QUESTION: Our association’s annual election is coming up in a few months. We never get a quorum at our annual meetings, so we have to postpone the meeting and schedule another date so the quorum requirements are lower.
How can we encourage owners to attend the meeting or send in their proxies so the election can take place?
ANSWER: It is a waste of time and money when the turnout is insufficient. Some associations have to pay for a room for their annual meetings, and there is additional expense when the meeting has to be postponed.
Try scheduling a social event a couple of months before the annual meeting. Encourage all the owners to come and meet the current board and candidates. Include the nominating committee in the planning.
If your association needs to find people who are qualified and willing to serve, this is a good opportunity.
The social event can be informal, but it requires planning and organization. Decide how you will invite the owners. If your association consists of one building where everyone goes to a mailbox area, you may be able to reach everyone by simply posting a notice.
Larger associations with several buildings or planned developments with single-family homes may have to deliver or mail fliers or organize telephone trees to reach all of the owners.
The notice should remind owners that the annual meeting is coming up and that the purpose of the social event is to meet their neighbors and board candidates.
Be creative. Find ways to encourage people to attend so that they will want to participate in the election and become actively involved in their association. Offer refreshments, door prizes and coupons from local businesses.
At the social event, use name tags to encourage people to get acquainted. Announce the annual meeting date, time and location and remind the owners of the importance of their attendance or proxies. Explain the proxy procedure to new owners and to those who do not understand. Discuss issues and pending decisions that the board will face during the next year.
Promote the election in a positive way. For two months before the annual meeting, remind the owners by sending notices or including announcements about the meeting in the association’s newsletter.
If you have had lengthy, disorganized or contentious meetings in the past, that may discourage people from attending. Make sure owners know the election meeting will be brief, well-organized and important to the future success of the association.
Refer to the association bylaws and consult the association’s attorney to make sure the official notice of the meeting, agenda and proxy form are in compliance with the law and the association’s governing documents. Make it easy to return the proxy for those who are unable to attend. Enclose a stamped, addressed return envelope.
Finally, a group of owners can canvass their neighbors the final week or two before the meeting. The friendly, personal invitation is the most successful way of encouraging attendance. If owners cannot attend, get their proxies.
If no one is home, leave a reminder notice with the date, time and location of the meeting and a phone number to call if they have questions.
A successful annual meeting this year will encourage participation in the future. From beginning to end, the meeting should be friendly and informative. Serve light refreshments during the sign-in process, because there is usually a delay until everyone is registered. Use name tags if your association is larger than just a few units. You may want to identify board members and candidates with special name tags.
Rely on your management company and attorney to ensure that the voter sign-in process is streamlined and that only one ballot is distributed for each unit or lot. The professionals will also help make sure that the meeting is well-organized, that appropriate minutes and records are kept and that the voting process is efficient.
Board Won’t Enforce Association Rules
Q: The board of directors of my condominium association is not enforcing the governing documents, including the articles of incorporation, the declaration of covenants and the rules and regulations.
I have made written requests for repair and maintenance of common area amenities and enforcement of pet restrictions. The board still refuses to take action on both of these issues, though it seems obvious to me that they are obligated to take action. Since there is no governmental agency that can require the board to act, can I sue the board? Are my legal costs recoverable?
A: You have the right to sue the board, though filing a lawsuit should be the last resort. Normally, individual owners have the right to enforce the pet restrictions if the board fails to take action, so you can also sue the owner of the pet. The judge may award reasonable legal costs if you take the case to court and win.
Obtain legal advice regarding the strength of your case and how to comply with California Civil Code Section 1354. This law requires that you attempt mediation or arbitration before filing a legal action. Both you and the association will save time, effort and money if you submit your dispute to mediation or arbitration.
The board should seek legal advice if its members choose not to uphold the governing documents.
Bylaws Hold the Answer to Election Question
Q: Our homeowners’ association’s board of directors is not responding to problems and seems unable to conduct meetings on a regular basis. I am willing to serve on the board, but no one knows when the next election is supposed to be scheduled. How often should our homeowners association elect board members?
A: Your answer can be found in your association’s legal documents. Typically, the election of directors takes place at an annual membership meeting on or near the anniversary of the formation of the association.
The declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions may have provisions regarding the annual meeting; however, election procedures are usually contained in the bylaws.
The bylaws will explain the meeting procedures including advance notice requirements, the percentage of owners (members) that constitutes a quorum and how the election is to be conducted.
Hickenbottom is a community association management consultant and a founding director of the California Assn. of Community Managers. She selects questions of general interest for the column and regrets that she cannot respond to all questions received. Send questions to: Condo Q&A;, Box 5068, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360.