Guidelines for Purely Virtual MeetingsOct 08, 2023
By Kelly G. Richardson, Esq., CCAL
In 2024, Civil Code 4926 will permit 100% virtual meetings along with the current in-person and hybrid meeting formats. Readers have submitted numerous questions since the pandemic (and explosion of virtual meetings) began regarding what is allowable for virtual meetings. Here are some ideas your board may wish to consider to modify the HOA’s meeting policies.
Who’s There: Require that participants rename themselves in the meeting to list their name and HOA address, so everyone knows who is attending the meeting.
Members Only: Only HOA members (i.e. owners of homes) have the legal right to attend meetings. The rules should reiterate that to prevent someone from giving the meeting link to a tenant, Realtor®, or someone else not entitled to attend HOA board meetings.
We See You: Participants should be required to have their cameras on, which helps confirm their identity and right to attend. Also, consider banning visual displays by an attendee of anything other than the participant’s location – visual message displays, inappropriate background material, or inappropriate attire should not be permitted.
We Hear You (and Don’t Want To): Participants should be required to mute their microphones unless they are called upon to speak. Better yet, set up the virtual meeting so that all participants are automatically muted and only the administrator/host of the meeting has the power to unmute attendees.
What You Say Won’t Be Used Against You: Make it clear that virtual meetings will not be recorded and that the HOA does not consent to making recordings from the virtual broadcast. Members should not be subjected to the pressure that their comments might be recorded and potentially shared with others. The bottom line, recordings should be not permitted. Remember, the HOA is a neighborhood, not a public agency, and the board members are not politicians but unpaid neighborhood volunteers. They shouldn’t have to be trained to choose every word deliberately – that’s what lawyers are trained to do.
No Chat Please: In three years of virtual or hybrid meetings I have seen some amazingly offensive statements made in the chat box of virtual platforms. I don’t know why homeowners are willing to write things in a chat box they would never say openly in a live meeting, but they do. At the same time, homeowners in a live meeting are not allowed to just banter back and forth – so why allow it in the chat box? Consider a policy that the chat box will be disabled. Open forum should be verbal, not through chat notes.
Pardon the Interruption: A policy should make it clear that, just as with a live meeting, someone violating the rules will be warned and then will be removed from the meeting.
Who You Gonna Call: The new statute requires that all members be notified of the person to contact with connection problems. Consider including that in the virtual meeting rules.
When the Roll Is Called: Civil Code 4926 requires that in purely virtual meetings all board votes be by roll call vote, meaning each director verbally states their vote on each matter decided (yes, no, or abstain).
I am sure there are policies I haven’t considered – Let me know!
If your HOA pursues purely virtual board meetings, make them an asset for your community, not just a convenience.