For over a year, the U.S. has been learning how to work, go to school, and be in community within the constraints of the coronavirus. Family members, especially elderly family members, spent much of the year in isolation. But things are looking much brighter thanks to the rollout of several vaccines. As of the publication of this article, the Centers for Disease Control has reported that nearly 70 million people in the U.S. have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, which is one fifth of the population.
As we slowly start to return to “normal,” many of us are thinking about the positives that we can take away from this experience. HOA communities are no different. Associations have had to make many changes over the course of the last year, and while some were very difficult, others proved to be–perhaps surprisingly–better. Virtual board meetings are one of the surprising benefits of the pandemic.
What is an HOA board meeting?
The board meeting is the most common type of meeting found within a community association. It is organized and executed by the board of directors, and by law, is typically open to all members of the community. State law also often requires the board to provide the community notice of the time and location of the meeting in advance. Remember, each state has unique laws governing community associations. Speak to your attorney for further information about the legal requirements in your region.
These meetings can be held at different frequencies, but many are held monthly or quarterly. The agenda provides a blueprint for the structure of the meeting, and any new business is subject to the motioning process. Board members address the concerns of the community at the meeting, which often center around the general operations of the community including maintenance and improvement projects. The board may also address concerns or complaints within the community or member conflict.
What happened to board meetings during the pandemic?
A lot! At the outset of the pandemic, maxHOA addressed the impact that it would have on board meetings. Many states have laws that require community associations to hold board meetings in-person. When the pandemic restricted in-person gatherings, many of those state governments responded with executive orders permitting board meetings to be held remotely. The preferred method by many board members has been videoconferencing.
Although this change was unwanted, HOA board members are discovering a silver lining to the change: an increase in attendance! This community in North Carolina found that attendance of both community and board members went up when they moved to an online format. They were even able to reduce the overall time of board meetings and save money. Members were happy to be able to attend from home, reducing the need to plan an extra trip out of the house or find childcare. Remote meetings also helped homeowners that have more than one residence attend when they were not in town.
Have there been any other unforeseen benefits to remote meetings?
In addition to convenience, boards have discovered a few additional benefits. With increased attendance comes increased communication. Communication is the keystone for a cohesive community, and the easier that boards make giving and receiving communication for homeowners, the more homeowners will be satisfied. In addition, increased attendance may make some community members who never had the chance to attend a meeting feel more involved in the community. With a feeling of investment comes agency, and individuals who feel agency within their community are more likely to take care of it.
What about the people who don’t like videoconferencing, who find it too difficult to maneuver or too impersonal? Fortunately, there is a solution. Blended meetings that include both in person elements and virtual attendance may be able to satisfy both types of community members. For those that find it a burden to attend in person, they can log on to a video conference to listen and participate. For those that don’t like videoconferencing, they can walk into a building and sit face to face with neighbors and board members. It's the best of both worlds!
What problems might HOA boards face if they move to a blended format?
State law and HOA governing documents will impact if and how virtual meetings can be held in the future. As always, consult with your legal team before making changes to your board meeting format. Many of these issues will also be addressed by state governments, and they are among the Community Association Institute’s top legislative priorities in 2021.
The transition may not be easy. There are legal concerns like the privacy of members and the security of the community. There may be some difficulty integrating two platforms into a seamless, efficient meeting. But the pandemic has changed the way we communicate and its effects will continue into the future. HOA boards may be well-served to learn from the benefits of videoconferencing and plan to include it in the future. While it is not possible to please everyone, this surprising benefit can help communities build better relationships moving forward. Transitioning back to life as we knew it before the pandemic will be gradual, but finding a way to provide a more convenient method to attend board meetings is a worthwhile priority.
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