Ask the HOA Expert: Abstaining From Voting At a Board Of Directors Meeting

Written by Richard Thompson Posted On Thursday, 08 December 2022 00:00

Question: If a board member abstains from voting at a duly called board of directors meeting is this abstention vote an affirmative vote?

Answer: No. The vote is not counted at all. But not voting may have the effect of a negative vote if a certain number of affirmative votes are required to pass a motion.

Question: A unit owner called and said their toilet is overflowing. Is the HOA responsible to clean drain lines that cause back ups?

Answer: It depends where the back up occurs. If the blockage occurs in a line that serves only one unit, it is common for the unit owner to be responsible for the repair. If the blockage occurs in a common line shared by two or more units, the HOA is usually responsible unless the source of blockage can be traced back to a specific unit.

Question: One of our residents has complained of a mold odor within their unit. The board has been investigating dryrot repairs in this building but has not decided on a repair schedule. What should we do?

Answer: If the board is aware of dryrot issues in this building and an unit owner has complained of mold issues, the board should order an air quality inspection immediately. If that inspection indicates dryrot related mold, it might be advisable to relocate the resident to other quarters until the dryrot and related mold is remediated.

Airborne mold in sufficient concentration can be a real health hazard, especially to those that suffer from asthma and other respiratory ailments. Take this issue seriously and proactively. The source of the mold, of course, could be from a source within the unit itself (failure to use kitchen and bathroom ventilation, resident installed humidifiers, etc.). So, the source of the mold dictates the proper course of action.

Question: We have a disgruntled owner (a former board member) who publishes a newsletter following every board meeting filled with what he calls, "The Real Story". His spin is often inaccurate and filled with implications of wrong doing by the board. This behavior has been going on for years and he has cost the HOA thousands of dollars by delayed renovation projects, CPA audits and other expenses incurred to prove the board's innocence. No wrongdoing has every been discovered. But several board members have resigned because of the badgering and it is getting difficult to recruit replacements. Suggestions?

Answer: America is the land of free speech but free speech does not entitle someone to yell "FIRE" in a crowded theater when there is no fire. And just because a member makes claims does not require the board to react to it. To help counteract his misinformation campaign, the board should publish a recap of the meeting shortly after the meeting to tell the real story.

If this person continues to spread lies or defame board members, have the HOA's attorney send him a letter about the consequences for defamation of character which include charging him with legal expenses incurred by the HOA to put a stop to them. Hopefully, he will understand that there could be a high price to pay. The board should, however, be prepared to take legal action if necessary. Some people are slow learners.

Question: Our HOA has been in existence for a couple of years. The main entrance is very unattractive and needs lighting and a sprinkler system. The cost of these improvements would be $5000 and we only have $1000 in reserves What would be the best way to handle this matter?

Answer: The governing documents generally provide the authority the board needs to raise money to care for the common elements by special assessment if necessary. But have you done an Operating Budget that includes insurance, utilities, landscape care and other expenses related to this project? Have you performed a reserve study to deal with the long range cost of the addition? Before moving forward with this, consider the whole expense picture. See Accounting Issues and Reserve Planning at

Question: Our HOA has a entry gate with access control that uses smart cards which cost less than $5 each. The HOA charges $50. The board's justification for the high charge is to discourage multiple cards per resident.

Answer: It does make sense from a security point of view that only residents should have smart cards. If extras were easily and cheaply available, they would likely be handed out to friends and relatives. Since security and access are very important to gated communities, the number of smart cards and who carries them should be strictly controlled. $50 does sounds high for a $5 device but regulating and dispensing them does take someone's time. If someone is being paid to do this and that is their charge, it's justifiable. If done by volunteers, the price should be the HOA's actual cost.

Question: Our board received a complaint about a resident running a business out of their home. They apparently ship a lot of items and the neighbor wants us to do something about it. Should we ban home businesses?

Answer: Banning home businesses is a bad idea since many people do it in a way that has no impact on the neighbors whatsoever. However, controlling how home offices impact the neighbors and the common area is a good idea. The HOA should have guidelines for home offices as they relate to parking, traffic, noise, odors and signs. In other words, control those things that impact the quiet enjoyment of the neighbors or residential character.

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