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?
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.
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:
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.