Virtual meetings were uncharted territory for many community associations before the COVID-19 pandemic forced boards and managers to conduct business remotely. Despite concerns over the privacy and security of online platforms and requiring legal guidance, some communities feel that meeting virtually provides several advantages.
Online meetings have led to an increase in participation and resident engagement, particularly in associations with a large percentage of homeowners who don’t live in the community full-time.
Donna Coates, general manager of Briny Breezes, a 486-home community in Lake Worth, Fla., says that seasonal residents appreciate the increased transparency. “We can take care of some very important business items, especially during this emergency time,” she adds.
Craig Wilson Jr., CMCA, AMS, PCAM, president and CEO of Vanguard Management Associates in Germantown, Md., says that most associations that his company manages see virtual meetings as much more efficient. Boards now have more time to prepare and gather documents to present, and meetings are more orderly as online platforms such as Zoom provide the ability to mute attendees until it’s their turn to speak.
There also is added flexibility for those who want to join and participate in a meeting at their convenience. “It’s great for our managers because they don’t have to travel at night, they can sit in their home and use their computer or tablet to attend the meeting,” says Wilson. He adds that his company is considering having a virtual component for certain meetings throughout the year even when it’s safe to meet in person again.
Mark Einhorn, an attorney with Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks in Braintree, Mass., says the trend toward virtual meetings and electronic voting has been developing for several years as boards have looked to facilitate attendance and boost participation by accommodating residents’ busy schedules.
“Many of our clients were having a hard time getting quorum at a meeting and even finding candidates who want to serve on the board. Boards were looking at virtual meetings as a way to make it easier for people to attend, and that has only accelerated” during the COVID-19 pandemic, he remarks. “We’re trying to be flexible, because the technology is going to change quickly in this area.”
Whether associations continue holding virtual meetings instead of in-person meetings after the pandemic will depend on the size of the community, says Adrian J. Adams, founder and managing partner at Adams Stirling in Los Angeles. He believes smaller communities will find it easier to meet online because they may not have the space to hold an in-person annual meeting.
State laws and a community’s governing documents also could dictate how and whether virtual meetings and electronic voting are allowed to continue after the pandemic. They are among CAI’s top legislative priorities in 2021.
>>Read more on how community associations have used virtual meetings and electronic voting to conduct business in “The Show Must Go Online,” from the September/October 2020 issue of Common Ground magazine.