HOA Homefront – Zoom in on virtual meetings

Q: During the COVID shutdown, the board used Zoom to hold meetings. Now that we are able to have in-person board meetings, we have the following situation. If the board is in the community room and many of us are watching from home, there’s no way people watching on Zoom can raise their hands and speak verbally to the board or even type a question in chat. Our manager said the only company that can do what we are asking is expensive. For now, anyone who wants to speak to council must come to the community hall. How can the board run a legal meeting using an inexpensive platform and make it work?

LO, Nipomo

Q: Can HOAs still hold Zoom meetings when COVID cases are high but the state has not declared a state of emergency? If HOAs must hold in-person meetings, how do HOAs provide virtual access to residents or council members who wish to attend the meeting, but due to illness or fear of infection? What technical solutions can be used to add them to the “in person” meeting? What equipment is available to provide both forms of participation in the board meeting? Do councils have an obligation to find the solution?

Sask., Coronado

Dear LO and SK: Yes, purely virtual meetings are not permitted under the Open Meeting Act, which requires that in addition to a virtual or telephone mode, there must be a physical location at which someone can attend to observe the meeting with at least one director or HOA designate present (Civil Code Section 4090(b)).

Many have mistakenly thought that last year’s emergency legislation, Senate Bill 391, allows purely virtual board meetings – but the new Civil Code Section 5450 only allows purely virtual meetings. virtual only if a declared emergency prevents the meeting or makes it dangerous. As it appears no county is currently banning in-person meetings, the law provides no current relief and it is too late for the COVID pandemic.

Hybrid meetings aren’t required, but are a good idea for most HOAs. Subscriptions to virtual platform companies are a minor expense. The most important part of the hybrid meeting is ensuring that the HOA has adequate microphone and speaker functionality in the room where the live meeting is taking place – laptops, tablets, and phones cell phones are inadequate for everyone to hear and be heard. The video portion of the meeting is less important, but it is important to have a device that functions as a “speakerphone” and used as the only microphone or loudspeaker allowed in the room – multiple speakers and microphones will cause annoying comments or echoes. An open forum is required, but it does not require the activation of the “chat” function. The chat function is sometimes horribly abused by members, who use it at board meetings to argue or write wacky comments that normal people would never speak out loud. Most virtual platforms also have a “raise of hands” feature so that one can indicate a wish to speak in an open forum. However, whether you are in the room or attending virtually, once the Open Forum is over, the audience, virtual and live, is there to listen, not to participate.

Kelly G. Richardson, Esq. is a member of the College of Community Association Lawyers and partner of Richardson Ober LLP, a California law firm known for its expertise in community associations. Submit column questions to [email protected] Past columns on www.HOAHomefront.com.

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