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Unit Owner Voting Rights

Many decisions of a COA or HOA association require a unit owner vote, depending on state statutes and regulations.

For example, in Florida, unit owner votes are required for the following:
• Elect directors by ballot
• Cancel certain contracts
• Amend the Declarations
• Adopt a substitute budget
• Amend the Articles of Incorporation or Bylaws (unless such documents state otherwise)
• Waive or reduce reserves
• Use reserves for other purposes
• Recall board members
• Materially alter or substantially add to the association property
• Waive financial reporting
• Extend a developer guarantee

While it’s usually best for owners to attend meetings in person, owners are also permitted to vote in board elections and other matters by proxy or absentee ballot. Proxies are written statements by the COA or HOA owner authorizing another person (the proxy holder) to vote for them.

A general proxy allows the proxy holder to vote how they see fit on matters undertaken at an Association owner meeting. It gives the proxy holder complete discretion to vote any way they wish.

In contrast, a limited or specific proxy lists the specific issues that a proxy holder may cast a vote and instructs the proxy holder on how to vote on those issues. Limited proxies are usually used for votes taken to waive or reduce reserves; votes to waive financial statement requirements; amend the declaration, articles of incorporation or bylaws; and for any other matter when a unit owners vote is required.

A proxy form may grant a proxy holder both general and limited powers using a hybrid format where the proxy is general in nature, but also provides specific directions to the proxy holder. Both limited and general proxies can be used to establish a quorum.

Proxies are a valuable part of the voting process. Association boards need to be aware of the legal implications that can arise when proxies aren’t handled properly, or abuse that subverts the electoral process.

Boards can use proxies to fulfill the quorum requirement at the annual shareholders meeting or any special meetings. Typically, statutory laws and association by-laws don’t allow official business (including board elections) to be conducted without the presence of a quorum. A quorum is defined as the majority of owners, either in person or represented by proxy.

To help obtain a quorum many boards remind owners in writing before any meetings to either attend or to send in their proxies. This way, if the owner is unable to attend, they can still be counted toward the quorum.

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