Reader Questions and Breaking HOA News: HOAs Can Meet Purely Virtually During EmergencyOct 11, 2021
By Kelly G. Richardson, Esq.
Kelly: With the Governor's executive orders on Covid rescinded in June, is there anything preventing boards from conducting in-person meetings again? The members want an open annual meeting, but the board president wants to only do Zoom. I appreciate your help! M.R., San Diego.
Dear M.R.: Once the Governor rescinded all the various state health orders in mid-June 2021, that rescinded any state bans on in-person meetings. Individual counties have their separate health orders that can be stricter than the state, but I am unaware of any county presently banning HOAs from holding indoor meetings.
A game changer occurred on September 23, 2021, when Governor Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 391, which adds a new Civil Code Section 5450(a). That section immediately took effect as an urgency statute, so it is now state law. It allows HOAs during a time of declared emergency to hold meetings which are purely virtual. California remains in the state of emergency, which the Governor declared on March 4, 2020.
Now, so long as the state of emergency continues, HOAs may meet completely virtually, subject to some conditions. The notice of the first virtual meeting must be individually mailed to each member, including all the technical information for someone to join the meeting and a telephone number and email address of a person who can help with log in problems. All votes in virtual meetings must be by roll call vote. Lastly, if the meeting is a meeting at which member votes are to be counted, a camera must be placed so that attendees can watch the vote counting.
While it would have been great to have this law passed early in the pandemic, it still helps HOAs. Since March 2020, HOAs which met completely virtually had been violating the Civil Code Section 4090(b) requirement that there be a physical location where members could choose to attend.
Lastly, as to the form of the HOA meeting, that is a board matter, not the president’s decision.
Best regards, Kelly
Dear Kelly, Can our HOA require vaccinations and masks in the pool area and/or clubhouse? There are signs posted requiring both, but proof of vaccination has not yet been asked for. Do they have the authority to mandate them? Thank you, M.P., Desert Hot Springs
Dear M.P.: HOA boards normally can pass regulations regarding use of common area. However, how will the HOA police these issues? Will staff be placed in the clubhouse controlling all entry points? HOA lawyers have been debating the legal enforceability of such requirements, but I think the larger question is whether such requirements are practically enforceable. I still believe the best approach is to take reasonable precautions while reminding all members that the HOA cannot guarantee the health status of others and that residents should make their own decisions regarding their personal risk. Furthermore, we are finding that “breakthrough” infections of vaccinated persons are still possible, so vaccination status is no guarantee. HOA boards are in uncharted waters, with one group of homeowners demanding access to amenities, while another group of owners demands shutdowns or strict controls for health safety reasons. As with most HOA governance questions, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.
Thanks and stay healthy, Kelly
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