A Homeowner’s Association is the backbone of its community, and as such, needs strong, adequate leadership to guide its decision-making process.
Holding new HOA elections on a periodic basis is an excellent way to ensure that leadership is periodically refreshed and that every member of the HOA has an opportunity to make his or her voice heard.
While specific rules and regulations vary from state to state, several general rules apply to every HOA election. As with every democracy, it is important to follow these rules closely for the election to be considered valid. Here are some tips to make sure your HOA election goes smoothly.
The best thing an HOA can do to prepare for an election is to make sure that every member is notified of it in advance. In most HOAs, the election will take place during the annual meeting, when the community makes decisions about the budget and other significant projects. A few weeks prior to your HOA’s meeting, send out notification to each member with as many details as possible, including the date and time of the meeting, the members who will be on the ballot, and of course, the HOA’s correct name and address.
In some states, such as California, state laws mandate that the HOA send out election ballots and two pre-addressed envelopes 30 days before the election. Make sure to consult with your HOA management company to ensure that you follow your state’s guidelines.
Follow Your Own Rules
You would think that the first thing an HOA does when holding an election is to consult its own rulebook—but in many cases, this isn’t so. Remember, your HOA established its procedures for a reason! Make sure to follow the provisions of your own governing documents when determining when to hold the meeting and how many votes members must receive to be elected. In some HOAs, candidates require more than 50% of votes, while in other cases, a plurality will do. Finally, if your documents require a committee to establish names of candidates, the HOA shouldn’t fail to appoint that committee.
It’s also important to establish how many votes each housing unit receives. For instance, if a couple shares a home, does each adult receive a vote, or will there be only one vote per unit? Make sure that this has been agreed upon before beginning the election process.
Establish Who Can Run
It is important that all eligible members who want to run are given that opportunity. Eligibility is determined by state laws and, often, the HOA’s bylaws. Again, a good HOA management company will be able to help you determine which laws apply to you. In some cases, candidates must submit an application in order to run, which is another reason to give members early notification of the meeting.
Checking In to Your HOA Election
On the day of the meeting, make sure that enough people are in attendance for the election to take place. In some states, the HOA requires that 10 to 25 percent of members be in attendance before the meeting can proceed; in others, it can be more than 50 percent.
In addition, remember to have members to sign in, so that there is a written record that a meeting took place.
Keep it Clean
On the day of the HOA election, voting must be anonymous and private. In most cases, members will fill out blank ballots and place them in sealed envelopes. Some states require that the HOA appoint a third-party inspector to make sure that the voting goes as planned.
If any members have mailed in ballots, make sure to open them at the meeting itself, and not prior. To open them earlier allows the perception that there was a mishandling of the ballots, which may mean the entire election is invalid and must be repeated. Even if you have received hundreds of ballots, take the time to open them.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to count the votes several times, rather than once, to ensure the voting count is accurate.
With luck, your HOA will have a fair, unbiased election which will allow the most qualified members to lead your community in the year to come. For more help with your HOA election, contact a Slatter HOA Management representative today.