What Quorum Options Do HOAs Have?

By Martin Cabalar
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We’re having difficulty reaching quorum for our board member elections because residents have not returned their paper ballots. Should we continue trying to encourage them to send their ballots, or can we call the election after a certain period of time? 

Many community associations have a difficult time meeting quorum, particularly when it comes time for an election. This is because many owners are apathetic toward voting. There are a number of ways to address voter apathy without having to necessarily increase voter participation, including reducing quorum requirements for elections in your community. You should consult with your legal counsel as to whether this is feasible. Of course, reducing the quorum requirement does not assist the current conundrum of whether to call an election after a certain period of time.

The reader does not indicate whether the election is contested, meaning whether there are more candidates than seats available. If the election is uncontested, you should: (a) adjourn the election meeting; (b) continue to attempt to reach quorum for a reasonable period of time thereafter; and, (c) if after a diligent attempt to reach quorum, you are still not able to do so, consult with your legal counsel as to whether it would be appropriate for you to call the election and deem the uncontested candidate(s) as a member of the governing board.

The reality is that the association needs a governing board. If the election is uncontested, and you are not able to reach quorum after a reasonable period of time, then any member of the association will be hard pressed to successfully challenge the results of the election or the authority of the board.

If, however, the election is contested, I would recommend that you consult with your legal counsel to develop strategies to increase voter turnout. For example, you may consider going door to door or hosting a social event at which you collect proxies. To assist, you could create a committee of volunteers. You might even consider raffling a prize or a free month of assessments to those who participate, but consult with your legal counsel before doing so to ensure this is permissible. If, in the end, you are still unsuccessful in reaching quorum, then it may be time to explore reducing the quorum requirement.

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Martin Cabalar

Martin C. Cabalar is a shareholder with Becker in Morristown, N.J.