How to Conduct California HOA Board Meetings Safely During the Coronavirus Pandemic

While serving on a Home-Owner's Association (HOA) board can be challenging in the best of times, in the era of COVID-19 and social distancing, how can HOA boards protect physical health and safety while also complying with the technical legalities of open board meetings?

California Law and Other Requirements

Under the California Open Meeting Act, association members have a right to attend, observe and participate at open board meetings. (Cal. Civil Code § 4925). An HOA member can challenge or nullify board actions taken in violation of the Act by bringing a civil action against the association for injunctive relief, restitution, reasonable attorney's fees and court costs. The court can also impose a civil penalty of up to $500 for each violation. (Cal. Civil Code § 4955.) An HOA's own Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) or bylaws typically also specify how electronic meetings can be conducted and should be consulted and modified as appropriate.

Meetings via Teleconference

The obvious method to achieve social distancing is to hold open board meetings via teleconference. Board members can attend electronically by telephone or video as long as all absent directors can hear each other along with any HOA members who participate. Additionally, for each meeting the board must identify a physical location where members can attend, hear the meeting, and address the board. At least one director or a board-designated person must be present at that location. (Cal. Civil Code §4090(b)). All other requirements (notice, quorum, etc.,) are identical to in-person meetings. Here are some tips to help maintain safety and compliance:

  • Use one of the readily available, home-accessible online video-conferencing services, which have useful features for sharing slideshows, muting, and attendance-tracking, and include the sign-in instructions/meeting information in the meeting notice.
  • It may be stating the obvious, but encourage members to attend online from home if possible. Ask for some advance notice if members need assistance or insist on attending in person; get a head-count.
  • Set up a dedicated laptop or desktop in the board's normal meeting space. Maintain social distance and hygiene protocols. Provide hand sanitizer and wipes for members who attend.
  • Provide wireless access in the physical meeting space, and encourage members to use their own devices.
  • Begin the meeting 15 or 30 minutes early to provide "buffer" time for addressing technical issues.
  • Finally, in the absence of truly pressing business it may be prudent to postpone board meetings for calmer days.

Since the ramifications of non-compliance with state law can be severe, boards should review their foundational documents and consult with legal counsel before conducting board meetings in the new COVID-19 era.

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