Last week, I received an e-mail from someone who was complaining that her HOA was using the voting and election procedures required by the condominium statute, instead of the HOA statute. In other words, using the Florida Statute 718 laws instead of Florida Statute 720. She wanted to know if this was O.K., since the Board of Directors claims the condo statute is actually a higher standard. As much as I wanted to write back that your Board is correct and smart, and that you should be happy they want to use the condo laws instead of the HOA laws, the problem is the HOA is stuck with the pitiful sham of election laws that currently exist under 720 and must use them.
With all that may be wrong with the Florida condominium statutes, they far outshine the homeowner association statutes when it comes to voting procedures. The condo statute contains strict timelines regarding when an owner must decide to run, when the association must send out notices, how the ballots are prepared and how ballots are determined to be authentic. They also allow for monitoring of the condo election if 15% of the owners demand it. The HOA statute is basically silent on all of these matters and instead says that whatever your governing documents say is perfectly fine. If you thought that after Florida was the laughing stock of the country when it came to hanging chads, we would be a little more careful about how we conduct elections in our HOA communities, you would be wrong.
Perhaps the best part about the condo election statute is that in order to have a valid election, only 20% of the eligible voters must cast their ballot. A 20% voter turnout is obtained in almost every condominium election I have ever been involved in. In an HOA however, a quorum of unit owners must appear in person or by proxy at the annual meeting in order for the election to occur, which is normally 30%. This requirement is often times too difficult to obtain, so no election occurs and the same Board rolls over for yet another year.
HOA Board members, and rightfully so, often complain that if the people in the community are unhappy, they should quit their complaining and run for the Board themselves. I couldn’t agree more. However, what do you say to those owners that try to get involved, actually run for the Board, and then are told that there’s no election because a quorum of owners didn’t participate? Persons who want to take part in the political process shouldn’t be penalized by the apathy in the community.
Let’s hope that during next year’s legislative session, The Florida Legislature takes a page out of the condo books and have the HOA laws regarding elections mirror the condo laws. It allows for more accuracy and more participation. You would think that the time has come for The Florida Legislature to appoint a committee to figure out what are the best and most effective aspects of Florida Statute 718 and 720, and ensure that what is successful in one type of association, be brought into the other. Instead, we have a hodge podge of laws that treat the same situations differently, despite the fact that one law may be a miserable failure. Next week I’ll elaborate on this.
One more thing. In all my years of participating in condominium elections and campaigning, I have never seen one person run for the Board and announce their political party affiliation. Would it matter to the voters in the community if a candidate was a Democrat, Republican or Independent? Should it matter?