Board members of community associations should familiarize themselves with HOA proxy voting. This form of voting can be very useful in helping HOAs achieve a quorum at board election meetings or any meeting that requires a membership vote. Navigating the ins and outs of proxy voting, though, can come as a challenge, especially for boards who are unaware of the process.
What Is HOA Proxy Voting?
Proxy voting is a form of voting wherein a homeowner authorizes another person to act as their representative in an HOA meeting and cast a vote on their behalf. States have differing requirements when it comes to proxy voting, and even associations’ governing documents can have requirements that are specific to them.
Proxies are usually assigned using a form. While requirements can vary, these forms should generally accomplish the following:
- Note the date and time of the meeting.
- State the type of meeting (board meeting, annual membership meeting, or special meeting).
- For elections, list the names of the candidates and provide space for write-ins (if permitted).
- Specify if the form authorizes another person to vote on their behalf or if the proxy will only be used to achieve a quorum.
- State that although the homeowner cannot attend the meeting, the proxy may attend on their behalf.
Proxies vs Absentee Ballots: What’s the Difference?
Some associations use proxy votes and absentee ballots interchangeably. However, there are key differences between these two terms.
Proxies allow homeowners to authorize another person to represent them at a meeting or vote. Meanwhile, absentee ballots allow homeowners to cast their vote using the form instead of showing up at the meeting. Absentee ballots don’t involve another party.
Keep in mind that not all homeowners associations can use absentee ballots. It ultimately depends on state laws and the association’s governing documents. Typically, there are also specific requirements that must be followed when using absentee ballots. When in doubt, an HOA board should seek advice from an attorney.
Can All HOAs Use Proxy Voting?
Homeowners associations can use HOA proxy voting if state laws and governing documents permit it. The board must know two types of proxies: directed and undirected.
Directed vs Undirected Proxies
The difference between directed proxies and undirected proxies is simple. With directed proxies, a homeowner gives specific instructions on how the proxy holder may cast their vote. In some states like California, directed proxies have very strict requirements. Another term for directed proxies is limited proxies. Compared with undirected proxies, a homeowner does not tell the proxy holder how to vote.
Whether or not an HOA may use directed or undirected proxies depends on state laws and the association’s governing documents. More often than not, though, associations use undirected proxies. Proxy holders may learn new information at the meeting that could influence their decision.
Should an HOA Use Proxy Voting?
Proxy voting does have its advantages and disadvantages. Proxies allow homeowners to participate in votes and matters of the association when their schedule otherwise prevents them from doing so. They also help meetings reach a quorum, making it easier to conduct association business without postponing.
One of the disadvantages of proxy voting, though, is that it can result in less engagement, particularly with directed proxies. This is because directed proxies limit how proxy holders can cast their votes. Even when new information is presented, they are bounded by the direction of the one who authorized them.
Another disadvantage is HOA proxy abuse. When homeowners have a way to vote without personally attending meetings, they may use it all the time. An HOA may still meet its quorum, but the number of attendees may lessen.
When considering proxy voting, HOA boards should consider the ups and downs. However, learning how to control and implement HOA proxy voting is an excellent first step.
Frequently Asked Questions About HOA Proxy Votes
Can HOA Board Members Vote by Proxy?
It is a good idea for board members to refrain from using proxy voting. Because board members are decision-makers, they should actively participate in association business. That being said, whether or not board members can vote by proxy depends on state laws and an HOA’s governing documents.
How Long Are Proxies Valid?
The validity period of proxy forms can vary depending on state laws and an association’s governing documents. In California, for instance, proxies expire automatically after 11 months unless the proxy states otherwise or the homeowner revokes the proxy.
Who Signs Proxy Votes?
Proxy forms generally require the authorizing homeowner’s signature. This is true even if the HOA uses secret ballots, which don’t give away the voter’s identity. Remembering that proxy forms are not the same as the ballots themselves is essential.
Who Can Be Appointed as Proxy?
This depends on state laws and the association’s governing documents. California’s Davis-Stirling Act mandates that proxy holders must be association members. Some associations allow homeowners to choose another member of the household or even a neighbor to act as their proxy. Some allow lawyers to act as proxies.
In some cases, proxy forms suggest that homeowners authorize a board member to act as their proxy. This is because board members have a higher likelihood of attending the meeting. However, state laws and an HOA’s governing documents may not always permit this.
Are Proxies Still Valid If an Election Is Postponed?
As with many things, this also depends on state laws and the governing documents. Generally, proxy forms remain valid until they expire unless the proxy giver revokes them.
Are Duplicate Proxies Valid?
Duplicate proxies present a challenge to HOA boards. If it is difficult to determine which proxy is authentic (or if neither is), it is best not to count them both. If time permits, board members may approach the owner and clarify the authentic form. While it is possible that the owner accidentally submitted two proxies, it is best to err on the side of caution, as proxy fraud does happen.
Seek Professional Advice
HOA proxy voting can be very useful to an association fighting low participation rates and grappling with quorum issues. Because state laws can differ regarding proxy requirements, board members should exercise caution. When in doubt, it is best to seek help from an HOA management company or lawyer.
Elite Management Services assists homeowners associations and condominiums. Call us today at (855) 238-8488 or contact us online to learn more!
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