HOA Homefront – What is your HOA Technology Score?

Technology continues to advance at breakneck speed – is your HOA keeping up and using technology for the best benefit of your members? How is your HOA score?

website: Websites are now so common for HOAs that the California Association of Realtors originally introduced legislation in 2019 that would require all but the smallest HOAs to have a website. The HOA website may have “members only” access, so that internal information such as member updates, administrative documents, annual budget reports, annual policy statements or financial reports are not made public. The homepage can be a good PR page to introduce HOA to non-members.

Email Newsletter: Civil Code Section 4040(a)(2) allows members to elect to receive email as the primary mode of HOA communications. Why not encourage all members to give such consent to the HOA? Imagine how much your HOA could save each year if all members agreed to receive email instead of mail. Obtaining such consent from members should be a top priority for all HOAs.

If the HOA is modifying its CC&R, don’t miss the opportunity to add an automatic “opt-in” to the CC&R so that email becomes the default communication method for everyone except those who request mailed communication in writing. In a little-known addition to Civil Code Section 4040, a new subsection “c” prohibits “undocumented” administrative files from including such automatic email opt-ins.However, since CC&R is on record (filed through the county recorder), they can designate email as the default or primary mode of communication with members [if your HOA is amending or replacing the CC&Rs, mention this to your attorney].

Paperless management of record access: Many management companies (and law firms) are now “paperless” and only use electronic copies of documents. Storing and transferring electronic data is much simpler, and that may be a question you ask potential management companies. Also, can directors view HOA records and financial information online?

Electronic Billing and Assessment Payments: Increasingly, HOAs provide their members with the ability to evaluate electronic payments, and management companies are increasingly providing electronic bill payments to HOA committees. This may reduce control over HOA’s finances, as the days of two-signature checks that normally pay bills appear to be over, but careful scrutiny of the monthly financial disclosures required by Civil Code Section 5500 can help protect HOAs.

Hybrid Virtual Meeting: The ban on in-person meetings ended 2 years ago, and fully virtual meetings are generally not allowed, but that doesn’t mean HOA should abandon virtual meeting platforms entirely. Does your HOA allow members to participate in person or through a virtual platform?

Remote video surveillance cameras: Both HOA and members often require these low-cost devices. Does your HOA have reasonable rules limiting the use of private cameras and access to HOA video recordings to protect member privacy?

Electronic voting: Sadly, HOA is the only nonprofit in California that does not allow electronic voting. So your HOA isn’t downgrading it at this point – let’s hope that one day people in Sacramento don’t get too harsh on HOAs in this regard (I wonder if any legislators read this?).

What did I miss? Send your suggestions for other technological advancements that HOA can use.

Kelly G. Richardson, Esq. is a Fellow of the Community Association Bar School and a partner at Richardson Ober DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to Kelly@rodllp.com.

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