The Future of Communications

Effective communication is a cornerstone of any successful community association. In order to effectively communicate requires HOA boards to not only deliver clear, transparent and thoughtful messages to the membership, but also to seek and listen to input from the membership to the board. In the digital age, the form, manner and style of communication can be just as important as the content. With that in mind, many boards are moving towards customized communications.

Younger residents typically prefer to receive information digitally and on-demand. Therefore, as the demographics of community associations shift from the baby boomers to the millennials, it will be important for HOA boards to tailor communications accordingly. The most common steps being taken by HOA boards to address this shift in communication style are:

• Communicating via email and text;
• Adopting online voting;
• Establishing an online social media presence; and
• Creating and maintaining community websites, mobile apps and resident portals

Some of the biggest technological advances are being seen in online resident portals, which allow residents to access information related to their account (e.g. view account balances, make payments, etc.); access information and documents related to the association (e.g. governing documents, reserve studies, meeting minutes, etc.); and, communicate with the board and/or management company.

While traditional forms of communication will remain important and relevant, HOA boards cannot afford to ignore the ongoing shift towards digital communications in the future.

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Legislative Update

The Arizona Legislature opened the Fifty-fourth First Regular Session on Monday, January 14, 2019. While our firm has been tracking the proposed bills over the past month, we have noticed a number of proposed bills that would impact community associations, including planned communities and condominiums. While none of these bills have been signed by the governor yet, here are a few of the interesting bills we are following:

SB1480: Applies to both Planned Communities and Condominiums
• This bill has proposed changes to ARS §33-1227 and ARS §33-1817, which apply to the ways that an association can amend its Declaration (CC&Rs).
• Proposed changes to ARS §33-1227 for condominiums:
o The Association could propose an amendment to the Declaration that applies to fewer than all of the Units if:
 -The amendment is deemed to conform to the general design and plan of the community; and
 -The number of unit owners or eligible voters specified in the Declaration or at least 67% of the votes allocated in the association, whichever is greater, vote for or give the written consent to the amendment; and
 -All of the unit owners of units to which the amendment applies vote for or give written consent to the amendment.
o An action to challenge the validity of an amendment is extended from one to four years, unless the amendment involves the creation or collection of a debt pursuant to Section 12-548.
o The following proposed amendments would need unanimous consent of unit owners:
- An amendment that would change the basis for allocating voting rights or assessments among unit owners.
 –An amendment that would change or restrict the uses or occupancy of or the behaviors in any unit.
o An amendment would not need unanimous consent if the amendment was prohibiting or materially restricting the use of an individually owned unit that threatens to harm or unreasonably interfere with the reasonable use and enjoyment of other property in the community.
o Any proposed amendments after the date of this bill would need to also include updates to the Declaration to make the Declaration consistent with the new proposed changes in this bill.

• Proposed changes to ARS §33-1817 for planned communities:
o Adds the requirement that an amendment to the Declaration receive the affirmative vote of at least 67% of the number of owners or eligible votes or any higher percentage that is specified in the Declaration.
o If an amendment is going to do any of the following, the association will need unanimous consent:
 -Create or increase special declarant rights; and
 -Change the basis for allocating voting rights or assessments among community members; and
 -Prohibit or restrict the uses or occupancy of or behaviors in any property.
 –
However, an amendment can prohibit or materially restrict the use of individually owned property that threatens to harm or unreasonable interfere with the reasonable use and enjoyment of other property in the community, without unanimous consent.
o An action to challenge the validity of an amendment needs to be brought within four years, unless the amendment involves the creation or collection of a debt pursuant to section 12-548.


SB1531: Applies to both Planned Communities and Condominiums
o This bill extends the length of time to enforce a lien for unpaid assessments from three years to six years.
o This bill proposes the order in which an owner’s payment should be applied: “[i]n the order the debt was accrued, to any unpaid assessments, unpaid charges for late payment of those assessments, unpaid reasonable collection fees and unpaid attorney fees and costs incurred with respect to those assessments and unpaid interest on any of those account. Any remaining amounts shall be applied, in the order the debt was accrued, to other unpaid fees, charges and monetary penalties or interest and late charges on any of those amounts.”
o For a delinquent account for unpaid assessments or charges related to unpaid assessments, the Association shall provide the following written notice to the unit owner at the owner’s last known address at least fifteen days before authorizing an attorney for the association to begin a collection action:
-YOUR ACCOUNT IS DELINQUENT. IF YOU DO NOT BRING YOUR ACCOUNT CURRENT OR MAKE ARRANGEMENTS THAT ARE APPROVED BY THE ASSOCIATION TO BRING YOUR ACCOUNT CURRENT WITHIN FIFTEEN DAYS AFTER THE DATE OF THIS NOTICE, YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE TURNED OVER TO THE ASSOCIATION’S ATTORNEY FOR FURTHER COLLECTION PROCEEDINGS. SUCH COLLECTION PROCEEDINGS COULD INCLUDE BRINGING A FORECLOSURE ACTION AGAINST YOUR PROPERTY.
o The notice shall be in boldfaced type or all capital letters and shall include the contact information for the person that the unit owner may contact to discuss payment. The notice may be included within other correspondence sent to the unit owner regarding the unit owner’s delinquent account.
o Except for a Planned Community or Condominium has less than fifty lots/units and does not contract with a third party for management services on behalf of the Association,  the Association shall provide a statement of account in lieu of a periodic payment book to the member with the same frequency that assessments are provided for in the declaration. The statement of account shall include the current balance due and immediately preceding ledger history. The Association may not provide any further statements to a member if a civil action is filed regarding that member’s unpaid account.
o An agent for the Association may collect on behalf of the Association directly from a member the assessments and other amounts owed by cash or check, or credit, charge or debit card or by other electronic means. The agent may charge a convenience fee to the member that is approximately the amount charged to the agent by a third-party service provider.


HB2374: Applies to Planned Communities
• The proposed changes to this bill are to ARS §33-1801 and ARS §33-1802, which provide which planned communities in Arizona are subject to the Arizona Planned Communities Act and provide the definitions of both “Association” and “Planned Community.”
• The first proposed change to ARS §33-1801 is that the Arizona Planned Communities Act would only apply to planned communities and other associations that were incorporated or organized after 1973. This means that any planned communities or associations that were incorporated prior to 1973 would not be subject to the laws within the Arizona Planned Communities Act.
• Further, there is an additional change to the definition of “Association,” whereby an organization that is created for the sole purpose of supporting recreational activities in a real estate development would not be included.
• Finally, the definition of “Planned Community” has proposed changes whereby in order to be a Planned Community the Declaration has to expressly state that both, owners are mandatory members and that owners are required to pay assessments to the association.

Stay tuned on our firm’s website for additional updates throughout this legislative session: http://www.mulcahylawfirm.com/home.php.
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RESPONDING TO A RECORDS REQUEST

Your Board, or management company, received a records request from a member – what should you do next?  First, it is important to keep in mind that Arizona law requires Planned Communities (A.R.S. Section 33-1805) and Condominiums (A.R.S. Section 33-1258) to make all financial and other records of the association reasonably available for examination by a member or a member’s designated representative. As such, if you receive a records request, you have a statutory duty to respond.
Second, please be advised that Arizona law provides ten (10) business days to fulfill a records request. As such, you should act promptly and be mindful of the deadline. If, due to the volume of the request or for any other reason, you feel that you will not be able to comply with the deadline, it is important to immediately notify the member that additional time may be needed.
Third, please note that members have the option to examine the records in-person and/or request copies of the records. If the member requests copies of the records, the association can charge the member a maximum of fifteen cents ($0.15) per page. Other than copy charges, the association shall not charge a member for making records available for examination.
Finally, please be aware that the following categories of records may be withheld from disclosure:
1. Privileged communication between an attorney for the association and the association.
2. Pending litigation.
3. Meeting minutes or other records of a session of a board meeting that is not required to be open to all members pursuant to section 33-1804/33-1248.
4. Personal, health or financial records of an individual member of the association, an individual employee of the association or an individual employee of a contractor for the association, including records of the association directly related to the personal, health or financial information about an individual member of the association, an individual employee of the association or an individual employee of a contractor for the association.
5. Records relating to the job performance of, compensation of, health records of or specific complaints against an individual employee of the association or an individual employee of a contractor of the association who works under the direction of the association.

If you are uncertain of whether a particular record can be withheld from disclosure, or if you have any other questions related to records requests, please contact Mulcahy Law
Firm, P.C. for assistance.

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Human Trafficking Prevention Month

January is human trafficking prevention month, and both Governor Ducey and Cindy McCain are striving to raise awareness on the issue. During a press conference on January 17, 2019, Governor Ducey and McCain explained the importance of Arizonans being aware of human trafficking warning signs and becoming educated on prevention and awareness. Governor Ducey has been appointed to the National Advisory Council on Human Trafficking1 and the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University has partnered with the Arizona State University Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research in a project named, Project STARFISH (Sex Trafficking Awareness for Individual Strength and Hope). STARFISH offers a free curriculum for school educators to learn about prevention of human trafficking and how to respond to a human trafficking incident.2

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (“TVPA”) provides that human trafficking includes both sex trafficking and labor trafficking.3 Sex trafficking is defined as, “recruiting, harboring, transporting, provision or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.”4 Labor trafficking is defined as, “recruiting, harboring, transporting, provision or obtaining of a person for the purpose of labor or services.”5

According to McCain and Governor Ducey, approximately 31,000 Arizonans have been trained to detect and report human trafficking. These persons include school educators, law enforcement, nurses, and prosecutors.6 However, it is important to continue raise awareness so that all persons are knowledgeable about warning signs. Warning signs may include: “a young person with an older, non-related adult; provocative clothing for the victim’s age or they are inadequately dressed for the situation; bruises, fear, overly submissive or other signs of abuse; and watched over or controlled by others.”7

The website for the Office of Governor Doug Ducey provides that while anyone can be a victim of human trafficking, there are more vulnerable groups, including, homeless youth, unaccompanied minors, runaway young, and persons displaced during natural disasters.8 Common recruiting locations include, but are not limited to, schools, malls, foster and group homes, bus stops, online sites, and restaurants and bars.9

If you see something you should call the police immediately. There are also tip-lines that you may call: (602) 454-2771 or 1 (888) 373-7888 (National Human Trafficking Hotline). The following websites also have additional information and resources: http://endsextrafficking.az.gov/; https://www.phoenix.gov/district2/human-trafficking.

1 KVOA News, Arizona Human Trafficking Prevention Efforts Lead Way for Nation, https://kvoa.com/news/local-news/2019/01/17/arizona-human-trafficking-prevention-efforts-lead-way-for-nation/ (January 22, 2019).
2 Project Starfish, https://www.mccaininstitute.org/project-starfish/ (January 22, 2019).
3 Office of the Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family, http://endsextrafficking.az.gov/ (January 22, 2019).
4 Office of the Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family, http://endsextrafficking.az.gov/ (January 22, 2019).
5 Office of the Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family, http://endsextrafficking.az.gov/ (January 22, 2019).
6 KVOA News, Arizona Human Trafficking Prevention Efforts Lead Way for Nation, https://kvoa.com/news/local-news/2019/01/17/arizona-human-trafficking-prevention-efforts-lead-way-for-nation/ (January 22, 2019).
7 Arizona Human Trafficking Council, endsextrafficking.az.gov (January 22, 2019).
8 Office of the Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family, http://endsextrafficking.az.gov/ (January 22, 2019).
but are not limited to, schools, malls, foster and group homes, bus stops, online sites, and restaurants and bars.9
If you see something you should call the police immediately. There are also tip-lines that you may call: (602) 454-2771 or 1 (888) 373-7888 (National Human Trafficking Hotline). The following websites also have additional information and resources: http://endsextrafficking.az.gov/; https://www.phoenix.gov/district2/human-trafficking.
9 Office of the Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family, http://endsextrafficking.az.gov/ (January 22, 2019).

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What if there is an inconsistency between my Association’s governing documents?

Most community associations have a number of legal documents that govern the use of the property within the association. The documents may include, but are not limited to: the Plat, the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), the Bylaws, the Rules and Regulations, Architectural Guidelines, and the Articles of Incorporation. In addition to being governed by all of these documents, community associations are also subject to federal and state laws, including, but not limited to: the Condominium Act, the Planned Communities Act, the Non-Profit Corporation Act, and the Fair Housing Act.

What should your association do if there are inconsistencies between your governing documents or inconsistencies between your governing documents and relevant state and federal laws?

First, it is important to recognize the hierarchy of legal documents. If there is an inconsistency between the various documents in your community, keep in mind this hierarchy, where the document earlier in the hierarchy prevails or trumps the other document.

1. Plat
2. CC&Rs
3. Articles of Incorporation
4. Bylaws
5. Rules and Regulations and Architectural Guidelines

Second, the association may consider amending its documents to be consistent with each other and to be consistent with state and federal law. Many association’s CC&Rs are outdated and in need of updating. If your association is going to move forward with the amendment process, determine what is required to amend the documents. There should be a provision in each document that outlines the proper procedure to amend the CC&Rs, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws and Rules and Regulations. Most of the documents require approval by a specific percentage of the membership. However, many times the Board is authorized to amend the Rules and Regulations on its own by a majority vote.

Third, the association should keep in mind that most times the federal law will trump any state statute and the provisions in the association’s governing documents. Sometimes the state statutes trump the association’s governing documents, and sometimes the state statutes defer to the association’s governing documents to control.

If your association has any questions about which document or law applies in the event of an inconsistency, the Board should consider consulting an attorney to determine which provision prevails. Further, the association should consult an attorney to assist with determining what is required to amend the documents. For more information on amending association documents, please refer to our firm’s cheat sheet titled, “Amending Association Documents & Implementing Rental Restrictions.”

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Help! We have a tenant in our association who is not following the association’s rules. What are our legal remedies?

In my opinion, the best way to get a tenant to comply with the association’s documents is to aggressively pursue the owner for the tenant’s violations. Most association documents state that a landlord/owner is responsible for the behavior of their tenants and guests. Once the landlord/owner figures out that the tenant is starting to cost the landlord/owner more money than the tenant is paying, the landlord/owner will likely evict or ask the tenant to leave the property.

I suggest the following actions by a board in this situation:
1. Step One: Send a Courtesy Violation letter to Owner. When a violation occurs, the board of directors or management company should send a courtesy violation letter and/or posts a notice on the property regarding the violation. The letter should contain the owner’s name, lot/unit number, the provision of the association’s documents that has allegedly been violated, the first and last name of the person who noted the violation, the date that the violation was observed, and information regarding the right to appeal or be heard. The association should also include the following statement on the notice: “You have the option to petition for an administrative hearing on this matter in the Arizona Department of Real Estate pursuant to A.R.S. 32-2199.01 (this was formerly handled by the Department of Fire, Building and Life Safety).” Contact information for the management company or association contact should also be included. This letter, in most cases, results in the owner addressing the problem immediately.
2. Step 2: Send a Formal Violation letter to Owner. If the violation is not corrected by the compliance date requested, the next step is for the board, management company, or association attorney to send a formal violation letter stating the fines that could be assessed against the owner if the violation is not corrected. This letter should also contain the dates of first and last inspection and the new compliance date. At this time the owner is again notified of his/her right for the opportunity to be heard (response letter form or appearance by the owner at a board meeting), and given contact information should the owner choose to be heard (refute the violation) at the next board of directors meeting.
3. Step 3: Fine the Owner. Under Arizona Law, after notice (the violation letter) and an opportunity to be heard, an association or board of directors may impose reasonable monetary penalties on members for violations of the association’s declaration. Prior to levying a fine, the association should also make sure it has adopted a fine policy. (If your association needs to adopt a fine policy, check out a sample on my firm’s website). Associations can enforce payment of these fines by: a. Filing a lawsuit against the owner; b. Obtaining a judgment against the owner; and c. Recording the judgment with the county recorder’s office. After the judgment is recorded, the association will have a judgment lien that is effective upon conveyance (or paid at the time of the sale of the lot/unit). In addition, associations may proceed with collection of the judgment through traditional collection means, such as bank, wage or rent garnishment.
4. Step 4: Consider Litigation. Litigation may be the only alternative for an association to correct a violation. An association has the right to file an equitable claim for relief with Superior Court. In most cases, the judge will order that the violating owner cease from taking action or require the owner to take action. Often, if the association prevails in the lawsuit, the association will be awarded its reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs for the lawsuit.
5. Step 5: Consider Self-help. The association should consider whether self-help is an option. I only advise associations to pursue self-help if the CC&Rs grant the association the authority to remedy the violation on its own. The association should provide the owner with notice of when the self-help will take place if the violation is not cured by a specific date. I advise providing a specific date and time, and also posting the notice to the door, to ensure that the owner and/or tenant are not surprised.

Good luck! Please let our firm know if we can assist you with this process.

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FHA REQUESTS FOR REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS AND MODIFICATIONS

The Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) prohibits a community association from discriminating against a person in providing services or facilities in connection with a sale or rental because of disability.  Prohibited discrimination includes (1) a refusal to make reasonable accommodations; and (2) a refusal to permit reasonable modifications.  In a community association context, a common example of a request for a reasonable accommodation is a request to keep an emotional support animal despite the fact that the association has a no-pet policy. A common example of a request for a reasonable modification is a request to install a wheelchair ramp, which may otherwise violate an architectural control restriction.

If a resident within your community makes a request for a reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification, what should you do?

The first step is to identify any request that may fall under the FHA. It is important to note that requests can be made verbally or in writing, and the applicant making the request is not required to use the words “reasonable accommodation” or “reasonable modification”.  As such, it is important for board members and community managers to familiarize themselves with the FHA so that they can be aware when Fair Housing laws may be triggered (which is not always obvious).

If you identify a request that you feel may fall under the FHA, the second step is to immediately contact your community association lawyer. Due to the nuances of Fair Housing laws, having competent legal advice is vital.  Once a request for a reasonable accommodation/modification is submitted, the community association has an obligation to engage in an “interactive process.”

Qualification for a reasonable accommodation/modification is a three-pronged test:

  • Does the applicant have a verifiable disability?
  • Does the request qualify as a Reasonable Accommodation or Reasonable Modification?
  • Is there a nexus between the disability and the Reasonable Accommodation or Reasonable Modification?

Engaging in the interactive process includes promptly opening a dialogue with the applicant to determine whether the three-pronged test has been met. In the circumstance that the applicant has satisfied (1) above and shown a verifiable disability, but the association does not feel that the applicant has satisfied (2) above for any reason, the interactive process also requires that the association and applicant discuss possible alternative accommodations or modifications.

DO

  • Take any request that could implicate the FHA very seriously
  • Contact your community association lawyer ASAP
  • Respond promptly to the applicant and engage in the interactive process

DON’T

  • Ignore or unreasonably delay responding to any request that could implicate the FHA
  • Flatly deny the request, without engaging in the interactive process
  • Act in any manner or fashion that could be deemed hostile or discriminatory against the applicant submitting the request

While the above-described process may seem onerous, and the reality that certain applicants will abuse the law may seem frustrating, it is important to keep in mind that the intent of the Fair Housing laws is to ensure that disabled individuals avoid discrimination and are afforded equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling.

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HOLIDAY LIGHTS/DECORATIONS

The Holiday season has officially arrived! Adopting a Holiday Lights/Decorations policy can be a great way to encourage the community to embrace the spirit of the Holidays, while also regulating lights and decorations to ensure consistency and equal treatment amongst the membership.

The following are several suggestions for your community’s Holiday Lights/Decorations Policy:

• Avoid a total ban on holiday decorations – most courts will consider a ban unreasonable;
• Ensure that any holiday related rules are applied equally to all residents within the community;
• Survey the community or hold a public meeting to obtain resident’s opinions about decorations before enacting restrictions;
• Set specific time limits for decorations and holiday lighting (for example, after Thanksgiving to January 8);
• To avoid a risk of fire, ask residents to avoid overloading electrical circuits with holiday lighting;
• Remind residents that electrical cords are dangerous and require that owners place the cords out of the reach of children;
• Require that lights be rated for outdoor use with no exposed wiring;
• Set specific hours that lights and music can be turned on and off (by a certain hour every night, for example 10 p.m.), provide a maximum brightness for lights, and provide a maximum decibel level for the music;
• Remind residents of the decorating policy and safety requirements in the association’s newsletter, web site and bulletin board;
• Form a committee to decorate the common areas (if necessary, residents can donate lights and decorations);
• Sponsor a holiday decorating contest to build community spirit and offer donated prizes and/or recognition in a news -letter or web site to the winner; and
• Create a policy on “Haunted Houses” or other holiday related events in homes which are open to the public.

Implementation and enforcement of an adopted policy will ensure that your community enjoys the Holidays in a safe and responsible manner. Happy Holidays!

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‘Tis the Season to Start Thinking About Annual Meetings!

At this time of year, just around the holidays, questions regarding annual meetings fill our “First Friday” phone lines. Yes, your Board must conduct an Annual Meeting! Under Arizona law, A.R.S. Section 33-1804(B) and 33-1248(B) an association must conduct an annual meeting of its membership at least once a year. An annual meeting requires planning and execution to make it successful. Set forth below are some tips to help your association conduct a “flawless” annual meeting.

  1. Check the governing documents for any special annual meeting and voting requirements (such as secret ballot) and plan accordingly. Typically, an association’s bylaws will set forth the requirements of an annual meeting including the plate, quorum and voting.
  2. Set up an efficient registration system prior to the members arrival. Set up an appropriate number of registration tables and make signs that assign a portion of the alphabet to each table (for example, A-H, IO, P-Z). A registrar should be assigned to each table and the member rosters should be divided according to the tables so that the registrars will only work with those names that are in their section of the alphabet.
  3. Have an accurate roster of owners. Under Arizona law, an association has a duty to keep an accurate roster of owners and their current addresses. This membership list should be updated and complete for the annual meeting.
  4. Bring a laptop with internet access to provide the most up-to-date ownership information when members are registering and questions arise. The Maricopa County Assessor’s Office website will help you tremendously.
  5. Publicize and conduct sign-in and a “social time” 30 to 60 minutes prior to the start of the meeting and request that owners come early to sign in.
  6. Have a greeter at the door to welcome and direct members.
  7. Have association governing documents available (so that questions can be accurately answered).
  8. Appoint a troubleshooter. There will always be unexpected events during registration at an annual meeting. Therefore, a troubleshooter (with no other responsibilities) should be designated by the board to handle anything out of the ordinary (such as questions about ownership, right to vote and delinquent owners).
  9. Provide ample sign-in materials. Determine what registration materials are needed (roster, sign-in sheets, handouts, pens, pencils and ballots), how many copies are required and prepare them in advance.
  10. Have a plan to distribute materials in an orderly fashion. Assign a person to distribute materials at check-in. If you have several things to hand out, creating a packet of materials that can easily be handed to people as they check in assures that each person gets all the necessary materials.
  11. The board should appoint several independent “inspectors of election” to oversee the voting and elections. Their duties are to tabulate and record the votes on the formal tally sheets created for the expressed purpose of capturing the votes. At least one of the inspectors should be from the opposing side if there are factions at the annual meeting. However, no one should be an inspector who may have an interest in the election results (such as candidates, candidate’s spouses, current officers, directors or the management company). Count ballots with one group of inspectors and re-count, if necessary, with a different group. If the association’s attorney is present, the attorney also helps oversee this process.
  12. The association must first obtain a quorum (a minimum number of owners present in person or by mail in/absentee ballot) to lawfully conduct business at an annual meeting. The number of members needed to constitute a quorum is almost always indicated in the association bylaws. Arizona law provides a default quorum of ten percent if the association’s documents are silent regarding a quorum.
  13. Look at your governing documents prior to the annual meeting for guidance regarding whether nominations from the floor are allowed at an annual meeting.
  14. The president should:
  • Start the annual meeting promptly at the designated time
  • Conduct the meeting by following the agenda
  • Act in a business-like manner
  • Use parliamentary procedure to ensure that the meeting moves along quickly
  • Consider a homeowner’s forum at the end of the meeting or when the ballots are being counted by the inspectors of election. This allows time for homeowners to comment on aspects of association life. Limit homeowner comment time to 1-3 minutes per owner depending on the number in attendance. You can ask those wanting to speak to sign in to determine how much time will be needed for the forum.

To learn more about annual meetings review our Mulcahy Community Association Cheat Sheet, How to Conduct a Successful Annual Meeting.

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How to Effectively Deal with a Bully in a Community Association

Most Members in an Association understand that rules and social decorum dictate how they are to interact with Board members, Association employees, and other members. However, there are a small percentage of people that do not abide by rules and social decorum and they are always looking for a fight. These people need to be dealt with differently than usual bullies because they are simply looking to create an altercation and they will not respond to a positive approach to their “problem.”

  • The bullies discussed in this handout are more difficult than bullies who are periodic “gadflies.” These bullies are people who always respond negatively, even when a board member or manager interacts with them positively and politely.
  • Board members and managers need to respond to these bullies with strength. These kinds of bullies will not respond to common reasoning.
  • When a bully creates an issue, the situation needs to be addressed as soon as possible. The bully needs to be informed, expressly or impliedly, that their behavior will not be tolerated and they will not be rewarded for making the Board’s/manager’s life difficult.
  • Try to be clear and concise when defusing a situation with a bully. Clarity will give you more confidence in your/the Board’s position and it will make it harder for the bully to prolong the confrontation.
  • One way to deal with a bully is to call them out on their behavior. Tell them that you know they are purposefully trying to escalate a situation. They may be shocked that you have actually called their bluff.
  • Make sure that you and the Board enforce reasonable boundaries. Bullies love to push and invade boundaries so make sure that you clearly inform the bully of the boundaries established and make sure that they are strictly enforced. Example: Announce rules for meeting etiquette at the beginning of an annual or board meeting so the bully can’t claim ignorance of the rules.
  • Be as calm as possible while still being forceful. A bully is looking to get a dramatic reaction when they create confrontation. Take a breath and try to remain level-headed; this will give you the upper hand in the exchange.
  • Try to make sure that you always interact with the bully around other people. Being around others may force the bully to tone down their behavior.
  • Remember that if you feel that the bully may get physical or is placing you in a dangerous situation you need to remove yourself and others from the situation and call the police if necessary.
  • If you feel that the bully is going to continue to present a physical threat avoid any conversations in person and have a security guard or police officer present at future meetings.
  • Remember that it is okay to adjourn a meeting if the bully is taking over the meeting and won’t let the Board proceed with other business.
  • Stay positive! Usually an Association only has one bully. Don’t let that bully dampen your outlook on serving the Association. The homeowners appreciate what the Board and managers do for them!

If your association has questions, please contact Mulcahy Law Firm, P.C. at 602.241.1093 to have an attorney assist you.

 

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