8 Points of HOA Governance 101

April 24, 2013

By Curtis G. Kimble.

HOA governance isn’t simple or easy and, unfortunately, board members are just volunteers doing their best with too little time and too little money.  I think that’s why even basic principles of HOA governance are often misunderstood by board members (and managers too).  Here is some clarification of 8 frequently misunderstood issues:

1.  Officers and directors are not the same thing.  One of the most fundamental concepts of corporate governance is that directors and officers have entirely separate functions and positions.  Directors are the representatives of the members, elected by the members.  The primary, if not the sole, function of a director is to vote on the decisions before the board.  The directors make up the board, which has the authority to act for the association.

Officers are not (normally) elected by the members, they are elected or appointed by the board.  Usually, the officers are also directors, although there’s no law requiring that they be (but a lot of bylaws require it).  Officers only have the authority or power given to them specifically and expressly, by the bylaws or by the board.  Removing an officer is generally easy, the board is usually authorized to remove an officer, with or without cause.  But if a person is both an officer and a director, removing them as an officer doesn’t remove them as a director.  Removing a director may generally only be done with a vote of the members.

2.  Quorum.  What is a quorum?  Is it important?  A quorum is the minimum number of members that have to be represented at a member meeting in order to have the meeting (or the minimum number of board members that have to be present at a board meeting to have a board meeting).  That magic number will be stated in your bylaws or CC&Rs.  It may be an unreasonably high number (like 50% to 75% of all owners) or it may be a realistic number, but either way it’s required.  If it’s unreasonably high, change it, amend the bylaws, but don’t ignore it.  One of the first things to occur at any meeting should be the determination of a quorum.

3.  The documents that apply.  If your association has CC&Rs (a declaration), bylaws and articles of incorporation, do those documents have to be followed?  If so, how closely do they need to be followed?  The answers are absolutely and to the word.  I’m sure it will come as a surprise to the conscientious readers of this blog, but some boards . . .  how shall I put this . . . don’t appreciate the weight that should be given to what the governing documents say.  They tend to think you are able to pick and choose what you adhere to, or that if they simply aren’t aware of what’s in the documents, then there’s no need to comply with them.  Virtually nothing that is contained in governing documents is optional.  They must be adhered to strictly and literally.

4.  The laws that apply.  There are basically two types of HOAs in Utah – condominium HOAs (or condominium associations) and non-condo HOAs (also called PUDs or community associations).  It’s very important that you know which one you are in (consult your attorney if you don’t).

Condominiums:  The Condominium Ownership Act applies to all condominiums in Utah.

Noncondo HOAs (PUDs or community associations):  The Community Association Act applies to residential non-condo HOAs in Utah (and to mixed-use commercial/residential non-condo projects as of May 14, 2013).

Both:  The Utah Revised Nonprofit Corporation Act also applies to all associations that are incorporated as nonprofit corporations, as most are.

5.  Hierarchy of laws and documents.  If your CC&Rs and bylaws contradict each other, they aren’t simply ignored or tossed out as invalid.  There is a specific heirarchy that generally applies when documents or the law contradict each other.  When a lower document contradicts a higher document, the provision in the higher document is the valid and effective provision and the one in the lower document is ignored (until the documents are amended, which is hopefully promptly after the contradiction is found), unless the higher document is a law that specifically defers to a lower document.

In a condominium, the law states that the following order prevails:

(a) the Condo Act,
(b) the Nonprofit Corporation Act,
(c) articles of incorporation,
(d) declaration (CC&Rs),
(e) bylaws,
(f) rules.

In a non-condo HOA, the order is not set by statute or case law, but the following order should prevail:

(a) the Community Association Act,
(b) the Nonprofit Corporation Act,
(c) declaration (CC&Rs),
(d) articles of incorporation,
(e) bylaws,
(f) rules

6.  Voting Thresholds.  Too often, the subtle distinction between different voting approval thresholds are ignored.  For instance, is there a difference between these two requirements:   “a special assessment shall require the approval of a majority of the members voting in person or by proxy”  and “a special assessment shall require the approval of a majority of the members represented at a meeting in person or by proxy”?

The difference is that the first one requires approval of a majority of those members that actually cast a vote.  The second requires the approval of a majority of the members that show up at the meeting or who are represented by proxy.  So, if 90 members show up to a meeting personally, 10 have given proxies, a vote for a special assessment is held and 94 votes are cast, the number of votes needed for approval under the first requirement above is 48 (a majority of 94).  The number of votes needed for approval under the second requirement is 51 (a majority of 100).

Also remember that, in a condominium, the law requires that voting rights of each owner be directly tied to each owner’s undivided interest in the common area .  This means that if a member has a .837 percent undivided interest in the common area, that member has a .837 vote in any matter put before the association membership (elections, etc.).

7.  A board meeting is not an association meeting or member meeting.  Board meetings (usually held monthly or quarterly) are just that, meetings of the board.  While it is recommended that board meetings be open to the members and the members be allowed to speak during a specified comment period, they are not meetings of the association or member meetings. Typically, the only association meeting or member meeting is the annual meeting held once a year.

8.  HOA Registry.  Finally, remember that the law requires each association to update their information with the Utah HOA Registry within 90 days of any change in that information (e.g., after a board election where a new board member was elected, or after changing managers).  It wasn’t just a one-time requirement and it’s  not an annual renewal.  It must be updated after any change and all information required by the law for condos and the law for non-condos must be included.

This may be new information for some, but hopefully, it just serves as a helpful refresher for others.  In many HOA issues, the devil is in the details and attention to those details will help ensure proper and lawful operation and governance of your association.

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Some Topical Updates on HOA Issues

March 16, 2012

By Curtis G. Kimble.

On our Facebook page, we share information, articles, links, and developments in condo and HOA issues, in addition to our more detailed posts on this blog.  For those of you who don’t subscribe to our Facebook page, I thought I’d pass on some recent links and news we’ve shared recently:

  • Condo Association Settles Lawsuit with Veteran over Service Dog  By Erin Alberty | The Salt Lake Tribune

“A Park City condo association will pay $20,000 to a disabled veteran, ending a legal conflict over whether the man should be forced to pay fees to keep a service dog that helps him cope with depression and anxiety.

The U.S. Justice Department sued the Fox Point at Redstone condo association and its management company in November, alleging that Thomas Burton, a combat veteran of the first Gulf War, was forced to move out of his rented condo because the association would not waive its pet fees and insurance requirements for Burton’s service dog . . .”   Read more here

  • Who Prepares Your Association’s Tax Return?   by Lisa Magill, Florida Condo and HOA Law Blog

“A Las Vegas HOA is currently fighting with the IRS over the question of whether $2 million held in the HOA’s savings account is subject to income tax at the rate of 30%.

Associations are generally organized as not-for-profit corporations (some older associations are not incorporated) and therefore must file tax returns like other not-for-profit corporations. Associations are not entitled to tax exempt status like charitable organizations. To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in the Code. To be tax exempt under IRC 501(c)(4), a homeowners’ association must operate for the benefit of the general public, i.e., it must provide a community benefit – not a benefit to the owners or residents . . .”  Read more here

  • Although written in Virginia, the same principles apply in Utah:  Is It Time for Your Community Association to Audit Its Governing Documents?  By Susan Bradford Tarley.

“Many communities were established 20-40 years ago with governing documents that worked well for the developer, and for the most part the community association. However, many of these governing documents are outdated. Virginia and federal laws pertaining to community associations have changed substantially. If your board of directors has not engaged in an audit of your communities governing documents in the past 5-7 years, it should.

When should documents be amended?  Although there are many reasons for amending documents, these 7 reasons are the most common: . . .”   Read more here

If you would like to see more information, links and updates on condo and HOA issues in addition to the posts on this blog, be sure to like us on Facebook and you’ll see our Facebook posts in your Facebook feed.  A direct link is on the right of this page, or our page can be found here Richards, Kimble & Winn on Facebook


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