to conduct the elections exactly as the governing documents prescribe. This will help prevent the risk of invalidating the entire HOA board election and also bring a lot of clarity to the voting process. HOA election rules usually included in the documents are:
- How many votes from community members are needed to meet a quorum
- How many votes are needed to secure the election of a board member
- How far in advance the community needs to be informed of the election
2. Prepare in Advance
There are many things that you can do to prepare for the elections in advance. Staying on top of the elections is the best way to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
One critical item is sending out candidate solicitations ahead of time. This should give all members in good standing the proper amount of time to submit their name as a candidate. This is important as it widens the field and helps bring diversity to the board. To help facilitate this process, common areas should be made available for all activities relating to the HOA board of directors elections.
3. Know Who Can Run and Who Can Vote
Before even beginning to plan for the HOA board elections, it is essential for you to know which members of the community can run for a seat and which members are allowed to vote.
This way, you will not run into problems, such as ineligible voters showing up on election day and complicating matters. This type of information also exists within your HOA’s governing documents.
While it may differ from association to association, any resident can generally be a candidate provided they are a respectable homeowner and have no outstanding debts with the HOA. When it comes to who is allowed to cast a vote, this also depends on the association. Usually, though, it is limited to one ballot per unit, which means only one representative per unit is required.
4. Reach a Quorum with Proxies
For those who are unaware, the definition of a quorum is the minimum number of community members that should be in attendance to render a meeting or, in this case, an election, valid. In other words, without a quorum, the meeting or election is deemed invalid and must be postponed.
Again, your governing documents should contain information on what constitutes an HOA quorum in your organization. If your governing documents do not contain such information, some states have laws regarding the matter. For instance, according to the North Carolina Planned Planned Community Act GS § 47F-3-109, 10% of the total eligible voters already constitutes an HOA quorum.
Unfortunately, not all residents will have the time to make a personal appearance on election day. For such cases, proxies must be utilized. Proxies should be sent out far in advance with enough time for them to be considered by homeowners. This also gives them enough time for homeowners to make arrangements for who their proxy will be.
The proxies that are sent out should be extremely detailed and should include several write-in lines in addition to the names of the candidates. Sending them in advance helps to ensure a successful HOA election by helping reach a quorum.
5. Get the Community Interested
Another good way to reach a quorum is to get community members interested in the HOA elections. Consider conducting active outreach programs within your community, especially in the weeks leading up to the HOA board of directors election.
Make sure to spread the word way ahead of time so that people know that an important event is coming up. Putting up political signs is also allowed to an extent. Let them know which candidates are running and how every vote counts.
Without enough community members, you can pretty much say goodbye to a successful HOA election. Should the number required for an HOA quorum run short, you can even resort to knocking on people’s doors to encourage them to join. If you still can’t reach a quorum, you have no choice but to adjourn the meeting and reschedule.
6. Consider Online Voting
Absentee voters are the bane of any successful HOA election. One method to counter this is to allow HOA electronic voting, be it through email or an online portal. Email voting is both cheap and effective, though it does have its downsides.
For instance, not all email providers are reliable, and some messages could arrive too late or wind up in the spam folder. Additionally, members must be reminded (preferably not via email) to send their votes prior to the deadline.
On the other hand, your HOA could go with online voting through a portal. If you do end up using this option, make sure the portal you choose is secure and cloud-based. With online voting, residents can cast their votes on-the-go without worrying about personal appearances. Furthermore, virtual election programs usually make it easier to manage, analyze, and count voting results compared to physical ballots.
Of course, this does not mean you can’t do it the old-fashioned way. Physical ballots are a timeless and traditional form of voting. If you do end up choosing this route, make sure to follow a good HOA election ballot template that is easy to understand. Refer to the sample HOA election ballot below.
7. Carefully Count Votes
To be sure that everything has been done correctly, spend a lot of time counting the votes, especially if you are making use of physical ballots. If your board decides to go with email voting, see to it that no vote ends up in the trash or in your spam folder. Taking these steps will help to prevent mistakes that can cost precious time and make homeowners angry. Always count the votes more than once to ensure that the results are accurate.
8. Record Your Elections
While it may not seem like it to some, documenting your HOA election process is an equally crucial step. Most associations’ governing documents expressly require elections to be recorded. But, even if yours do not, you are still encouraged to do so. This way, you can protect the HOA should any disagreements over the election’s validity transpire.
Make sure to document everything, especially the attendance on HOA board election day. Asking attendees to sign a simple form should suffice.
On Your Way to a Successful HOA Election
Now that you are aware of these tips, holding elections will no longer seem like an impossibly difficult task. By counting votes carefully, being proactive about proxies and quorums, and having a thorough knowledge of your governing documents, your board will be able to have a stress-free and successful HOA election.
Some homeowners associations skip all this trouble by partnering with an HOA management company to handle all election-related matters. If you feel your HOA requires the same, feel free to contact us anytime.
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