Written by Kelly G. Richardson

Technology continues to scream forward at an amazing pace. Which begs the question: Is your HOA keeping up and using technology for maximum benefit to your members? How does your HOA rate?

Here’s a look at what you can be doing to maximize tech use in your HOA:

Websites: Websites are so widespread now for HOAs that the California Association of Realtors originally proposed legislation in 2019 to require that all but the very smallest HOAs have a website.

HOA websites can have a “members-only” access function so that internal information — member updates, governing documents, annual budget report, annual policy statement, or financial reports — are not publicly available. The homepage can be a public relations landing that introduces the HOA to non-members.

Email communication: Civil Code Section 4040(a)(2) allows members to opt to receive email as the primary mode of HOA communication. Why not encourage all members to give such consent to the HOA?

Imagine how much your HOA might save annually if all members agreed to accept email instead of postal mail. Obtaining consent from members should be a high priority for all HOAs.

If the HOA is amending its CC&Rs, don’t miss the opportunity to add to the CC&Rs an automatic “opt-in” so that email becomes the default mode of communication for everyone except those who in writing request postal communications.

In a little-noticed addition to Civil Code Section 4040, a new subpart “c” bars “unrecorded” governing documents from containing such an automatic email opt-in. However, since CC&Rs are recorded (filed with the County Recorder) they can specify email as the default or primary communication mode with members. (If your HOA is amending or replacing the CC&Rs, mention this to your attorney.)

Paperless records access: Many management firms (and law firms) are now “paperless,” using only electronic copies of documents.

Storing and transferring electronic data is so much simpler, that it might be a question you ask of a prospective management firm. Also, can directors review HOA records and financial information online?

Electronic bill and assessment payment: An increasing number of HOAs offer their members the ability to pay assessments electronically, and management firms also increasingly offer electronic bill paying for HOA boards. This can create some reduction in control of the HOA finances since the day of the two-signature checks for normal bill-paying seems to be passing. A careful review of the monthly financial disclosures required by Civil Code Section 5500 can help protect the HOA.

Hybrid virtual meetings: Bans on in-person meetings ended almost 2 years ago and fully virtual meetings are not generally allowed, but that doesn’t mean HOAs should completely abandon virtual meeting platforms. Does your HOA allow members to either attend in person or via a virtual platform?

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

Electronic voting: Sadly, HOAs are the only nonprofits in California not permitted to use electronic voting. So, your HOA does not get a reduction in its grade on this point – let’s hope that someday the folks in Sacramento stop being harsh on HOAs in this regard. (I wonder if any Legislators read my column?)

What am I missing? Send in your suggestions of other technological advances HOAs can use.

Kelly G. Richardson, Esq. is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and Partner of Richardson Ober LLP, a California law firm known for community association expertise. Submit column questions to Kelly@roattorneys.com .

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