With the Covid-19 vaccines now rolling out across the country, there is hope that in the coming months gatherings of individuals who have been inoculated could safely take place. In the meantime, many community associations are continuing to conduct virtual meetings with attendees participating online or via telephone conference.
However, various provisions of the laws governing Florida condominium and homeowner associations raise questions regarding whether such virtual meetings are being conducted in a manner that is in full compliance. For instance, applicable condominium laws stipulate that annual meetings of the unit owners for board member elections must be held at the location provided in an association’s governing documents or, if none is specified, within 45 miles of the condominium property. This leads to the question of whether purely virtual annual meetings comply with the law.
The unprecedented circumstances arising during the pandemic has therefore caused many community association managers and board members to become creative – seeking to achieve continuity of association business vis-a-vis director and member meetings while also seeking to balance the protections recommended by healthcare providers and health authorities. One example is that some associations, in an effort to ensure that a condominium’s virtual annual meeting complies with the law, have made arrangements for the board of directors’ meeting to convene physically on association property while allowing members to attend via Zoom or other platforms.
In those cases, unit owners have been provided with notices of such meetings, which have included the login and call-in information to enable all the association members to attend online or via telephone. In some cases, actual in-person attendance by members has been prohibited, while in others the participants physically at the meeting were limited only to the board members or perhaps just a single board member, along with any necessary staff and legal counsel.
By contrast, Florida laws governing homeowners association annual meetings do not stipulate that they must be within 45 miles of the community. Rather, they simply provide that the meeting must take place at a time, date and place that is specified in the association’s bylaws. Most HOA bylaws either require that the meeting be held within the county where the community is located, or they do not indicate a location.
The foregoing illustrates just a few creative approaches being implemented throughout many community associations, in efforts to allow for necessary business within those communities to continue while also providing for owner participation and awareness. With that in mind, other factors contemplated by applicable Florida laws which govern community associations, such as the declaration of emergency powers by boards and perhaps the adoption of electronic notice and voting options, should also be considered in an effort to strike the optimal balance between the need to continue with business as usual and the reality of having to do so in a landscape that is vastly different from when the applicable laws were established.
Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I have been working closely with our clients to help them develop and implement processes and precautions to enable them to conduct association business in an open and effective manner during the Covid-19 pandemic. We encourage association directors and property managers to consult with highly qualified and experienced association legal counsel regarding their protocols to keep their communities as safe as possible.