HOA Elections: Dos and Don’ts
Good leadership is key to any organization, including homeowners' associations (HOAs). Comprised of volunteer residents elected by fellow neighbors, an HOA board is responsible for carrying out the rules and bylaws of the community, among many other roles. And as a member of your community’s board of directors, you know how vital board elections are to your association.
The voting process and electoral event should be taken seriously and sitting board members must ensure that procedures are properly followed, and appointments are fairly administered. The effectiveness of a board of directors can make a significant difference in community operations and the quality of life for residents. To provide a successful framework for your community’s next elections, follow these dos and don’ts.
DO: Use your governing documents to guide elections.
Essentially the constitution, law, and regulations that explain how a community operates, your HOA’s governing documents will provide information and guidelines about hosting a board election. Look to your governing documents for details regarding:
- Election timing and frequency
- In-person attendance requirements
- Voting options
- Candidate qualifications
- Notification protocols
- Campaigning rules
- Term lengths
These documents vary by community and may be challenging to decode, so consult your association attorney for clarification if needed.
DON’T: Ignore local, state, or federal laws.
In addition to your governing documents, your local and state laws will outline the rules of operation for your HOA, including voting and election processes and requirements. For example, Florida has set term limits for board members, and California requires the use of a third-party election inspector. Research applicable election laws and restrictions and confirm compliance to avoid issues. As always, consult your association’s attorney if you have questions.
DO: Maintain transparency.
Transparency from the board is critical—especially during elections. Board members should maintain regular contact with residents regarding upcoming elections, procedures, candidates, and open positions. When community members are made aware of key dates, guided through the next steps, and informed about opportunities, they may not only be encouraged to run for a position on the board, but are also more likely to participate because they trust that the board is equipped to administer a fair and accurate voting process. Failure to inform residents about elections can result in a low voter turnout and the inability to meet a quorum, or the minimum number of votes to count towards a valid election.
DON’T: Operate without an election committee.
An election committee or nominating committee is often a mandatory committee specified in your HOA’s governing documents. These committees play an integral part in guaranteeing qualified and willing candidates are available for election to vacant positions. These committees can also help establish a plan to meet quorum and educate residents about the board’s structure and the importance of voting.
DO: Have clear nomination procedures.
Before beginning elections, make sure all community members understand nomination procedures. Some standard methods of nomination include:
- Traditional nomination: An HOA member in good standing nominates another member in good standing for a position on the board. Depending on your HOA bylaws, this nomination may need a "second" to confirm.
- Self-nomination: A person interested in a particular position on the HOA board puts their name forward for consideration. Most HOAs allow this option, though the candidate must meet any outlined qualifications.
- Floor nominations: Floor nominations occur when members nominate another member in a meeting. Typically, no second is required.
- Write-in candidates: Some bylaws allow write-in candidates. Any voting member could write any qualified member's name on the ballot even if they weren't previously listed as a candidate.
Procedures vary by community—your HOA’s governing documents will outline what type of candidates qualify, self-nomination and voting restrictions, and how to properly accept candidates.
DON’T: Endorse any specific candidate.
Board members must always remain neutral—it’s their fiduciary duty. Who gets elected is up to residents, and sitting board members should never endorse one candidate or attempt to influence voters, even if they believe one candidate would be better suited for the role. That means no campaigning for a specific candidate or making negative or unproven comments about another. Some state laws even prohibit board members from getting too involved in HOA elections beyond the scope of ensuring a fair elections process.
DO: Encourage members to have a written proxy.
Not every resident will be able to attend a meeting where an election takes place. Because of this, residents who can’t attend should complete and return a proxy form. A proxy is an authorization that allows one person to appoint another (the proxy holder) to vote on their behalf. Proxies can be rescinded if the member attends the meeting, but their proxy can be used to establish a quorum if they don’t make it.
DON’T: Forget to have a transition plan in place.
Since serving on an HOA board is voluntary and no prior experience is necessary, incoming board members may have little or no understanding of procedures—that’s why having a transition plan is key. When a transition or significant change occurs, new leaders can reference this plan and find everything they need to maintain smooth operations, continue ongoing projects, and stay on track with goals. In short, it helps new board members take over their duties with as little disruption as possible. The transition plan should summarize the previous board’s work, notify about the current state, and include the following:
- Agenda logs
- Major contract summaries
- Current strategic plan
- Examples of the operational structure
- Reserve summaries
- Up-to-date cash flow analysis
- Recent financial statements
- Annual calendar
- Governing documents summary
- Current and previous year’s budget
- General manager reports
- Overview of any pending projects
The Complete Guide to HOA Elections
After 43+ years of community management, we've helped countless communities hold successful elections. Read our article, “A Complete Guide to HOA Elections,” for detailed information about the HOA election process, why it matters, and more.