Q: I live in a condominium building with around 100 units. We have seven board members and we are supposed to vote on some new board members this fall. Residents will not attend open board meetings this fall due to COVID-19. Going door-to-door with proxies is not going to be equitable. Can we legally go against our bylaws and postpone the election?
A: There’s no need to postpone your election. Your condo association simply needs to embrace the same sorts of technology that are now being used by schools, businesses and couples getting married.
Many condominium associations, homeowners associations, government boards and municipalities of all types hold meetings online successfully where homeowners and residents can view the affairs of their associations, towns and cities through online meeting sites such as Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. Has your association adopted these methods of meeting? If they have, all of the unit owners can participate in these meetings as long as they have internet access or a smartphone, or even a regular phone that allows them to dial in and listen to the meeting.
Those online meetings should be open for all association members to view or listen except when discussing certain private matters where only the board members (and none of the owners) are on the calls. Online meetings can take care of many of the issues you raise in your question relating to holding the meetings and have unit owner participation. It’s not ideal, but it’s a good alternative given the dangers (and many unknowns) of the coronavirus.
Now we turn to voting. There are many ways to structure voting to make it safe for all residents, including setting up a system to conduct online voting. But you can also distribute ballots, either by mailing them (a slow, but safe alternative) or putting one ballot under the door of every household. Residents would fill out the ballots and then return them to a locked box somewhere on the property or mail them back to the condo association.
There are several ways to get this done, and your board simply needs to figure out how and when they want to get it done to meet their deadline. We certainly don’t know what options your condominium association documents provide for voting, but we suspect your documents give some latitude on the method of voting. And, if your association documents are too strict, it’s possible your state laws will overrule some of the association documents to provide alternate means.
Also, where the board is given discretion to set up a process, the board can certainly use that discretion to allow its members to vote and elect new board members as required by the bylaws of the association and in a way that allows everyone to stay safe and healthy.
(Ilyce Glink is the author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask” (4th Edition). She is also the CEO of Best Money Moves, an app that employers provide to employees to measure and dial down financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact Ilyce and Sam through her website, ThinkGlink.com.)
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