A quarter of the United States population lives in a community association, which includes homeowners associations (HOAs), condominium communities and housing cooperatives, according to a report released last year by the Foundation for Community Association Research.
Among the notable findings: 73.5 million Americans are residents of these communities, which consists of 2.5 million association boards and committee members. The top three states with the greatest HOA presence include Florida (48,250 communities and an estimated 9.4 million residents), California (48,150 HOAs and 13.7 million residents), and Texas (20,050 associations and 5.6 million homeowners).
“Americans largely have accepted the collective management structure of community association living where association boards are composed of democratically elected homeowners who voluntarily serve their communities,” said the Community Associations Institute, an international trade association that worked in conjunction with the Foundation For Community Association to produce the report.
A homeowners association election impacts the entire community. The board is elected to represent the interests of its residents and decides on a range of important matters, from recreational amenities and establishing facilities for parties to enforcing bylaws and other community rules. It ultimately falls on the HOA board to oversee the aesthetics and viability of the neighborhood. Since such boards have an overwhelming say in community matters, it’s important to understand how an HOA election works.
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Who Do HOA Members Vote For?
Let’s start with the basics. HOA elections are generally held during annual meetings. It’s during these events when members have an opportunity to vote for board of director positions, including the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer, each of whom performs different functions.
Historically, the president sets the agenda, presides over meetings, ensures all board members have had an opportunity to speak, signs all contracts and legal documents, and co-signs checks. The vice president can act as a substitute for the president when they’re not able to carry out their responsibilities. Secretaries catalog minutes during meetings, manage all association records and have been known to write neighborhood newsletters informing members of goings-on and important issues. The treasurer handles the association’s budget, collects dues, issues payments to vendors, and assists in the audit of the HOA. In some organizations, the secretary and treasurer positions are held by the same person.
Board members typically have term limits of two to three years, but the positions, whether it be president or treasurer, they hold on the board may be shorter at about one year.
This means a member who was secretary the first year of their term could be named vice president the second.
So, how does a member appear on a ballot in the first place? Candidates can be nominated through signature collection, by their peers or volunteering. Qualifications for candidacy and the nomination process are determined by state laws and the community’s bylaws and governing documents, which we’ll discuss below.
As a voter, you want to ensure the candidate you cast a ballot for understands the issues, knows finances and cares about the community.
If you’re a candidate, you’ll want to prove you’re an upstanding resident that’s prepared to fill the seat. Start attending HOA meetings prior to running to understand the fiduciary duties of the board and the assortment of issues you may have to contend with. Learn the laws governing the association, read the contract with the property management company, knock on doors and meet neighbors, pay your assessments on time, and obey all community rules.
YesElections can help your organization run its nominations process. Give us a call today.
Who Can Vote
All homeowners who are members of the association are eligible to vote. Renters, however, don’t have a voice in such contests.
An association may require a quorum, a minimum number of people necessary to conduct business, to hold an election. There isn’t an official total for all organizations; it varies by community and is outlined in the bylaws. To achieve a quorum without all members present, proxy votes can be used.
In some cases, members can vote without being present. In this scenario, a member chooses someone to serve as a “proxy” who casts a ballot on their behalf, so long as they have the proper documentation. Depending on the association’s bylaws, a proxy can be another member of the community, a renter, or a non-stakeholder who has no ties to the community.
In most cases, HOA elections require that proxy documents contain specific information about the contest, such as the time and date of the meeting, names of candidates and a space for write-in votes. Such documents may require even more information, so it’s important for members to obtain all the details before allowing someone to vote on their behalf.
YesElections can help design or redesign your association’s paper and electronic proxies. We verify proxy votes and assist at check-in during contests.
Homeowners associations generally run elections according to the basic format other associations follow.
Before delving into the process, an HOA must produce a budget, which is usually discussed at an annual budget meeting. When determining how much to spend in a year, it’s important to consider all election-related costs, including voting methods, security options, and who will run the contest—either your organization or a vendor management agency. Then, an HOA must set a date, nominate qualified candidates, promote the contest, conduct the election, and tabulate the results.
YesElections can run an election with all methods of voting:
On-site: Most HOAs or co-ops hold their elections in person at annual meetings. This enables quick tabulation turnaround, on-hand assistance, and convenience. HOAs generally hold these meetings in a central location within their HOA, so it’s just a short walk or car ride to the polling station.
Mail: For large homeowners associations, such as Poinciana Digital Village in Florida, which includes 20,000 homes and 7,000 residents, it may be tough to gather all those people in one place, let alone find a location big enough to fit them. In these cases, it can be beneficial to send ballots to homes so residents can respond on their own time.
Online: Many associations have turned to online voting as it’s the most affordable option. YesElections can run a secure and easily navigable online election and develop e-proxies for your organization.
Check out our blog How Your Association Can Transition to Online Voting to learn more.
Multiple Methods: To accommodate all residents and their needs, YesElections can run multiple methods of voting for your HOA. We have the ability to offer both mailed and online elections, which gives homeowners the ability to choose which option works best for them.
The Laws Governing HOA Elections
The election process is regulated by state laws and HOAs’ bylaws and Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs).
Each state has laws governing homeowners association elections. These regulations depend on how individual states define HOAs: as an incorporated nonprofit or a separate legal entity. In some states, various types exist.
For example, Florida homeowners associations must be nonprofit corporations, so they’re governed by the Florida Not For Profit Corporation Act in addition to the Homeowner’s Association Act. California’s HOA rules are dictated by the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act, while Texas follows Texas Property Code Title 11, a provision governing the formation, management, powers, and operation of HOAs.
The bylaws dictate how an HOA enacts future rules, establishing the rights and responsibilities of the group. They set the number of members permitted on the board, the minimum people necessary for a quorum, frequency of contests, term limits, and more.
Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions
Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions (CC&Rs) documents are basically the homeowners association’s handbook. They outline the rights and powers of an HOA and how it will enforce these rules, maintenance requirements and fees, construction and design standards, and the expiration of covenants.
YesElections reviews the applicable bylaws and state regulations prior to each election.
Understanding the election process and its importance to the community is crucial for homeowner associations. Since these contests decide which members will make decisions for the neighborhood as a whole, you should ensure a fair election is conducted and the appointed officials have the residents’ best interests at heart.
YesElections has been providing secure election solutions for member-based associations, including HOAs since 2007. Contact us today to request your complimentary consultation.