How can we stay involved in HOA decisions while renting out our home?

Designating someone as your HOA proxy might help you stay involved in your community and its decision-making while you're away.

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Question

We own a home in a planned community, but will be away for a year on sabbatical. We've already made sure we're allowed to rent our place out, and found a family to live there. However, we're sure they're not going to want to get much involved in the HOA board and so on. Meanwhile, there are some crazy people on our board, who are always trying to collect special assessments for their latest "great idea" projects. Is there some way we can maintain a voice in such decisions while we're away?

Answer

A proxy might be the solution for you. A proxy is a document that allows another person to represent your interests (usually by voting on your behalf) in your absence. By using a proxy, you can have a say at homeowners’ association (HOA) meetings even if you’re miles away.

Before using a proxy, however, you must make sure proxies are allowed under the terms of the documents governing your development. Review your HOA’s bylaws and articles of incorporation, and your development’s Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions, and Easements (CC&Rs).

Assuming your development allows proxies, you will need to find a person willing and able to act as yours. This means you finding someone who agrees to attend HOA meetings and vote on your behalf. The best bet is to find a trusted homeowner in your development. Some development’s governing documents allow only HOA members (the development’s homeowners) to act as proxy holders. Additionally, a fellow homeowner is more likely to know how the HOA operates, and the matters that might come up for a vote.

You will also need to decide what type of proxy to use. A “specific” proxy gives the proxy holder the right to vote on your behalf only for the matters specified in the proxy. You might, for example, authorize the proxy holder to vote for you on one important special assessment.

Because you will be away for a long period of time, and you can’t always predict all HOA issues that might arise, a “general” proxy will probably work better. A general proxy can authorize the proxy holder to vote on your behalf inany HOA matter during the time you’re away.

If you use a general proxy, to avoid misunderstandings and proxy votes you disagree with, you can create a written agreement specifying how the proxy holder should vote on things you anticipate coming up while you’re away. Since you can’t predict the future, you should also keep in touch with your proxy holder, to discuss upcoming HOA matters. For extra protection, include a clause in the agreement requiring the proxy holder to contact you for instructions on how to vote on any unaddressed matters.

To make sure the proxy meets your developments’ requirements, (as well as any applicable requirements under state or federal law), it’s a good idea to hire an experienced attorney to draft the proxy and related agreement.

Once you have an effective proxy, and a reliable proxy holder in place, you can go off and enjoy your sabbatical knowing your HOA interests are well represented.

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