HOA Proxy Voting: What is it & What are the rules?


HOA proxy voting solves a common HOA challenge: ensuring adequate member participation in important decisions. In many HOAs, reaching a quorum for meetings and votes can be difficult, as busy schedules, lack of interest, or absentee homeowners often lead to low attendance. This shortfall can hinder the association’s ability to make crucial decisions, impacting everything from budget approvals to amendments in community rules, as lack of attendance leads to not meeting the minimum attendance (a quorum) for an HOA resident meeting.

HOA proxy voting addresses this issue by allowing members who cannot attend in-person meetings to delegate their voting power and attendance to another member they trust. This mechanism not only boosts participation but also ensures that the voices of all members are heard, fostering a more democratic and inclusive decision-making process within the community.

What is HOA proxy voting?

HOA proxy voting is one of the voting methods where a homeowner authorizes another person using proxy forms to act as their representative to cast votes on their behalf or attend HOA meetings. Every state and association’s governing documents have different rules, regulations, and requirements regarding HOA proxy voting.

Homeowners associations can use HOA proxy voting if the association’s governing documents and state laws permit it. In Ohio, Section 1701.48 – Ohio Revised Code states that a person with the right to attend a meeting, cast votes, or execute consents or waivers can choose a proxy to represent them. This representation can include attending the meeting, voting, and exercising other associated rights permitted by the association’s governing documents and rules and regulations. Proxies can be appointed through a proxy form signed by the homeowner. This ensures flexibility and convenience in exercising one’s rights within the framework of meetings and decision-making processes.

Homeowners should know the HOA’s limitations, rules, regulations, governing documents, and state law before using a proxy in HOA meetings and elections. Every state has its own different rules and regulations. As per the State of Ohio, any communication that generates a verifiable record capable of authentication has the potential to serve as the homeowner’s representation.

Who can sign an HOA proxy form?

Homeowners sign their own proxy form, allowing another person to represent them in HOA elections or meetings. The proxy form is not valid without the homeowner’s signature and consent.

Are Directed or Undirected Proxies better?

Directed HOA proxy forms specify exactly how the proxy holder should vote on each issue, giving clear instructions on the member’s preferences. In contrast, undirected HOA proxy forms grant the proxy holder the discretion to vote as they see fit on any issue presented at the HOA meeting without specific guidance from the member.

Directed HOA proxies have strict requirements. Homeowners give specific instructions on how the proxy should cast their votes. They are also called limited proxies because of their limited decisions. Homeowners tell them how to vote. Unlike undirected proxies, these are the proxies who can cast their votes based on the new information they gather from the HOA meetings since homeowners do not tell them how or who to vote.

However, whether an HOA may use directed or undirected proxies will always depend on the association’s governing documents or state laws. Most associations use undirected proxies since they can choose and learn new information that could influence their decisions.

How long are proxy forms valid?

Each state has its own rules and regulations on how long a proxy form can be valid to represent the homeowners in board meetings or cast a vote for them. The validity period of proxy forms depends on the association’s governing laws and state laws. In Ohio, for instance, validation of proxy forms expires after 11 months unless the written agreement or communication mentions the specific end date or how long it should last.

However, it will be invalid if the homeowner revokes the proxy form’s validity. That means homeowners have the power and authority to extend or lessen the time of proxy form validity. This happens when a homeowner is on vacation and cannot attend HOA meetings or cast their votes for new association board members. They authorize a proxy to represent them and then revoke it once they can attend the association’s meeting.

Who can be appointed as a proxy?

Appointed proxies depend on the state law and HOA governing documents. In some associations, homeowners can pick someone else in their household or even one of their close neighbors to be their proxy. Some associations even permit lawyers to serve as proxies, offering a variety of choices.

In some cases, HOA associations suggest to their homeowners to authorize one of the board members to act as their proxy. This is because board members are more likely to attend the meeting. However, not all HOA governing documents and state laws permit this. 

Advantages and disadvantages of HOA proxy voting

There are advantages and disadvantages to allowing someone to stand on your behalf during meetings and elections. HOA proxy voting provides advantages and disadvantages to board members and the HOA.

Advantages: HOA proxy voting helps those with a very tight schedule who cannot attend HOA meetings. In most cases, an authorized proxy can be helpful if the homeowners are not around or on vacation. It allows you to cast your votes even if you are absent during the meeting. This can also be useful in helping HOAs achieve a quorum during HOA meetings or elections, lessening the chance of postponing association business. It is also convenient for a homeowner to stay updated on the community. This representation allows homeowners to have the opportunity to influence decisions made during the meetings regardless of their physical presence.

Disadvantages: While beneficial for increasing participation, HOA proxy voting has disadvantages. Firstly, it can lead to potential abuses of power, especially if proxy holders do not accurately represent the interests of the members they represent. Secondly, it may result in less informed voting, as proxy holders might not have the same level of understanding or investment in specific issues as the actual members. Lastly, there is a risk of diminished community engagement, as reliance on proxies could lead to fewer members attending meetings and participating directly in the decision-making process, weakening the sense of community and collective responsibility.

Board members should consider the advantages and disadvantages since some homeowners can abuse HOA proxy voting. They might be able to use proxy votes even if they don’t personally attend the meeting. HOA boards should motivate the homeowner to vote and participate in HOA meetings to be updated in their community.

Absentee ballot vs. Proxies vs. Secret ballot

Some associations use absentee ballots, proxy votes, and secret ballots. But remember that this still depends on the state law and the HOA association’s governing documents. Proxies represent the homeowner and allow them to authorize another person to attend the meeting and cast votes.

However, absentee ballots don’t involve another party. It refers to the voting method that allows members unable to attend a meeting or vote in person to still participate in decision-making. Some associations allow homeowners to cast their votes by submitting their preferences through designated methods. But always remember that not all HOAs can use absentee ballots. It depends on the HOA’s governing documents and state laws, rules, and regulations. 

The HOA board still needs to seek advice from an attorney on the requirements to follow when using an absentee ballot. It is challenging to organize this method, which is why some board members hire an HOA property management company, like Innovative Management, to help them manage and organize an HOA portal and designated methods where homeowners can cast their votes and be updated.

Secret ballot is a voting method used to maintain the privacy of individual members’ votes. This means that when a vote is taken, each member casts their vote privately without disclosing it to others. HOA meetings often use this to pick board members or decide on unique plans. Using secret ballots lets members share their thoughts without worrying about what others think or say. It helps members feel comfortable expressing their opinions.

Should HOA board members proxy their vote?

Whether HOA board members should proxy their vote is a matter that requires careful consideration of both the association’s specific circumstances and the general principles of good governance. On the one hand, HOA proxy voting can be beneficial when board members are unable to attend meetings, as it ensures that their perspectives and the interests of the community they represent are still included in decision-making processes. This can be particularly important for maintaining quorums and making timely decisions on critical issues.

However, there are potential drawbacks. HOA proxy voting can sometimes lead to a concentration of power if one individual holds multiple proxies, potentially skewing decision-making. It can also result in less direct engagement from board members, which might impact the quality of deliberation and decision-making, as proxies might not fully represent the absent members’ views on complex issues.

Ultimately, the decision should be guided by the HOA’s governing documents, state laws, and a commitment to transparent, inclusive, and effective governance. If HOA proxy voting is used, it should be managed carefully to ensure that it enhances rather than diminishes the quality of decision-making within the HOA.

Challenges of HOA board members on proxy voters

Homeowners are still recommended to attend HOA meetings and cast their votes personally. Aside from the rules and regulations under HOA’s governing documents and state law, some homeowners abuse or manipulate proxies. Even if they have ways to vote without attending the meetings, homeowners may use a proxy, which results in them being unable to participate in decision-making and being active in the community.

Duplicate proxies are also one of the challenges to HOA boards. They must determine which proxy is legitimate, so they usually do not count the two proxies. To authenticate the proxy form, the board must contact the homeowner and clarify the form. There are instances where homeowners accidentally submitted two proxies. Homeowners should be responsible for signing the proxy form because most HOAs are cautious about proxies since they want to avoid HOA proxy voting fraud.

And because most HOAs have proxy quorum requirements for conducting the association’s business, they must consider including a minimum number of in-person attendees or a required percentage of total votes represented by proxies. To not postpone the association’s business, they need to reach the total number of attendance.

Conclusion on HOA proxy voting

Homeowners and board members should know the limitations, requirements, rules, and regulations of their HOA’s governing documents and state law before allowing HOA proxy voting.

Proxy forms serve as a way to permit someone to act as your representative. One of the key things needed on the form is the date and time of the meeting, along with specifying the meeting your proxy will attend on your behalf. In elections, you can include the names of the candidates or if it’s just to help reach a quorum. Homeowners should clarify on the proxy form that they are giving your signature and consent to let the other party stand as their proxy to attend and cast a vote on your behalf.

It is recommended that everyone should participate in all HOA meetings to keep transparency, streamline communication, have in-depth discussions, and create a strong decision to keep the HOA community aware and updated. But, understandably, not everyone in the community can attend HOA meetings for personal reasons. Either you are traveling, or your schedule doesn’t fit. HOA proxy voting provides a solution to these challenges and avoids postponing the association’s business, but despite the advantages, some disadvantages and challenges occur, such as manipulation, proxy abuse, and proxy fraud.

To overcome the challenges, board members should seek advice and help from lawyers and HOA property management companies like Innovative Management when implementing HOA proxy voting in their community.

Seek the Help of a Property Management Professional

If you’re struggling to manage your HOA or condo association, it’s worth contacting a professional management company like Innovative Management for help. With years of experience managing COA and HOA properties, Innovative Management can provide valuable guidance to association board members, ensuring that your properties are managed efficiently and effectively. We offer various services, including financial management, maintenance, and homeowner communication, making managing your association properties easier. By working with Innovative Management, you can have peace of mind knowing that your community is in good hands and managed by experienced professionals.

Contact Innovative Management to start a conversation.

Categories HOA