Serving on the board of a homeowner’s association can be much more time-consuming and difficult than most people expect. There are not many resources available to help save you time and effort while you figure out what to focus on and how to get things done. The Brown Law Group, PLLC provides general counsel legal advice to provide tools to board members to assist with the governance of the HOA. We strive to provide resources to make it easier and more effective for boards to manage the affairs of planned communities, condominiums, and homeowners associations in Arizona. Our firm put together the essential HOA resources and tools to make any board run more effectively and make board members’ lives easier.
Online Resources for Arizona HOAs
While there are many sites that post information about HOAs in general, it can be hard to figure out which of those are useful and relevant to Arizona HOA laws. Here are a few things that any HOA board member in Arizona should bookmark for future reference:
- Arizona Rules for Meeting Notifications
The Arizona laws for association meetings and notifications can be found in ARS 33-1804 and ARS 33-1248. These open meeting laws provide that an HOA must provide 48 hours’ notice to the Members that it will be holding a meeting. The HOA must provide this notice even if it is holding a closed, executive session. The Association may discuss 5 topics in an executive session. Those include: legal advice from an attorney, pending or contemplated litigation, personal, health or financial information about an individual member or employee, matters related to the job performance of an employee, and a violation appeals hearing.
- Board Committees
Committees are a great way to define the specific people tasked with each area of involvement for an HOA. It is also vital that committees understand their limitations in carrying out certain tasks. It is important to have Board representation on a committee. The committee should serve at the direction of the Board. Pursuant to Arizona law, a Director must serve as the chair of an architectural review committee. The Board should also develop a charter that clearly describes the role, rights, and responsibilities of the committee. Regularly scheduled committee meetings are subject to the open meeting laws.
Understanding Roles as HOA Board Members
It is common for board members to not fully understand their roles individually or their responsibilities as an entire board. Each member needs to understand the basic definitions and responsibilities that come with their individual role for a board to be the most effective. One simple way to help all board members work together better is to use the first meeting after every election to define those roles and responsibilities. It might feel repetitive, but it can help get new members off to a quicker start and every board member can use reminders about where to focus their time and the specific things that make up their responsibilities. Here are a few things to focus on in a meeting on roles and responsibilities:
- Fiduciary Duties of Board Members
Every board member has a fiduciary duty to all members of the association. HOA board members are responsible for the control and guidance of the association and thus have a responsibility to each member’s interest as well. Each board member needs to understand they have a responsibility to every member and they must use their authority to deal fairly with each member and represent the association members as a whole. A board member must act in the best interest of the association and avoid conflicts of interest.
- Responsibility Versus Involvement
All board members should understand there is a difference between being responsible for some aspect of the association operations and governance and being involved in the process. After an election the Board should hold an organizational meeting to vote on which board member shall serve as which officer. Those officers include President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. The Bylaws will further define these roles and responsibilities. Everything from financials and accounting to common area maintenance to meeting planning and notes should be delegated clearly to the board member(s) responsible for that. It’s all a great time to define when and where it’s appropriate for other board members and members to contribute and be involved in those tasks as well.
Conducting Board Elections According to Arizona Law
All members of an association should be familiar with Arizona laws for conducting an election of the board of directors. The right to vote for the board of directors is the most important right that all members of an HOA have as a part of the association. Some of the particulars of the voting process and rules can be determined by the bylaws of the individual association while all HOA elections must follow some standard Arizona laws.
An Arizona HOA must hold an annual meeting at least once per year. Notice of the meeting must be sent not fewer than 10 and not more than 50 days prior to the meeting. All members are entitled to attend the meeting and vote either in person or by absentee ballots. Proxies are not permitted. Here are some of the key points to understand:
- A ballot must be made available for all members to vote in person or by absentee ballot for every election and action requiring member approval.
- Members must be able to vote for or against every proposed action.
- Each ballot is only valid for one specific election, meeting, or proposed action.
- Every ballot must have a clear deadline detailed on the ballot for delivery to be counted.
- Ballots cannot authorize any person to vote on behalf of a member.
- Email and fax delivery are valid forms of delivery and must be accommodated.
- All ballots must be retained by the association for at least one year after every vote.
As long as these laws are followed, an association can have additional rules or specific processes in their by-laws for an election of the board of directors.
Handling Board Meetings by the Book
Much like the election process for an HOA, board meetings have laws that must be followed and the ability to add specific details or processes to their by-laws. As discussed earlier, notice of all meetings must be provided and regular board meetings must be open to the members. Members must be given an opportunity to speak at the meeting at appropriate times and for a reasonable amount of time. The board may place time limits on speakers. The board must have minutes from the official meetings that are made available to all members as well. The HOA manager or attorney cannot conduct or call for these meetings.
Utilizing virtual meetings and technology to make meetings easier for everyone to attend has been a hot topic over the past year. We posted an article that detailed some of the finer points that any board member needs to understand as they seek to use technology to conduct board meetings.
Crash Course on Handling CC&R Violations
The rules for a homeowners association or planned community are laid out in the covenants, conditions, and restrictions commonly referred to as the CC&Rs. Every board member will have to become extremely familiar with the CC&Rs and how they impact day-to-day life in the community. Most HOAs will have lots of rules in common, like maintenance standards for your property and where you can park vehicles. It’s common to find restrictions on how you can decorate your home and where trash receptacles can be stored. The CC&Rs are also where all the costs associated with living in the HOA are detailed, like monthly dues and assessments.
Board members must understand these rules as they will be tasked with enforcing any penalties associated with any members violating the CC&Rs. It is important to understand what can and cannot be done to enforce the HOA rules in Arizona. Brown Law Group put together a definitive guide to understanding what an Arizona HOA can do when members violate the CC&Rs and how to approach these various enforcement challenges.
Keeping Up with Arizona HOA Trends
HOAs in every state have their own set of challenges from prevailing expectations of homeowners to changing state laws. It is important to track these trends in HOA laws, governance, and member expectations if your board hopes to keep your association stable and compliant. The Community Associations Institute posts articles related to HOA news and trends.
Work with an Arizona Law Firm with Experience in Association Representation
Staying up to date on HOA laws and trends will help any board member be more effective in their role and having a solid set of resources available to explore common issues and challenges will make their lives easier. Ultimately, HOA board members need to understand what they can do themselves and what should be handled by professionals that dedicate their careers to these specialties. At The Brown Law Group, we only represent homeowners associations and planned communities in Arizona. HOA governance, covenant enforcement, assessment collections, and association litigation are the only areas our firm practices. We offer an effective alternative to the billable hours system used by most law firms that make it easier than ever to serve on the HOA board. Contact us today at 602-952-6925 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online.
The Brown Law Group shares this article for informational purposes only, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship.