Who’s Who in an HOA?
A homeowner’s association (HOA) is an organization that governs a planned community or condominium building. It consists of members, directors and officers and enforces rules across all of the association’s common area property as well as rules imposed upon owners and residents.
Homeowners who are members of a homeowners association (HOA) may want to understand who the people are who manage the association. To do so, it is important to know the composition of the HOA board and understand the roles that each member of the board plays.
Each HOA’s bylaws can vary widely, and so there is no standard way of organizing an HOA’s leadership. However, there is enough consistency across associations in the State of Florida to make an accurate list of the positions in each HOA and to outline roughly what they do.
In Florida, once a person or family purchases a property within an HOA’s jurisdiction they typically become members of the association. This automatic membership comes with the right to vote for the HOA’s leadership. It is also required that all members pay dues, known as HOA fees, to the HOA.
The obligations and restrictions of membership are defined in the HOA’s bylaws. Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes defines the rights of HOA members in HOAs across the state.
An HOA’s board of directors is a lower level of leadership made up of people who have been elected to serve in their roles by the general HOA membership. These directors are organized into committees that are responsible for various aspects of the management and upkeep of the property. Each HOA’s bylaws vary. Directors would typically serve specific terms that are outlined in the association’s bylaws. Also, the bylaws would define if board members must be members of the HOA and/or live within the HOA’s community.
The board of directors of an HOA votes on specific issues that affect the HOA’s membership and the community governed by the HOA. As a body, the board of directors typically meets once a month, though the boards of some associations (and their individual committees) may meet more or less frequently.
“Each HOA’s bylaws can vary widely, and so there is no standard way of organizing an HOA’s leadership.”
Officers form an upper tier of HOA leadership and are elected by the board of directors. In many cases, bylaws stipulate that HOA officers must concurrently be HOA directors. While HOA officers have more decision-making authority and greater individual responsibility than HOA directors, HOA officers may have no voting rights in some associations, whereas regular directors always do. In Florida, HOA officers are required to take and pass a certification course, typically within 90 days of being elected (or appointed) to their positions. Because HOA officers serve at the pleasure of the HOA’s directors, officers can also be recalled from their positions by the board following a method outlined in the HOA’s governing documents.
There are four typical officer roles in most HOAs. These are president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.
The president of most associations manages HOA board meetings using Robert’s Rules of Order. Presidents, therefore, typically have the authority to determine the agenda of the meetings and accept or deny motions to discuss topics in the meeting. Depending on an association’s bylaws, presidents may or may not have voting rights as a director. In some associations, presidents vote only in the case of a tiebreaker. Either way, presidents wield the most individual authority in an HOA.
The vice-president is an HOA officer whose primary role is to support the president. In the most basic sense, this means that the VP temporarily assumes the role of the president when the president is not present or is otherwise unable to attend a meeting. It may be that the president is incapacitated or passes away – then the VP takes the position of the president until another board election is held and a new president is elected. The bylaws of HOAs differ and many associations may assign additional roles to the vice-president of the association that go beyond simply temporarily standing in for the president. Many, if not most, associations in Florida have no vice-president as the role is not mandatory. A few others may have multiple vice-presidents.
Secretaries write the minutes of the association’s meetings; give notices of meetings to HOA officers, board members and general members; sign and witness changes to the HOA’s governing documents and inform community residents and HOA members of important bulletins and updates.
Certain notices, especially individual warnings and notices to HOA members, may require the expertise of a property manager or an experienced Florida HOA attorney. In such cases, the secretary is likely to delegate the task to another more qualified member of the board or to a contracted third party. Nevertheless, if such delegation occurs, the task is still said to be the ultimate responsibility of the HOA secretary.
Another area where an experienced HOA attorney can advise an HOA Secretary is in what information to include and not include in HOA meeting minutes. The records of meetings can be a liability for the association if either too detailed, inaccurate, or not detailed enough. Finally, secretaries are responsible for the maintenance of the HOA’s active registration with Sunbiz, Florida’s corporate formation agency. If an association secretary is unsure or inexperienced, then it would be wise to seek the counsel of an experienced HOA lawyer to resolve their uncertainty.
The treasurer arguably plays the most important role in the management of the HOA. HOA treasurers are responsible for the financial control, budgeting and management of the HOA’s assets. They are also the officer who typically signs the association’s accounts.
Many treasurers are accountants or come from another background in professional finance. If not, they may delegate aspects of the association’s financial reporting to a CPA firm.
In many cases, treasurers are also responsible for the collection of fees and fines for an association. Larger HOA’s may delegate these tasks to a law firm that specializes in collections or to a property management company. Still, as in the case of the HOA secretary, delegation still means that the treasurer is ultimately responsible for the task’s completion.
South Florida Law
Forming and managing an HOA or condo association can be a mammoth task fraught with liability and full of heavily regulated processes. Be sure not to go it alone. HOA officers can rely on the experienced HOA attorneys of South Florida Law to draft and deliver notices, advise on processes, draft changes to governing documents and collect past due fees and fines. We are a boutique-sized law firm with big law firm capabilities, able to provide our clients with both attention to detail and the resources needed to overcome challenges. Are you an HOA officer looking for a legal partner? If so, reach out to us today at (954) 900-8885 or via our contact form.