HOA Board Voting Rules

You just recently moved into a new neighborhood, and it’s the first time you’re part of a homeowner’s association (HOA). You decide you should probably attend the HOA meetings in order to understand how this whole thing works. 

In the first one, board members discuss votes on landscaping contracts, a new fence proposal, and increasing dues. You’re surprised that the board seems to wield a lot of decision-making power over the neighborhood you now call home.

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While HOAs are designed to protect property values and community vibrancy, their governing boards and voting processes aren’t something to ignore as a resident. The board members are elected volunteers entrusted with stewarding the HOA’s finances, enforcing rules, maintaining common areas, and performing other key responsibilities. Their votes directly impact your dues, the amenities provided, and even your home’s resale value down the road.

To ensure your voice is heard and the neighborhood is properly maintained, homeowners must understand the governance structure, election procedures, and voting rules that guide HOA boards. Being aware of the roles, responsibilities, and proper protocols for decision-making can enable you to get involved, ask the right questions, and ensure judicious oversight.

So, what are the voting rules of an HOA board, and what are the rights and responsibilities you have as a member? Let’s take a look.

 

What Is The HOA Governance Structure?

At the core of every homeowners association is the Board of Directors – a group of elected volunteers from the community tasked with governance and oversight. Think of them as your neighborhood’s executive team and legislative body rolled into one.

The specific size, roles, and hierarchy can vary, but a typical HOA board structure includes:

  • President: The leader who runs board meetings, represents the HOA, and serves as the public spokesperson. They coordinate with the property manager and set agendas.
  • Vice President: This person studies the president’s role and steps in if the president is unavailable. They may also oversee specific committees or initiatives.
  • Secretary: Responsible for documenting and maintaining all records, including meeting minutes, correspondence, rules/bylaws, owner rosters, etc.
  • Treasurer: Oversees and reports on the HOA’s finances, including budgets, reserve funds, delinquencies, taxes, and financial controls.
  • Other Directors: Depending on the size of the HOA, directors may oversee areas like grounds, amenities, communications, rules enforcement, etc.

 

 

The HOA’s governing documents define the number of board members, but most range from 3-9 members for typical communities. Board members serve staggered 1-3-year terms, so not everyone is up for re-election at once.

In addition to elected board positions, there are often auxiliary roles and committees such as:

  • Architectural Review Committee: Evaluates exterior renovations or modifications for approval based on HOA guidelines.
  • Landscaping/Grounds Committee: Oversees maintenance of common areas, enforces rules, and makes improvement recommendations.
  • Social Committee: Helps plan and facilitate community events, activities, welcome programs, etc.

The board as a whole is responsible for upholding the HOA’s governing documents which include the CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions), bylaws, rules, and any other resolutions or policies. They must also ensure compliance with state laws and regulations around nonprofits, taxes, and residential communities.

While the board members are volunteers, many larger HOAs employ professional property management companies to actually carry out day-to-day operations based on the board’s directives.

Board Member Elections

Board Member Elections

Those HOA board members wielding all that decision-making power? They don’t appoint themselves. Board members are elected directly by homeowners within the community in annual elections.

The process typically goes like this:

1. Eligibility

Candidates must meet baseline requirements, such as being an owner in good standing (no unpaid dues or violations), agreeing to standards of conduct/ethics, and, in some cases, meeting criteria like residency timeframes.

2. Nominations

Homeowners can self-nominate or be nominated by other owners. Often, a nominating period is advertised to the community, and interested candidates must submit statements of intent to be added to the ballot.

3. Campaigning

In the weeks leading up to the election, candidates have opportunities to campaign by engaging with residents, distributing informational materials about their backgrounds/priorities, and participating in town halls or Q&A sessions.

4. The Vote

HOA elections must follow specific protocols as defined in the bylaws & state laws. There are usually annual or biennial meetings where elections are held either via ballot drop boxes, in-person voting, or proxies assigned to other residents.

The voting process aims to be democratic but can vary in terms of whether:

  • Only one vote is allowed per household, or all residents 18+ can vote
  • If votes are confidential or made public
  • If votes require quorum minimums for validity
  • If there are accommodations like online voting, mail ballots, etc.

5. Counting & Validation of the Vote

Votes are tabulated by a third-party inspector or impartial committee to certify results. HOAs must publish the results and address any challenges to the process, and documentation is kept on record.

Board Size & Terms

The number of board seats up for election each cycle depends on the HOA’s pre-determined total size (usually 5-7 directors) and specified term lengths, which can be staggered so not all members are replaced at once. This aims to maintain stability while also allowing new perspectives and ideas to be introduced to the board.

Depending on the size of your HOA, there may also be a minimum number of candidates required to have a valid election. This ensures that the board is not lacking in representation and provides fair opportunities for members to run for a position.

Accommodations must be made for members who cannot physically attend an election meeting. These can include online voting options or mail-in ballots. HOAs must consider these accommodations to ensure that all eligible members have the opportunity to participate in the election process.

Voting on HOA Business Matters

Once elected, one of the primary responsibilities for HOA boards is to vote on all sorts of key business matters that impact the entire community and its finances. Effectively, they serve as the appointed representatives, making major decisions on behalf of all homeowners.

The types of matters that require formal board voting include:

Financial Decisions

  • Approving annual budgets and homeowner assessments/dues
  • Authorizing expenditures above specific dollar thresholds
  • Selecting insurance policies and coverages
  • Adopting investment strategies for reserve funds
  • Special assessments or borrowing funds for major projects

Rule/Policy Changes

  • Amending, updating, or adding community rules and restrictions
  • Architectural guideline changes impacting permissible renovations
  • Policies around parking, pets, rentals, etc.
  • Establishing enforcement procedures and fine schedules

Contracts & Vendors

  • Awarding contracts for landscaping, maintenance, security, etc.
  • Approving HOA management companies and staff
  • Negotiating amenity/service agreements (cable, utilities, etc.)

Property Oversight

  • Authorizing repairs, replacements, and capital projects
  • Approving design changes or additions to common areas
  • Evaluating and acting on homeowner compliance cases

 

 

To properly vote on and approve these matters, HOA boards must follow defined protocols:

  • Quorum: A minimum number of board members must be present to have a valid quorum and conduct an official vote per the bylaws.
  • Voting Threshold: Some matters require just a simple majority, while others like CC&R changes mandate a super-majority approval.
  • Motions: There are formal procedures, such as making a motion, seconding it, discussing pros/cons, and then calling a vote according to parliamentary rules.
  • Voting Methods: Votes can be taken via voice, show of hands, paper ballot, or even email – though the sensitive nature of some topics necessitates anonymous voting.
  • Documentation: Detailed minutes must be kept as permanent records of all motions, votes, and results for every board meeting.

While the board has governing authority on most HOA business, there are certain matters that may legally require approval directly from all homeowners rather than just the board. These include things like:

  • Hiring/firing property management companies
  • Approving annual budgets above set increase limits
  • Updating or amending the governing documents/bylaws
  • Authorizing any borrowing or special assessments above thresholds
  • Selling or transferring common property assets

So, while HOA boards have significant decision-making power through their voting process, it’s not unlimited. There are stipulated checks and balances, protocols, and owner approvals required – especially for major financial or legal matters impacting the entire community.

The key is for boards to be transparent, follow proper voting procedures, record decisions accurately, and ultimately make choices in the best interests of their community and homeowners.

Robert's Rules of Order

To ensure orderly and democratic decision-making, most HOA boards adopt and follow parliamentary procedures based on Robert’s Rules of Order. These widely used guidelines govern how meetings are run, motions are made, debates are held, votes are taken, and more.

While the finer details can seem intricate, the core principles of Robert’s Rules that apply to HOA board votes include:

Running Meetings by Agenda

Meetings should follow a pre-planned, well-structured agenda prepared by the President/Chair and distributed in advance to all members. This keeps discussions focused and efficient – because nobody wants to be stuck in a never-ending meeting.

Making Proper Motions

Before any matter can be voted on, it must be proposed through a main motion after being recognized by the Chair. Motions require a second from another member and often require a specific format, such as “I move that…” or “I make a motion to…”

Holding Structured Debates

Once a motion is made, the Chair should allow members to debate it in an orderly manner with time limits and back-and-forth discussion before calling for a vote. The rules help to promote fair and respectful discussion.

Majority Vote Requirements

Most procedural motions and motions on basic matters only require a simple majority (50%+1) of voting members for passage. This ensures that decisions are made by a significant portion of the group and not just a small minority who attends.

 

 

Two-Thirds Requirements

Sometimes the issue is important enough that it requires more than a simple majority. Any motions impacting HOA bylaws, policies, legal matters, or member rights often require a two-thirds supermajority under Robert’s Rules rather than a simple majority.

Quorum Requirement

But what if there are not enough people present to make the vote count? To hold a valid vote, a minimum number of voting members must be present, as defined as a quorum in the HOA’s governing documents, usually a majority.

Understanding Precedence

There is an established order of precedence that determines which motions take priority over others and must be addressed first. This includes the proper handling of issues like:

  • Referring matters to committee
  • Postponing motions
  • Amending proposals
  • Calling for votes on previously tabled issues

Taking Accurate Minutes

The Secretary should record the minutes of the meeting, including all motions made, amendments proposed, and votes taken. These minutes serve as a record of decisions made and can be referenced in future meetings.

While not every HOA board strictly follows Robert’s Rules to the letter, adopting these core parliamentary procedures helps facilitate productive meetings, thoughtful debate, and legitimate voting processes.

Clearly defined rules of order prevent confusion, power grabs, or “fistfights in a phone booth.” When everyone understands the basic procedures, meetings can run smoothly and efficiently. This allows the board to focus on important issues and make informed decisions for the community.

What Are the Roles & Responsibilities of Board Members?

What Are the Roles & Responsibilities of Board Members?

While following the proper voting protocols is important, it’s equally critical for HOA board members to fully understand their roles, legal responsibilities, and fiduciary duties to the community they represent.

At the most basic level, an HOA board’s responsibilities include:

Financial Oversight and Stewardship

One of the core roles is developing annual budgets, setting homeowner assessments, authorizing expenditures, and ensuring sufficient reserves. They must manage HOA funds prudently and in the community’s best interests.

Rules Enforcement and Compliance

Board members are charged with enforcing the community’s covenants, rules, and restrictions around architecture, pets, parking, noise, and more. They must approve/deny homeowner requests and levy fines fairly when violations occur.

Maintaining Common Areas and Assets

They oversee all common elements like grounds, amenities, and security through maintenance programs as well as planning and approving repair projects, replacements, and improvements.

Selecting Vendors and Management

Whether landscapers, maintenance staff, security providers, or professional property managers, boards must scrutinize bids, negotiate contracts, and hold vendors accountable.

Two-Way Communication and Transparency

Boards have a duty to keep residents informed on key issues, financials, and project statuses through newsletters, meetings, online portals, etc. They should encourage feedback and participation.

Fundamentally, HOA board service is an unpaid yet legally binding responsibility requiring accountability and a commitment to the community’s welfare. They cannot govern based on personal agendas or self-interests.

Board members must exercise reasonable business judgment and make decisions in good faith as a basic fiduciary duty to all homeowners who’ve placed their trust in them. This includes:

  • Avoiding conflicts of interest in HOA dealings
  • Not receiving improper personal benefits from HOA funds
  • Acting with integrity, faithfully pursuing the association’s interests
  • Using care, diligence, and prudence in decision-making

Meeting this standard requires ethical conduct, transparency around personal transactions or relationships, and enforcing HOA rules without discrimination or favor. Board members may be subject to liability and lawsuits if they breach these obligations through improper actions or gross negligence in their governing duties.

Are You Getting Involved In Your HOA?

Are You Getting Involved In Your HOA?

Whether you see yourself as a potential HOA board member candidate or simply an engaged homeowner, getting involved with the governance and voting procedures directly impacts where you live and the rules you abide by.

Attend board meetings, and don’t just sit back as an observer. Make your voice heard during the homeowner open forum, ask questions about the voting items, and always vote for what you believe is right for the community.

As a resident, knowing how the HOA voting process works – and the expectations of the board itself – will help you advocate for your community’s best interests. Get involved, ask questions, and take the initiative to lead change and improvements in your neighborhood. Your community will thank you!

Get started today

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