Condo association board members have a challenging enough job as it is, especially when it comes to annual meetings. The ever-changing positions and regulations on COVID-19 have brought with them questions and doubts about how to conduct board meetings. Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties have recently moved from Phase 1 to Phase 3 opening, but to date, there’s been little guidance from authorities on just what it means in terms of room capacities, mask mandates and social distancing.
Some companies are taking the matter into their own hands: Regal Cinemas, the second-largest theater chain in the country, just announced it’s shuttering all its locations on October 8th, including in Florida, to wait out the pandemic.
With the understanding each community has its own specific circumstances and needs, here’s our take on how to handle board meeting logistics. As always, we recommend an association clear its guidelines and rules with its attorney before moving forward.
Conducting Annual Meetings During a Pandemic
On September 25, Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all remaining statewide coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses in Florida. This essentially moved all business activity to Phase 3. Under the executive order, businesses must still follow local restrictions on how many people are permitted to gather in a room. They may also still need to meet social distancing guidelines such as spacing chairs six feet apart. The order, however, does suspend fees and penalties for individuals who violate COVID-19 restrictions such as mask requirements, but it doesn’t address businesses that commit a violation.
This is where things start to get unclear or confusing. For example, even if a county doesn’t have separate restrictions, the association may still want to enforce social distancing. Is that permitted under the current law?
How Condo Associations Were Adapting to Phase 2
Associations throughout the state are exploring a variety of options to deal with this dilemma.
- Some are postponing annual meetings.
- Others are exploring digital options including virtual meetings and online voting, which has an associated cost. You’ll need to determine if online voting requires the approval of the Board or membership to move forward. Florida Statutes 718 and 720 cover online voting requirements for condo associations and HOAs, respectively. If you decide to use online voting, you must find a platform that’s either certified by the State of Florida or conforms to Florida’s requirements.
- A number have discussed a combination of virtual and in-person meetings where a smaller number of individuals are present while ballots and/or proxies are opened and counted. Associations choosing this option must also live-stream the process.
Adding to the confusion is where the original DBPR Emergency order stands. While Order 2020-06 seemingly restored association operations to pre-COVID “normal,” most communities continue to adhere to CDC guidelines and local orders and ordinances. Further, requirements and deadlines for financial reporting were reinstated, but questions remain as to whether associations can postpone annual meetings.
If your association is considering postponing your annual meeting and election, we strongly urge you to consult your association’s attorney to confirm it’s permitted under state and local regulations. It’s also a good idea to develop a “Plan B” or contingency plan in case meetings and voting must proceed as normal.
Meeting the COVID-19 Challenge
No matter which path your association takes, it’s important to not get in a situation where the Board is doing anything in violation of the association’s governing documents, Florida’s Statutes, or the Administrative Code. Doing so can result in challenges to the voting results. It bears repeating once more that the Board should consult the association’s attorney before moving ahead. These times aren’t easy, but with careful planning, your association can overcome the pandemic obstacles and remain compliant.