If you live in a planned unit development (PUD) or common interest development (CID), most likely a homeowners’ association (HOA) runs the development, and a homeowner-elected board of directors (a “board”) runs the HOA. Serving on an HOA board is an important job, involving a lot of responsibility (for more information, see Nolo’s article What’s Involved With Serving on the Board of a Homeowners’ Association).
Unfortunately, not all HOA board members live up to these responsibilities, and sometimes you’ll end up with a problem member—for example, someone who is contentious or disruptive, doesn’t understand or stay up to date on HOA matters, or doesn’t attend required meetings. Even worse is a board member who lies, cheats, steals, or otherwise breaches his or her fiduciary duty to the HOA. (For a discussion of an HOA board member’s fiduciary duty see Nolo’s article Fiduciary Duties of HOA Board Members.)
Whether or not you can remove a “bad” board member depends on the reason you want the member removed, the development’s governing documents (typically the HOA’s articles of incorporation and bylaws, the declaration of covenants, conditions, restrictions and easements, and any other written rules and regulations), and possibly, the opinion of your fellow homeowners.
Here’s how to take action when you want to remove an HOA board member.
The most effective initial action is to raise your concerns with the board, either by scheduling a meeting with the board, or by speaking up at a regular HOA meeting. Most HOAs are required to hold regular meetings and must allow homeowner attendance and comments. It’s vitally important to remain civil when voicing your concerns about a board member, and to ensure you make no public accusations or false statements. Present only the facts, and do so in a calm, reasonable manner.
If possible, propose ways for the HOA to address your concerns. For example, if you believe a board member “has it out for you” because of a personal dispute between you, request that the board member abstain from voting in any matter specifically relating to you (such as an HOA vote on whether to enforce an HOA rule against you). It’s also often helpful to persuade other supportive homeowners to attend, or to bring other evidence, such as a signed petition or a collection of letters from other homeowners, to show your opinion is supported by other members (this is especially useful for swaying any wayward board member hoping for re-election).
Ideally, the offending board member will take your comments to heart and reform his or her behavior (or alternatively, voluntarily step down from the board).
If attending an HOA or board meeting is ineffective, or not an option for fear of a hostile reaction, check your state’s laws and your HOA governing documents to find out if you have a legal basis to demand the board member’s removal.
Some state laws call for automatic removal of a board member in certain circumstances. For example, under the recall provisions of the Florida Condominium Act (Florida Statutes §718.112(2)(d)&(o)), an HOA board member is removed automatically if convicted of a felony, charged with felony theft or embezzlement of HOA funds, or is more than ninety days delinquent in paying HOA dues. You can get a copy of your state’s laws relating to HOA board members by searching online, from your HOA’s attorney, or from another experienced real estate attorney in your area.
Your development’s governing documents might also contain provisions relating to removing a board member—for example, if someone fails to attend a minimum number of meetings, or fails to participate in a minimum percentage of votes. If you don’t already have a copy of the governing documents, you can obtain one from your HOA, or from the public real property records in your county.
If the board member’s actions don’t justify automatic removal, removing a board member from any official position they have on the board can reduce the member’s negative impact. Although HOA boards do not typically have the right to vote a member off the board (this usually requires the vote of all HOA members, as discussed below), HOA boards usually have the power to remove an officer, such as the president, vice president, or treasurer. Typically this takes a board’s majority vote. The HOA’s bylaws usually determine the board’s power to remove officers. Additionally, your state’s corporate laws commonly address this issue (HOAs are typically nonprofit corporations formed in the state in which the development lies, and are governed by that state’s corporate code). If you need help finding relevant laws or provisions, your HOA’s attorney, or an independent real estate attorney, can assist you, or you can search online (for example, you can find your state’s laws relating to nonprofits in Nolo’s Nonprofits Center.
Since HOA board members typically serve for a relatively short (two to three year) term, sometimes the best way to get rid of a troublesome board member is to have patience, and let his or her term expire. If the member seeks re-election, you can get involved by helping the campaign of an alternative candidate, volunteering to run yourself, or attempting to sway voters by voicing your concerns during candidate forums or meetings prior to the election.
Another option, but possibly the most difficult, is to vote a member off the board. The procedures required for removing a board member vary, and again depend on the applicable state law and governing documents. Typically this is a last resort, since the process is usually complicated, lengthy, and can get expensive.
At a minimum, removing a board member typically requires the vote of all HOA members. To obtain a valid vote, you must meet all procedures required under your state’s laws and in your development’s governing documents relating to voting, including all prior notice, special meeting, quorum, and proxy voting requirements. An experienced real estate attorney can help determine the steps necessary, and advise you on the time and expense that this course of action might involve. If your HOA doesn’t have an attorney, one place to start your search is the state-by-state list of real estate attorneys in Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.
Although removing a board member is not always easy, if a member is jeopardizing the proper operation of the development, pursuing his or her removal might prove worthwhile.