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21 REASONS FOR

VIRTUAL (ZOOM) BOARD MEETINGS

By:   Charles Mitchell, CMCA

As a management firm, we were initially wary of conducting board meetings virtually via Zoom or similar platforms at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.   Now, we enthusiastically support the use of virtual meetings for the reasons outlined in this article.   We hope that this article will serve as a helpful tool for boards and managers in evaluating how virtual meetings might benefit your communities. 

#1 Virtual Meetings are Legal

Beginning January 1, 2024, it is legal for homeowners’ associations to conduct board meetings virtually (via Zoom) without a physical location.  In short, an association is no longer legally required to provide a place to meet, if it wants to use Zoom for a board meeting.  Matt D. Ober, Esq. wrote, “California law has finally caught up with technology with the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 648, which takes effect on January 1, 2024.”[1]

 

The conditions for conducting a board meeting virtually (Zoom) are as follows: 

  1. “The meeting notice must include:
    a. Clear technical instructions on how to participate by teleconference.
    b. The telephone number and electronic mail address of a person who can provide technical assistance with the teleconference process, both before and during the meeting.
    c. A reminder that a member may request individual delivery of meeting notices, with instructions on how to do so.

  2. Every director and member must have the same ability to participate in the meeting as if the meeting were held in a physical location.

  3. Any vote of the directors must be conducted by roll call vote.

  4. Any person entitled to participate in the meeting shall be given the option of participating by telephone.”[2]

 

Reason number #1 to consider conducting virtual (Zoom) board meetings without a physical location is because it is legal to do so.

 

[1] Breaking News: Virtual Meetings Are Now a Reality. Matt D. Ober, Esq. September 25, 2023.

[2] Ibid.

#2 Makes it Easy and Fast for a Board to Meet

 

In person board meetings require a place to meet (if you don’t have a clubhouse) like a library meeting room, city meeting room, restaurant banquet room, hotel conference room, resident’s home, etc.  Most, if not all, of these require a reservation in advance.  The law requires a board to give four days’ notice to residents before conducting a board meeting [California Civil Code Sections 4920 (a).].  It can be difficult to book a room, even if you have a clubhouse that is rented out to residents, with just four days’ notice.  However, a virtual meeting requires no prior reservation of a place to meet.  Virtual meetings make it easy and fast for a board to meet.  If a board needs to meet in four short days, a virtual meeting makes that possible. 

 

#3 Out of Town Board Members May Attend a Meeting

 

A board member who is out of town may still want to attend a board meeting.  A virtual meeting allows that board member the opportunity to do so.  While gone, that board member is still able to listen to a meeting, give input at a meeting, and vote.   

 

#4 Easier to Make Quorum

 

It is in the best interest of a board/association for a board member who is out of town to attend a board meeting.  Why?  A board meeting can’t be called to order unless a quorum of a board is present.  A virtual meeting allows an out-of-town board member to attend a meeting and make a quorum, so it can be called to order.  If a meeting isn’t called to order, no business may be conducted, and the meeting must be rescheduled.  The work of the association grinds to a halt, and residents and the board are frustrated as a result. 

 

#5 More Residents Attend Board Meetings:

 

Since 1994, we have observed that most homeowners do not attend board meetings.  Apathy afflicts most, if not all, associations.  The best way that we have seen to consistently increase the attendance of residents at a meeting is to offer them the opportunity to attend virtually.  When virtual meetings began to be offered to homeowners at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we noticed an immediate increase in the number of owners in attendance.  Want to engage more residents in the meetings of the HOA?  Then, offer them virtual meetings. 

 

#6 Easier for Residents to Attend Board Meetings:

 

Why do more homeowners attend board meetings virtually?  It is easier than attending an in-person meeting.  What’s easier than sitting in front of a computer screen at home pretty much dressed as you please? 

 

#7 More Residents Speak Up at Virtual Meetings Because it is Not In-Person (“Stage Fright”):

 

Not only is it in the best of your homeowners’ association that more people attend your board meetings, but that people speak up when they do attend.  A board needs to know what owners are thinking and their concerns.  Is it easier to speak up at an in-person meeting or at a virtual meeting?  Many people have “stage fright” in front of a group of people they don’t know at an in-person meeting.  Residents are far more likely to speak up from the comfort of their homes than in front of a group of people they probably don’t know.   

 

#8 Virtual Meetings make it Easy to Show Everyone Documents, Images, etc.:

 

Do you want more homeowners to understand why the monthly assessment amount is the number it is?  Then at a board meeting, display on the screen what each of the expenses is for all to see.  You can show that financial document easily at a virtual meeting.  But you can’t do that easily at an in-person meeting.  Virtual meetings make it easy to show everyone documents, images, etc.  Perhaps your homeowners’ association needs owners to vote in favor of a special assessment to repair the buildings?  At a virtual meeting you can easily show residents images of the damage, the proposed repair bids, and the costs in order to try and convince them. 

 

#9 Allows the Manager to Access Management’s Server during the Meeting and Present Information Found There: 

 

At a board meeting, a homeowner asks an unexpected question about the election policy of the homeowners’ association.  But no one brought a copy of it to the meeting.  The manager may be able to access management’s server in order to locate a copy and display it on the screen to answer the owner’s question.  The board at a meeting unexpectedly asks the manager if any correspondence has been sent to a resident in the prior year.  The manager may be able to access management’s server to locate any prior correspondence and display it on the screen in order to answer a board member’s question. 

 

#10 Saves Money on Office Expenses

 

When Charles Mitchell began as a manager trainee almost thirty years ago, one of the first disputes he observed between management and the board was the cost of copies.  Just last week, one of our board members expressed his unhappiness about the cost of copies.  Obviously, boards care about copy costs.  At an in-person meeting we hand out copies of the agenda, board packet, selected documents, etc. to homeowners who attend.  At virtual meetings, there is no copying expense.  Want to reduce your office expenses?  Then consider virtual board meetings.

 

#11 No Cost for a Meeting Room:

 

If you don’t have a clubhouse or resident’s home to meet in, then you are probably paying to meet somewhere.  If so, you are most likely paying at least $50 to meet there.  If you meet monthly, that’s $600 a year!  With virtual meetings, there is no cost for a meeting room. 

 

#12 Lower your Legal Fees

 

The most important service provider a homeowners’ association has is its legal counsel.  It is inevitable that some legal issue will come up at your association that requires you meet with your attorney at a board meeting.  If a board meets with their legal counsel virtually, then you will not be charged for their travel time to and from your meeting.  Not having to pay for travel time will lower your legal fees.

 

#13 Prevents Residents from Disrupting a Board Meeting, causing it to be Adjourned Early and Rescheduled:

 

Homeowners usually act civilly at board meetings.  But what do you do when they don’t?  At an in-person meeting you can ask homeowners to stop.  And if they do not, you can take a recess for a few minutes for them to cool down and then restart the meeting.  If they continue to act uncivilly, then you will probably have to adjourn the meeting.  As a result, decisions are put off and another meeting has to be scheduled; and your management will probably charge you for the extra meeting.  At a virtual meeting all you have to do if someone continues to act uncivilly after being warned is mute them.  You mute the uncivil person, continue to make decisions, don’t have to reschedule the meeting, and don’t have to pay management for an extra meeting.  The above process is less painful and more productive for all concerned. 

 

#14 In-Person Intimidation of Board and Manager is Avoided and they Feel Safe: 

 

A board should make decisions that are in the best interest of a homeowners’ association.  A board will find it more difficult to do so if a homeowner(s) comes to an in-person meeting and tries to intimidate the board physically or verbally.  The board and manager will not feel safe in that situation.  A virtual meeting limits physical intimidation.  If a resident speaks in a threatening manner and persists after being warned, their mic may be muted. 

 

#15 The Potential for In-Person Gun Violence at a Meeting is Removed:

 

On August 24, 2022, a condominium owner with a grievance shot and killed the manager and wounded a maintenance person.  At a different homeowners’ association, on December 22, 2022, a condominium owner with a grievance shot and killed five board members.  Board members and managers are vulnerable to gun violence at in-person meetings, but not at virtual meetings.  The potential for in-person gun violence at a meeting is removed at a virtual meeting. 

 

#16 The Potential of Spreading a Contagious Illness is Eliminated:

 

Why did boards start using virtual meetings?  So that a board meeting is not a super spreader event of COVID-19 for those who attend and live in the community.  During the winter months, many boards meet in closed spaces with poor air circulation.  If someone comes to a board meeting with the flu or the common cold, won’t he spread it to others at the meeting?  Wouldn’t conducting a virtual meeting prevent the spread of the flu or a cold at that meeting?  The potential of spreading a contagious illness at a meeting is eliminated by meeting virtually. 

 

#17 Bookkeepers May Attend Meetings and Answer Questions:

 

Who is better at answering bookkeeping questions than the bookkeeper/accountant assigned by management to your homeowners’ association?  Usually, the manager, and not the bookkeeper, attends a board meeting.  If a board wants to speak to the bookkeeper about a specific bookkeeping question(s) at a meeting, meeting virtually makes it easy and inexpensive to do so.  Bookkeepers may easily attend meetings and answer bookkeeping questions when virtual meetings are used.

 

#18 Service Providers May Easily and Inexpensively Attend Meetings: 

 

Your homeowners’ association needs to replace all of the roofs before winter; but there is not enough money in the reserve account to do so.  So, homeowners will need to vote in favor of a special assessment.  Owners are more likely to vote in favor of a special assessment if they hear information from the construction manager, legal counsel, and bank representative.  It’s easy and inexpensive for the above service providers to attend a virtual meeting.  Any of your service providers may easily and inexpensively attend your board meetings if you are meeting virtually.

 

#19 Managers Don’t Stick Around Long Because of Stress; Not Driving to and from a Meeting Dramatically Reduces a Manager’s Stress and Will Lengthen the Time They Spend in the Industry:

 

Sometimes I ask new acquaintances if they have ever met a homeowners’ association manager.  Usually, they answer, “no.”  Why?   One reason most people have never met a manager is because being one is stressful.  So, managers don’t stick around long.  Recently at a staff meeting the topic of virtual meetings came up; and one of our managers spontaneously blurted out, “Thank goodness for virtual meetings!”  This manager is no longer experiencing the stress associated with driving to and from an on-site meeting after having worked most of the day.  Want to lower the stress of your overworked manager?   Then, please don’t require them to work most of the day and then drive to and from an on-site meeting.  Thank you.  Your manager will remain longer in the industry. 

 

#20 Virtual Meetings are Safer for Managers:

 

Managers usually don’t like to walk to and from their vehicles at night due to the possibility of being a victim of crime.  Managers do not always feel safe walking from their cars to on-site board meetings when it is dark at night.  In addition, a manager usually drives in traffic to an on-site board meeting.  Driving in traffic may result in an automobile accident for the manager.  Virtual meetings are safer for a manager.   

 

#21 Service Providers and Management Driving Less Miles Burns Fewer Fossil Fuels:

 

Most of the vehicles on the road today still use fossil fuels, which in turn contributes to global warming.  Managers (and service providers) driving to in-person meetings will probably use fossil fuels and contribute to global warming.  But managers attending virtual meetings do not use their vehicle and burn fossil fuels.  Want to play a part in managing global warming?  Then consider using virtual meetings.

 

In conclusion, we hope all of the above reasons explain why we now enthusiastically support virtual meetings.  It is our desire that a board use this article to discuss with its manager the value of meeting virtually.    

 

Charles Mitchell, CMCA is the founder of NAM Association Management, Inc. (dba “Neighborhood”), where he is involved in manager and board training, as well as meeting with potential clients.

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