Governor’s Order May Impact Your Washington HOA Meetings

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes, have impacted most areas of life in a very short time. However, issues still come up and certain types of business still needs to be carried out. How can your homeowners association or condominium owners association (I’ll just use the term “HOA” from this point forward) get things done? Given the “stay home, stay healthy” orders issued by Washington’s Governor Inslee, including social distancing recommendations and prohibitions on group gatherings, you might think it would be impossible to have HOA meetings.

While some more recently established HOAs might have bylaws or other rules allowing voting by email or meetings by Zoom or other video conferencing, the governing documents of many older HOAs don’t even provide for meetings by phone conference or voting by U.S. Mail.  If your HOA doesn’t have provisions for modern means of communication or voting, are you stuck?

That question was answered on April 17 by Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-51, “Community Associations Meetings and Late Fees.”  This proclamation in part provides for an emergency override of certain parts of laws affecting HOAs and nonprofit corporations (most HOAs are incorporated as nonprofit corporations in Washington). The proclamation temporarily strikes sections of RCW Chapters 64.34 (Condominium Act)1, 64.38 (Homeowners Associations)1, 64.90 (Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act)1, and 24.03 (Nonprofit Corporations Act).

Essentially, the affected sections say that voting by mail or electronic means (i.e., email) and/or conducting meetings electronically are allowed if the HOA’s bylaws or other governing documents say so. The proclamation temporarily removes the condition that the bylaws or other governing documents must allow for voting by mail or electronic means and/or conducting meetings electronically.

In other words, while the proclamation is in effect, all HOAs in Washington can hold meetings electronically and conduct voting by mail or electronically. Proclamation 20-51 is currently set to expire on May 17, 2020, but it is likely to be extended through much of 2020. UPDATE 1: By Proclamation 20-51.2, the expiration date has been extended through June 17, 2020.  UPDATE 2: By Proclamation 20-51.3, the expiration date has been extended a second time through July 1, 2020. UPDATE 3: There have been several extensions of Proclamation 20-51 since my last update to this post. On September 2, 2020, Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-51.7, extending the restrictions on late fees and fines through October 1, 2020. Expect further extensions until most of Washington’s population is into Phase 3 or 4 of the reopening plan.

Lucent Law represents HOAs of all types across Washington. If you would like to discuss how this proclamation impacts your HOA, please get in touch with us.

You can download a copy of the proclamation here. The most recent update is here.

1The Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act applies to all new “common interest communities” (i.e., homeowners associations, condominium owners associations, and co-operatives) created after July 1, 2018 and any preexisting HOAs that vote to opt in to application of the act.

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