The coronavirus has affected us all in some way. From the way we shop to the way we work and the way we play, life has changed in 2020 and the pandemic may last well into at least 2021. Some homeowner associations (HOAs) are struggling to adapt to this new reality with plenty of unanswered questions. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the things you should, or should not be doing to keep your HOA running smoothly. For example, should you hold HOA meetings during the coronavirus?
HOAs should continue to conduct their business and attend to their duties to keep the HOA in compliance with all rules and guidelines. The only difference is that CDC guidelines should be followed when conducting these duties. Social distancing should be practiced and a safety plan should be followed by everyone. The key to getting through this and many other situations is communication. The more effective the HOA communicates to the homeowners, the better off everyone will be. This way HOA meetings during the coronavirus can continue.
Even though we are in Phase 3 of Florida’s reopening plan, an HOA should continue to encourage social distancing and avoid mass gatherings. Older board members that are in high-risk categories are justifiably concerned about contracting COVID-19 through mass gatherings and the State of Florida recommends that people over 65 years of age and those with underlying health problems should continue to practice social distancing. HOA meetings during the coronavirus that cannot be postponed should be held electronically instead (telephone or video conferencing).
Keep in mind that recording the meeting electronically may not be permissible. If virtual meetings are held, the board should make remote participation available for unit owners to attend if they wish. That being said, a representative should lay the ground rules before the meeting begins and participants should be reminded that it is a board meeting and the board is solely meeting to conduct corporate business.
Florida Statute 617.0721(3) allows not-for-profit corporations to hold virtual meetings and Florida Statutes 718.128 and 720.317 authorize condominium and homeowners associations to conduct elections and other unit owner votes through an online voting system. These statutes provide organizations like HOAs with the needed flexibility in planning for meetings and holding elections during the pandemic. Even with these laws in place, HOAs should consider changing their bylaws to reflect remote meetings and voting for future situations that may arise.
Every HOA should consider adopting emergency power procedures even if their state has built-in period of time for HOAs to use emergency powers.
While there are homeowners experiencing an economic hardship through no fault of their own, it is an unfortunate situation that most HOAs do not have reserves in place to cover financial setbacks and lowering fees is usually not possible. In fact, because of the added cleaning requirements to common areas, expenses have generally risen. This being said, unless the income drop is overwhelming, the HOA should do everything in its power to work with those affected hardest by the pandemic. HOAs can consider waiving late fees, making proactive payment plans, delaying foreclosures and putting off unnecessary projects until later.
While working with homeowners is encouraged, the HOA must also protect the association’s legal options. It is important to check with an attorney to see if there are legal deadlines that must be observed for filing past-due assessment liens, etc.
Maneuvering through the coronavirus pandemic can be daunting for many HOAs. Should your bylaws be changed? Can a HOA be sued if they reopen their pool? Each HOA is unique and each has a specific list of issues to be addressed. Rob Robinson understands the challenges that HOAs face during these difficult times and is ready to offer his counsel with your HOA. No matter what your legal challenges may be, Rob Robinson will give you the legal advice you can trust and depend on.