One of the biggest changes that the pandemic has brought on everyone is physical distancing; that is, keeping yourself at a safe distance from everyone else. This means no close, physical contact with anyone outside of your household, which dramatically changed how businesses ran operations, and how goods and services are purchased and delivered. In the HOA landscape, this also meant limiting physical contact with the board and the community.
What changes did homeowners associations make in order to fulfill their duties? Here are some of them:
1. Virtual meetings
Much like everyone else, HOAs too had to learn to adapt to online platforms for their day-to-day tasks and needs. Virtual meetings are scheduled and subsequently held to discuss important HOA matters, especially those relating to the pandemic and how to keep the community safe. Quarterly meetings
that were once held inside the HOA office are now conducted online. Emergency meetings are also held online.
The challenge here is having a platform that allows all homeowners to attend the meetings as well if they do so wish. Some HOAs provide the option of audio participation to allow more members to join the meetings.
2. Settling disputes between neighbors
In the past, disputes between neighbors were resolved following a step-by-step protocol, which generally involves filing a complaint, sending a notice to the defendant-member, conducting separate interviews, interviewing witnesses (if applicable), and finally, conducting a hearing to hear both sides at the same time. The pandemic has changed all this. Complaints and notices are sent online, and interviews and hearings are conducted online as well. Disputes then could take longer to resolve during the pandemic.
3. Voting and elections
For issues that need votes from the board and/or household members, as well as elections of HOA board directors and members, ballots are sent to each household and picked up by the HOA representative or dropped off by the homeowner at a designated drop off area. In general, anything that needs to be voted anonymously will be done through house-to-house ballot-voting instead of the usual ballot-voting at the HOA office or community center.
Apart from house-to-house, mail-in ballots, some HOAs have also provided their community with an online portal for electronic voting.
While in-person or face-to-face meetings, elections, and such are now allowed, physical distancing regulations should still be strictly followed. HOAs must then ensure that personal attendance for public meetings or hearings will still be at a limited capacity.