For many South Florida condominium associations and HOAs, this year’s annual meeting will be more momentous than most. Budget increases to account for rising insurance costs as well as looming milestone inspections and structural integrity reserves will be on the agenda for many communities. To the extent that owner input and involvement at such meetings is desired, then community association managers and directors would be well advised to focus their efforts now for a highly attended and effective meeting.
First, all of a community’s owner members must be made aware of their association’s annual meeting if they are expected to attend, so a review of the efforts to get the word out may be in order. The statutes and governing documents for the community will dictate the minimum requirements to properly notice such meetings, which may include hard copy notices with the date, time and location for the meeting to be mailed or electronically transmitted to each owner and posted at a conspicuous location on the association property.
However, maximizing the likelihood of attendance at meetings oftentimes depends on greater efforts, such as more prominently posting flyers at various locations and distributing them at all the board and committee meetings leading up to the annual meeting. Additionally, efforts aimed at optimizing owner attendance and participation at membership meetings may include associations making good use of the community’s website and social media pages, which could prominently feature the critical information pertaining to the annual meeting and the agenda items to be discussed and/or votes to be held. These efforts could also include an online suggestion/feedback box, which may provide owners a convenient option for sharing their input on the matters that are important to them – with the objective that attendance may be encouraged should the agenda include items of greater popular interest throughout the community.
For the meeting itself, associations may also wish to consider providing an option for virtual attendance via an online video conference. Again, this convenient option will entice many owners to participate in the meeting from wherever they are rather than being unable to attend. Many individuals have become accustomed to such online gatherings after the Covid pandemic, so the number of virtual participants in association annual meetings is sure to grow for the foreseeable future should this type of technology be used. It should be noted that if a virtual attendance option is to be considered, directors and managers should consult with legal counsel to ensure that the appropriate steps are taken in advance to ensure that the votes for those members attending virtually may be properly cast and counted.
Community associations facing votes on important amendments or other matters at their upcoming meetings also need to focus their member communications on electronic and proxy voting options, if available, and the process for casting a vote by proxy or other acceptable means, such as electronic voting. Associations seeking to maximize voter turnout and participation should make it as easy as they possibly can for their owner members who are unable to physically attend the meeting to complete the process in order to submit their ballot. With that in mind, voting by proxy or electronically may not be available for all communities or for all votes. As such, it is imperative that directors and managers consult with association legal counsel to be apprised of the technical requirements applicable to the successful implementation and use of such voting methods.
Those associations which are facing significant decisions and changes at their upcoming annual meetings may wish to consider focusing their outreach efforts on reminding owners as to the importance of their participation and vote. For these communities, the meeting represents the most important annual gathering for having the voices of their members heard and for the casting of their ballots. Associations wishing to increase voter participation should remind the owners that by participating and voting, they will be doing their part for their community and fellow owners, who should all reply in kind in order to maximize the turnout and take part in pivotal decisions for the future of their enclave.