Common HOA Voting Rules You Need to Understand 

Date Published : Mar-14-2024

Written By : Abigail Guevara

HOA communities are governed by regulations that are legally binding; even pertaining to the process of how voting in the community is done. 

So, while casting a vote might appear to be one simple act, there is a series of HOA voting rules that must be adhered to. 

Table of contents 

Today’s homeowners, especially younger ones, may not be aware of these voting rules because 38% of Millennials (aged 28-43) and 39% of Gen Xers (aged 44-59) do not attend HOA meetings while Baby Boomers (aged 60-69) often do attend.     

Conversely, the chart below shows that voting is rated the most important reason to attend HOA meetings. 

Chart Source: Doorloop

So, let’s find out what voting rules are all about starting with the governing documents that address how HOA voting can be done. 

Which HOA governing documents address voting rules?  

I bet you’re hoping it would be just one HOA governing document that provides guidelines to voting. This would make things simple, but this isn’t the case. All the following HOA documents govern the HOA rules for voting. 

  1. CC&Rs 
    Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) speak to the homeowners’ rights and obligations within their community and indicates who is eligible to vote and voting procedures for homeowners. 
     
  1. Bylaws 
    These documents guide the HOA addressing quorum, voting by proxy, and how to conduct elections. 
     
  1. Rules and Regulations 
    Guide the HOA board by giving additional details on voting conduct such as deadlines to submit proxies or what to do if elections results are questioned. 
     
  1. Articles of Incorporation 
    Speaks to the structure of the HOA as a legal corporation. They recognize the authority of an HOA board to create voting procedures that align with both laws of the state and the HOAs other governing documents. 
     
  1. Laws of the State 
    State laws can sometimes demand certain requirements on the HOA voting process in that particular state and they usually provide ground level rules for voting.  

Keep in mind these HOA governing documents must be in alignment with each other. Some provide the same information or go into greater details than others, but information in one document can never conflict with another regarding voting rules.  

However, should a conflict arise in their guidance then an amendment of one or more HOA documents may be required. 
 
These specific HOA documents clearly guide and inform the process of HOA voting and also indicate topics that require a vote.  
 

When is casting a vote necessary? 

An HOA vote is required for certain approvals to take place. Primarily, voting must take place in the following scenarios, but there are some exceptions:  
 
Electing board members

No one can become a part of an HOA board of directors without first being voted in. 

Amendments

Because HOA documents are legal documents, changes and revisions cannot be made to them without a vote taking place to accept an amendment to any of the documents.  

The exception to this rule, is that in an emergency, minor, and state- and federal-mandated amendments to HOA guiding documents do not require a vote.  

Budget approval 

Budget approvals are generally adopted solely by HOA board, and rather surprisingly, homeowners do not have a vote in accepting a budget.  

The exception here is that depending on the state and language in an HOAs guiding documents, homeowners can call for a vote to disapprove the budget. Meaning, the board is not required to put a vote to the budget on the annual meeting agenda or hold any vote on the budget at all unless a member calls for a vote to disapprove the budget at the meeting.  

So, if no member calls for a vote to disapprove the budget, then the budget proposed by the board becomes effective. 

When on average, HOA homes are priced 4% higher than relatively similar non-HOA homes to start with, increasing HOA fees can be a concern. 

Special Assessments 

When a major repair is required in shared community living, like replacing roofs on all the homes, and reserve funds are not enough to cover the unanticipated cost, the HOA may charge each homeowner for the repair, costing them thousands of dollars; and a vote is not required. 

The exception here is that some states may have rules to restrict an HOAs ability to impose special assessments. The restriction may include requiring a vote from owners or limiting the number of special assessments during a calendar year. 

As you can see, in these scenarios a vote is usually required, and can be applied depending on the circumstances, even if not required. 

There are some instances when voting is not required in HOA rules.  

When is voting not necessary?

 HOAs can perform activities that don’t require a vote. These activities include: 

  • Minor amendments to HOA guiding documents  
  • Mandated changes by the state and/or federal law
  •  An Emergency   

Who is allowed to vote? 

Voting is important and impactful because it represents the collective resident voice in an HOA and leads to actions being taken or not taken within the community.  Therefore, there is power within the vote and who is allowed to use that power matters. 

So, who can vote within an HOA community and why?  

How does an HOA inform the voting community?  

Members of the community cannot show up at a meeting to find out a vote is taking place. HOA voting rules demand that homeowners be informed about upcoming vote within a certain time frame and in a certain way.  

Notice  

Homeowners must be given notice in writing. To encourage full awareness and engagement by members the notice will indicate the matter that will be voted on (policy changes etc.) as well as:  

  • Time  
  • Location 
  • Date 

Delivery method 

Notice can be delivered to homeowners in a variety of ways. Traditionally, it is sent to the homeowner through the mail and a hard copy is received by the recipient. Similarly, if the community is easy enough to walk about, it may be hand delivered into the homeowner’s mailbox.  

Alternatively, modern HOAs prefer electronic notification. The notification can be sent by email as long your HOA email policy provides for it.   

The benefit of email in combination with certain online solutions is that HOAs can even use an e-consent feature that makes it easier to obtain consent from owners and residents; and allows the sender to check if the resident opened the e-notice. This makes it so much easier for the board to follow up with homeowners who haven’t read the notice.    

Timing 

Homeowners must be made aware of an upcoming vote in advance. The timing of the advance notice can range from three days to 30 days in advance and can vary by state and by governing documents.  

For example, in Minnesota, owners are required to receive a minimum of 21 days’ notice for the annual meeting, which includes elections. Whereas Florida HOAs must give notice of a vote no later than 14 days to the date.  
 

How does an HOA know if it has enough homeowners for voting? 

There always needs to be enough homeowners voting in order for a vote to be accepted. The question is then, how much is enough? 

Enough voters to cast a vote is called a quorum

Quorum 

The HOA quorum is defined as the minimum number of homeowners who must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid.  

If the quorum is not present, meaning not enough people are present, for an HOA meeting that requires a vote by its members, then the meeting cannot proceed and/or no action can be taken. 

Calculating quorum by majority  

Depending on the size of your HOA community, the quorum will be different for each community. Here is an outline you can follow to know what quorum is for your HOA community. 

  1. Obtain the total number of homeowners  
  1. Divide the total number so that one number so that you have a lesser than and a greater than number 

For example, if you have 100 members a majority would be 51 and a minority would be 49. So, you would need 51 members present to make the majority quorum. 

Keep in mind that if HOA by-laws specify a rule that clearly indicates that quorum is other than majority, then majority quorum is acceptable.  

Can a vote count if a member is not present? 

Yes, a vote can count if a member is not physically present to attend a meeting.  Which is a good thing because many homeowners can’t attend a meeting in person on a particular date for any number of reasons, in fact 63% of homeowners don’t attend HOA meetings simply because they don’t have time.  

If a member cannot attend a meeting to vote, they can vote by proxy.   

Proxy vote 

Essentially, a proxy vote is when a vote is cast on behalf of the member who can’t attend.  

How does that work? 

Prior to an HOA meeting, eligible members will receive the notice about the vote and proxy information. 

Then the member can designate another HOA member (homeowner) to cast a vote on their behalf. The person they designate is a called a proxy.  The proxy casts the vote the way the absent member has provided for on the proxy card. 

This process has been done for decades, however in recent years the option to attend meetings virtually and vote online is preferred as it allows members who can’t be there physically to still attend a meeting as well as cast their own vote and keep it private. 

e-voting 

As we continue to function in a progressively digital age the action e-voting (electronic voting) becomes a more acceptable tool to increase voter participation and to reach quorum. 

By implementing software e-voting solutions HOAs can gather online votes from homeowners in advance and during an AGM or special meeting.  

It’s an excellent option because:  

  • Homeowners can vote online if they can’t attend a meeting in person 
  • All responses are stored on a secure database 
  • E-voting is fully compliant with most states 
  • Votes can be tracked in real time 
  • Responses are private and secure  

E-voting is a way to modernize HOA voting rules. Still, it’s best to check with your state laws to make sure your HOA can use e-voting.  

For example, e- voting is permissible in the state of Florida. The HOA board requires a resolution to its guiding documents and members must consent in writing to accept electronic voting. However, in California e-voting in HOAs is not yet accepted.  

Virtual Meetings 

Allowing members to meet virtually is part and parcel of e-voting too. Members can vote online, but they can also attend the meeting via online video to communicate and participate in the meeting as it takes place, and then cast their e-vote during the meeting.  

Allowing members to engage in the HOA meeting virtually actually promotes more attendance and therefore encourages quorum to be met, so actions can take place.  

Again, technology is required to make this a convenient option for members, but the good news is that it exists and is easy to get. Virtual meeting software operates at such a high level now that HOA boards can use it to make their meetings more inclusive, effective and increase participation. 

As with e-voting, check your state laws to ensure virtual HOA meetings are permissible.  

 How are votes processed?  

 There is a procedure to process votes as well. They must be handled in a certain way. 

 Once members have voted in person and/or online. The time in which to vote is closed. Then, 
  election officers: 

  • Count the ballots the same day 
  • Record the number of votes and the number of rejected ballots (rejected ballots that are problematic for such reasons as being blank, illegible, not on an official ballot) 
  • Provide the outcome to the Director of the Board who announces it to the members 

E-voting (online voting) makes the process simpler than handling paper ballots because: 

  • Ballots can’t be spoiled 
  • You can see how many owners cast e-votes  
  • Count votes in real time   

What if there is a tie? 

In the case of an HOA election and there is a rare outcome of a tie. Here are some ways you can move forward.  

Check your governing documents 

Your governing documents may require you to follow Roberts Rules of Order, a book that is considered an authority on parliamentary procedure. It is made up of a set of codes and rules of ethics to hold orderly meetings.  

Have a policy in advance 

Make sure your governing documents provides for resolving a tie before it happens. Your HOA policy may allow one of the individuals in tie to cede their seat or have a runoff election where no other candidate can be voted for in that round of votes, except the ones that are tied.  

Understanding HOA voting rules makes the process effective 

HOA voting rules require research and understanding. When the voting process is run smoothly, then the community is more harmonious and there is reduced conflict and confusion. This is why following voting rules is important and are a reflection of their importance. 

Aspects of HOA voting rules you want to keep top of mind include familiarity with: 

  • Contents of HOA governing documents that refer to voting and the process. 
  • Circumstances that require a vote 
  • Circumstances that do not require a vote 
  • Who can and cannot vote and why  
  • How and when HOAs need to inform members of an upcoming vote 
  • What quorum is for your community 
  • Options of voting by proxy and e-voting when members can’t attend a meeting 
  • How votes are processed  
  • What to do in the event of a tie vote 

If you’re able to grasp these bigger ideas and rules around HOA voting, then you’re off to a good start and you can always delve into the details of each area more as your HOA prepares for the voting process.  

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