HOAs still refuse to meet in person – Orange County Register

Q: It appears our HOA is hiding behind an overused Covid excuse to hold their meetings virtually. Is there currently a requirement that these meetings only take place virtually? Has such an earlier law been repealed, or has it expired so that we are personal again? – JH, San Diego

Q: Until COVID-19, our monthly HOA board meetings were held near the community. Since the beginning of 2020, board meetings have only been held via Zoom. When I inquired about resuming in-person meetings, I was told it was not being considered by the Board. Based on one of your previous articles, it appears that virtual-only meetings are illegal now that the emergency conditions have passed. Am I right? — RR, Rancho Santa Margarita.

A: In 2020, some counties have banned indoor gatherings of more than five unrelated people. So the HOAs had to choose between violating the health regulations or the Open Meeting Act. During these months, most HOAs decided to comply with health orders and began holding purely virtual meetings. Most, if not all, of these bans on indoor gatherings ended in 2020, making it no longer illegal to hold in-person HOA board meetings. However, many HOAs continued to meet in violation of the Open Meeting Act by meeting entirely virtually and not having a physical location for anyone to attend in person with an HOA officer also present.

In 2021, Senate Bill 391 was passed and went into effect in September 2021, and many (including attorneys) have used the law as justification for proceeding with all-virtual meetings. Unfortunately, the new law, Civil Code 5450, is often misapplied as it states that HOAs can meet purely virtually if a declared emergency makes it “unsafe or impossible” to meet. I’m not aware of any jurisdiction in California that (in 2021, 2022, or currently) has banned indoor meetings (ask anyone who attends churches, movie theaters, restaurants, or indoor sporting events!). You can check www.covid19.ca.gov to confirm this.

HOAs must comply with the Open Meeting Act and hold either hybrid or in-person open board meetings.

Q: Our HOA meetings have been 100% virtual since March 2020. They wrote that an in-person option with “at least one director or HOA officer present” was required. Our board has no interest in in person meetings and have designated the management company office 12 miles away as despite our clubhouse the in person meeting location is within a 5 minute walk of all homeowners. Are there any guidelines or qualification requirements regarding who they designate as the “HOA officer” for the personal location? —DD, Huntington Beach.

A: Civil Code 4090(b) permits virtual attendance at HOA board meetings, but requires that the board announce a physical location where at least one director or other person designated by the board will be present for those who do not want to call or sign in to the meeting. There is no further guidance in the Articles of Association as to who may be appointed, so it could be a director or any other person chosen by the Board. However, for members who prefer to attend in person, having the physical location 12 miles away instead of the on-site clubhouse might seem disrespectful.

Kelly G Richardson, Esq. is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a partner at Richardson Ober LLP, a California law firm known for its expertise in community associations. Submit column questions to Kelly@roattorneys.com.

https://www.ocregister.com/2023/02/10/hoa-homefront-hoas-still-refusing-to-meet-in-person/ HOAs still refuse to meet in person – Orange County Register

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