The Florida lawmakers just made email a problem for both condo and homeowners’ association boards and their managers. Both the Florida condo and HOA laws now provide that board members “may use e-mail as a means of communication but may not cast a vote on an association matter via email.” Before the law, board members weren’t clear if the law requiring that board meetings be open to all owners, foreclosed email as a means of them communicating with each other about board business. Banning email use by volunteer board members who have day jobs would have been unrealistic. So, the law was changed to make clear that board members could communicate but just not take a vote by email that would bind the association.
So how are the board members going to make sure they don’t violate Florida’s email law? Is management responsible for managing this? Sometimes management is not on an email between board members. Someone has to make sure email is being properly used by board members so they don’t violate the law. Lawyers advise that email should be watched so that a quorum of board members is not on any email chain. Without a quorum, there can’t be a vote and without a vote, there can’t be a violation of the board email law.
In New York and other states that do not require open meetings, email is not an issue. Typically boards who have to conduct business between monthly or quarterly board meetings, have to make decisions between meetings. A common practice is to email all the board members, poll the board members on their view, gain a consensus and then ratify the poll at the next formal board meeting so that the poll is effectively turned into a legally-effective board vote. If the association’s by-laws allow electronic voting or voting by email, then this extra ratification step is not required. Email or an electronic voting solution can be used to conduct board votes. Even in non-open meetings states like New York, someone has to manage board emails.
In Florida and other open meeting states, board member email must definitely be managed or board members will unquestionably violate the law. Board members are typically volunteers from all walks of life who are likely unfamiliar with the board email laws and will expect guidance from their management companies. Boards and management need a way to manage the board email legal requirement and most are not equipped to do so.
Without a board-centric email system in place, board members are forced to use personal or other work email to conduct board business. When emails by and between different board members and coming to and from multiple gmail, aol and other personal and work email accounts, it is impossible to make sure laws like Florida’s board email laws are being satisfied and not violated. Boards and management need to be proactive in this regard rather than reactive after the board is sued and board emails in violation of the law are discovered.
Office of the Board comes with a board-centric email system that is all contained inside an association’s Office of the Board. When board members join the board, they can be given a board email and when they leave, the board email stays inside the association’s Office of the Board until purged as required. When board members are included on an email their addresses are color coded so you know who is a board member and how many board members are on the email. With Office of the Board instantly in place, it is easy to make sure that board members are complying with laws like Florida’s condo and HOA board email laws.