“Association Voting in the Electronic Age” – News-Press

“Association Voting in the Electronic Age” – News-Press

Q:  I serve on the Board of a very large condominium association. Getting unit owners to return proxies and ballots is difficult (to say the least), making it almost impossible to get voting items to pass. Oftentimes, we have a hard time even getting a quorum. With so many people being accustomed to “Zoom” meetings, is there a way that we can require owners to vote online?

A:  Electronic voting, or e-voting, has been an option for community associations in Florida since 2015, and while it offers a convenient way for owners to cast their vote, you cannot “require” owners to participate in online voting. Florida law only allows associations to conduct elections and other member votes electronically if a member consents in writing. As such, owners that want to vote online must provide written consent to their association. However, if an owner does not consent to electronic voting, they cannot be required to vote online; they must be permitted to vote the “old fashioned” way by using ballots and proxies.

Further, it is important to understand that online voting must be done in strict compliance with the applicable statutes (Chapter 718, Florida Statutes for condominiums, Chapter 719, Florida Statutes for cooperatives, and Chapter 720, Florida Statutes for homeowners’ associations). If your Board decides to offer electronic voting, the Board must first adopt a board resolution. Notice of the board meeting at which a resolution authorizing electronic voting will be considered must be mailed, delivered, or electronically transmitted (where an owner has consented in writing to receive official notices by e-mail) to all owners, and conspicuously posted at least fourteen (14) days before the meeting. The board resolution must meet certain requirements, so it is important that you work with your association’s counsel to confirm the content of the resolution meets the legal requirements.

There are also some “rules” when it comes to electronic voting. For example, the association must provide each owner with a method to authenticate the owner’s identity to the online voting system; a method to confirm that the owner’s electronic device can communicate with the online voting system at least fourteen days before the deadline; and a method to transmit an electronic ballot for elections of the board that ensures the secrecy and integrity of the ballot. The voting system selected by the association must also meet the requirements set forth in the applicable statutes, including that the voting system must be able to keep and store electronic votes so that they are accessible to election officials for recount, inspection, and review purposes.

Electronic voting offers a convenient method for voting that can be accomplished regardless of where an owner is casting their vote. However, because there are specific requirements that must be met in order to bring electronic voting into your community, you should work with your association’s legal counsel before offering e-voting as an option.

Q:  I have been following the articles regarding the new law that addresses building safety. I know there is new legislation which comes with a reporting deadline in the not-too-distant future.  What is this reporting requirement and what is the deadline?”

A:  The Legislature adopted SB4-D in the special legislative session earlier this year. In addition to imposing new requirements for structural inspections for condominium and cooperative buildings of 3 stories or more in height, the law also creates new reporting requirements for condominium and cooperative associations.

Section 718.501(3), Florida Statutes for condominium associations and Section 719.501(3), Florida Statutes for cooperative associations, requires that every condominium or cooperative association report specific information to the Division of Condominiums, Time Shares, and Mobile Homes, no later than January 1, 2021. The information must be reported to the Division on “a form posted on the Division’s website.” The Division has now released the form so that condominium and cooperative associations can report the required information.

The information that must be reported includes the number of buildings on the property that are 3 stories or more in height; the number of units in such buildings; the addresses of all such buildings; and the counties of which such buildings are located. The Division’s form can be located at http://www.myfloridalicense.com/DBPR/condos-timeshares-mobile-homes/building-report/.

In addition to the initial reporting requirement, an association must report any change to such reported information within 6 months of such a change.

Again, every condominium and cooperative association in the State of Florida must report this information no later than January 1, 2023.

The statute also provides that based on the information reported, the Division must compile a list of the number of buildings on condominium or cooperative property which are 3 stories or more in height, which is searchable by county, and must be posted to the Division’s website.

Attorney Jennifer Biletnikoff is a shareholder with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., Naples. The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this column does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Becker & Poliakoff, P.A. or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.