Finally, some good news! - On April 22, 2020, the Virginia General Assembly adopted amendments to House Bills 29 and 30 proposed by Governor Ralph Northam and expected to be signed by him within a few days. The amendments provide significant and immediate relief from certain technical requirements related to the conduct of Board meetings for community associations throughout Virginia while there is a declared state of emergency. The clear intent of the legislation is to facilitate virtual meetings for community association Board of Directors, which is an issue community association have been grappling with since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home Orders No. 53 and 55.
The legislation notes the following requirements for virtual meetings:
- Associations must give notice of the Board meeting to their members using the best available method (E-mail and posting on the website are likely the appropriate means). This notice must be provided to the members at the same time that the Board is notified of the meeting; and
- Associations must arrange for the members to have access to the Board meeting through electronic means including, to the extent practicable, videoconferencing technology. If possible, you must also provide members with an opportunity to comment during the meeting; and
- The minutes of the meeting must reflect the existence of the State of Emergency , the fact that the meeting was held by electronic communication means, and the type of electronic communication means by which the meeting was held.
- Associations are required to distribute minutes of a meeting to members by the same method used to provide notice of the meeting (e-mail and website posting as suggested above).
Under this legislation, this approach is available if: (1) the nature of the declared emergency makes it impracticable or unsafe for the Board to assemble in a single location; and, (2) the purpose of meeting is to discuss or transact the business statutorily required or necessary to continue operations of the association and the discharge of its lawful purposes, duties, and responsibilities.
This legislation alleviates the need to meet the requirements of both Section 55.1-1816.C of the Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act and Section 55.1-1949.B.4 of the Virginia Condominium Act which require meetings of boards to have a physical presence of at least two (2) Board members at the meeting location and to have audio equipment which allows for any member in attendance to hear what is said.
Again, this approach can only be used while the state of emergency is in effect. Practically speaking, Boards should explore the virtual meeting platforms available and make use of them in the coming months. Zoom, Webex and Google Meets are just a handful of options that can accommodate the needs of open forum and closed session discussions. We recommend that your meeting notices contain clear and user friendly instructions related to the virtual platforms as well. Lastly, we suggest adopting written policies related to the conduct of your virtual meetings, for clarity, consistency, and so that you can easily direct members to your intentions moving forward.
The situation of the coronavirus is changing daily. Please contact one of Rees Broome, PC’s community association attorneys for more specific advice based on your community’s individual needs and concerns.