Different Ways to Handle your Associations Annual Election Meeting, During COVID-19

Develop a simple HOA Election process to keep residents and candidates safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Key takeaways:

  • Safety considerations for Board member election process

  • Potential challenges in conducting annual Board Association elections

  • Possible approaches to minimize the risk of virus exposure to homeowners

The days of in-person group Board meetings are certainly on pause. Gathering residents and committees for Association meetings, HOA budget planning, or ARC reviews are no longer feasible. The pre-pandemic platforms for standard Association operations have become challenging. A new way to address day-to-day or long-term HOA meetings is needed. This includes Association Annual Elections. 

 

If your South Florida condominium or homeowners Association has formerly held in-person conferences and voting periods to elect Board members, now is the time to develop a new strategy. This new strategy should include creative solutions to address the current concerns for large group gatherings. Click here for a review of suggested precautions by the World Health Organization. 

 

Similarly, it is important to communicate and demonstrate the updated health measures your Association will follow, so residents, homeowners and Board members feel safe, and show that the HOA takes the necessary safety precautions seriously. 

 

These procedures should include:

  • Social distancing practices 
  • Limiting attendance counts
  • Virtual attendance options 

Here we’ll review some of the major challenges with standard Association Anual Election Meetings. Then, we’ll present some options to continue with the Association annual election process that avoid a possible exposure of residents or Board members to COVID-19, including safe voting procedures, and above all, promote the safety of homeowners. 

 

By following the below suggestions you’ll be able to proceed with Association annual elections without issue.

 

Challenges to Association Annual Election meetings during COVID-19

There are a few significant challenges to hosting HOA Board election meetings due to COVID-19. In standard Association practices, groups of residents are usually gathered in a shared space, often seated close together. The necessary deliberations that ensue, including question and answer sessions, require residents to interact rapidly and communicate about problems that the Association faces, and possible resolutions. 

 

Board member candidates need a platform to discuss Association issues or plans. Residents need a platform to listen to candidate suggestions and respond or inquire for further information. 

 

These requirements have historically called for homeowner meetings, in an in-person, indoor setting. Given the current social distancing requirements and accepted safety measures posited to keep individuals safe as a result of COVID-19, the standard meeting style is not an acceptable approach. 

 

The standard Association annual meeting approach would cause too many homeowners to be in close contact with one another and thus create a possibility of spreading the virus. A meeting where residents are seated close to one another could create potential exposure to the coronavirus, as could hosting a meeting without face masks, as has been the case pre-pandemic. Here you can find a general review of HOA operations during the pandemic

 

Another challenge is including those residents or Board candidates who are elderly (and thus more vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus.) Similarly, those residents and homeowners with preexisting health conditions that make their immune system more susceptible to contracting the virus. 

 

Given these challenges and concerns a new approach to Association meetings, and creating a platform to effectively host annual elections is a must. 

 

Promoting health and safety among residents of your Association is paramount. Inasmuch, it’s important to show residents that their health is important by adopting new practices for meetings that ensure the safety of each homeowner.  

 

Safe Approaches to Handle Association Annual election Meetings 

 

In order to successfully conduct a safe annual Association election meeting for your south Florida HOA, we’ve developed solutions to the concerns that arise as a result of the coronavirus.

 

Palm Beach County continues to be under a state of emergency status and stipulates specific countywide requirements for residents, and organizational operations. 

 

Here we provide approaches to hosting HOA meetings that incorporate the social distancing guidelines, create opportunities for virtual resident and candidate interactions, as well as provide contactless election possibilities. 

 

Your HOA or Condominium Association can implement one or all of these measures in order to promote safety during COVID-19 and protect homeowners from possible exposure.

 

Through over 30 years of property management experience, we have a strong understanding of the HOA annual election process, and thus our proposed solutions are ways to effectively and efficiently conduct elections while implementing appropriate health and safety guidelines. 

 

Three approaches to Annual Elections for your HOA that are safe:

In-person, separated

In-person Association elections can still be held during this time. The key is to require facemasks and arrange for adequate space to ensure social distancing measures are followed. Typically annual meetings are held in some of the shared public spaces of the community. So in this case, you’d space out the chairs allowing for 6 feet of space between each attendee.

Ensure that the mask requirement is followed by placing signs on all entryways. Similarly, it will be important for the community leaders or current Board members, as well as the representatives from the property management company, to also wear facemasks and practice social distancing. Then, residents and homeowners will be encouraged to do the same. 

Providing hand sanitizer for all attendees is also a good protective measure. Place hand sanitizer by all entryways. Avoid passing pens, or touching shared materials.

Another approach to maintaining in-person social distanced meetings is to bring the meeting outside. If there is a clubhouse with ample outdoor space and seating, host the annual elections there. This will greatly reduce the risk of contracting the virus for residents. 

One challenge of this approach is that you may need to limit the number of attendees. If historically these meetings have not been well attended, this will not be a problem for your community. However, if annual elections typically generate a strong turnout, this may not be the best option for your community. 

Virtual meetings with electronic voting

Virtual meetings have become the norm since the pandemic became an issue. Inasmuch, many people are now accustomed to using online platforms for group interaction. This obviously minimizes the risk of contracting the virus through exposure and also simplifies the task of attending the meeting for residents. 

If they only have to log in to an online platform, such as Zoom or Google Hangouts, you may find increased attendance to meetings, perhaps even more than pre-pandemic. Because these platforms are accessible to individuals with tablets, computers, or other smart devices, wherever they may be, the likelihood that they can attend a meeting increases greatly. Perhaps meetings were not attended because residents were at work, or home with children and could not leave. Shifting the annual Association elections to any online platform makes it more accessible. 

The above platforms, as well as other digital platforms, offer features to collect data, run surveys, or vote. So, your Association can host the meetings and discussions virtually, and also collect votes electronically. Make sure that the specific platform adheres to the requirements and specifics to be eligible for HOA voting needs. 

One unique benefit of this approach is that virtual meetings can be done alongside in-person, separated meetings. So, those who still want to attend an in-person meeting and cast a vote in-person, can. Simultaneously the meeting can be broadcasted virtually, and ballots submitted electronically. This is a win-win for annual elections during a challenging time. Make sure that the specific platform adheres to the requirements and specifics to be eligible for HOA voting needs. 

Mail-in or contactless ballots 

Mailing ballots is a strong option for condominium Associations, particularly those with absentee owners or those who do not live on property. A combination of virtual meetings, paired with mail-in ballots offers a chance to all homeowners to be involved in election meetings, and cast their vote from anywhere. 

It could also serve condominium buildings well to host elections and collect ballots in a particular location in the building. This creates a contactless solution to collecting votes. It limits potential exposure to the virus and ensures all residents the chance to vote.

This approach can also serve a residential community in conjunction with virtual or in-person meetings. Votes can be cast through the mail or in a contactless dropbox, significantly reducing potential risks.

Implementing a new approach for your HOA annual Board elections

 

Each property and Association is unique and has specific requirements or desires for hosting annual elections of Board members. Despite the challenges posed by coronavirus, your HOA or Condominium Association annual elections can still take place.

 

Ultimately, some combination of the above approaches, which involve social distancing measures, and make meetings and the opportunity to vote more accessible, will be the best bet. Whether your Association opts for in-person, separated elections, virtual meetings, or mail-in/contactless ballots, these options will make it possible to proceed with state law and Association bylaws. 

 

There is no need to cancel the elections and your Association will still be able to host a successful election this season. Visit our website or call today to learn more about safe practices for your Association or guidance in running Board elections. And, when you’re ready to integrate the newly elected Board members into their positions, check out this article to make the transition simple. 

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