Echo Journal – March 2023

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Meetings are the primary mechanism to conduct HOA business

HOA BOARD MEMBERS & HOMEOWNERS
2023
& PREPARING FOR EFFECTIVE MEETINGS
SERVING
MARCH
PLANNING
US AT AN IN-PERSON EVENT
PAGE
to
with us! PAGE 5 ECHO’S 50th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRAtION
on 50 Years of Education, Advocacy & Connection
PAGE 20 JOIN
Members are getting together to learn and connect
12 You’re invited
celebrate
Reflecting
www.HeritageBankofCommerce.bank • Treasury Services • Web-Based Payment Portal • Integration Services • Operating and Reserve Accounts • Local Lockbox Processing • HOA Loans • Placement Services for Excess Reserves Your HOA Banking Specialist Supporting Member of Give us a call today 844.489.0999 A Dedicated HOA Department Here For You Member FDIC Equal Housing Lender Equal Housing Lender Equal Housing Lender

MISSION STATEMENT

Echo 5669 Snell Ave., #249 San Jose, CA 95123 408.297.3246 | info@echo-ca.org www.echo-ca.org

BOARD OF DIRECTORS & OFFICERS

PRESIDENT

Adam Haney

VICE PRESIDENT

Sandra Long

TREASURER

Karl Lofthouse

SECRETARY

Mark T. Guithues, Esq.

DIRECTORS

Jerry L. Bowles

Brian Campisi

Rolf Crocker

Sarah Dunia

J. Spencer Edgett, Esq.

John Gill, Esq.

David Hughes

David Levy, CPA

Kelly Zibell

HOA Education On Demand!

Get more from your Echo membership

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

David Zepponi dzepponi@echo-ca.org

OPERATIONS MANAGER

Connor Zepponi connor@echo-ca.org

MEMBERSHIP & SALES MANAGER

Jacqueline Price jprice@echo-ca.org

PUBLICATION EXPEDITOR

Pam Grove pgrove@echo-ca.org

The Echo Journal is published quarterly by the Executive Council of Homeowners (Echo). The views of authors expressed in the articles herein do not necessarily reflect the views of Echo. We assume no responsibility for the statements and opinions advanced by the contributors to the magazine. It is released with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

Acceptance of advertising does not constitute any endorsement or recommendation, expressed or implied, of the advertiser or any goods or services offered. We reserve the right to reject any advertising copy or image.

© 2023 Executive Council of Homeowners (Echo) All rights reserved. Reproduction except by written permission of Echo is prohibited.

Echo member information is never released to any outside individual or organization, unless agreed to by the member.

Fostering a better quality of life in community associations through education, advocacy and networking. For

Echo Members have exclusive access to our entire library of HOA-focused educational programming including Community Conversations, Educational Seminars, Workshops, Ask the Attorneys and Ask the Experts. There’s also limited free content available to HOA homeowners and board members.

The presentations listed below are free to HOA homeowners and board members. Click a title to watch!

Educational Seminar: 2021-2022 Legislative Session in Review

Ask the Experts: Solar & Electric Vehicle Charging Fundamentals

Community Conversation: HOA Elections & Understanding the Role of an Inspector of Elections

Community Conversation: Dealing with Homeowner Apathy

Community Conversation: HOA Taxes and Other Accounting Conversations

Community Conversation: The Rulemaking Process, Investigations, Hearings & Enforcement

Legal Resource Panel: Case Law Update – July 2022

Ask the Experts About Insurance – June 2022

ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 3
more information visit www.echo-ca.org
to Visit the Echo YouTube Channel
Click

8 Echo Roots: An Historic View

14 Mental Health Challenges in a Post-COVID World

20 Planning and Preparing for Effective Meetings

28 Community Management: High Tech or High Touch?

5

4 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal Features
Echo’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, May 5 6 CEO’s Message: Frightening 2023 Megatrends Shift HOA Business Reality
12 Attend an Echo In-Person Event! 18 Thank You to Our 2022 Sponsors and Advertisers 25 June 7 Echo Professional Services Panel Meeting 26 Echo Event Highlights 31 Legislation Tracker 2023–2024 32 Welcome to Echo’s New Professional Service Providers 36 April 20 Community Conversations: Fiduciary Duty and the HOA as a Separate Entity 36
13 Echo Workshop: Board Governance
May
Happenings 20 8 14
ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 5 May 5, 2023 | 4:00 pm - 7:30 pm Pinstripes Bistro 36 Hillsdale Mall Drive | San Mateo, CA Echo’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Join the Echo family and celebrate its 50th anniversary with food, games, and great conversation. • Win amazing raffle prizes. • Cheer on the recipients of the Echo Volunteer Awards • Recognize the installment of Echo’s first Benefactor Member, Don Haney! Come celebrate our 50-year history of HOA education, advocacy, and connection! You’re Invited! Register Here! https://tinyurl.com/Echo50th

Raison d’Etre – The Reason for

What a beautiful phrase, raison d’etre (reason for being). It every board member should consider and collectively agree.

Frightening 2023 Megatrends Shift HOA Business Reality

Fifty years ago, the Executive Council of Home Owners was founded to organize the industry and help establish a set of laws that govern its growth and bring together homeowners, boards, and industry professionals. Its mission was to foster a better quality of life in communities managed by homeowners associations. It successfully advocated for a legal framework in Sacramento allowing communities to empower homeowners to self-manage the common areas of their communities and to ensure a safe and enjoyable place to live, respectful of individual homeowner interests and shared community values.

2023 HOA Megatrends

• Systemic Inflation

• Chronic Labor Shortages

• Community Mental Health Awareness

community conduct.

The phrase engenders humanity. The words roll from one’s stark business senses and adds the element of humanity to a board: Strategic planning, execution and evaluation; mission management. The business realities should be reflective of common values of individuals in the community. Communities are imperfect – because they are made of humans. relating. Humans using. Human living. Basically, humans being being human, communities sometimes forget that management establish norms for a successful community. In a sense, the the community. Its purpose is to establish order and elevate progress and pace by establishing norms and constraints to benefit all.

California has more than 54,000 HOAs with approximately 14.7 million unique residents living in them. It is extremely challenging for boards to manage these HOAs, especially given the rapidly changing business and legal environment in which they serve. The constant barrage of new laws and judicial decisions makes the practical role of being a board director ever more challenging and complex.

It seems apparent that board leadership must understand owners in order to orchestrate a sense of community and generate and protect community values. The purpose of a board, therefore, build community based on common values for the good of

Today, the vision and values established in the mission of Echo still ring true. For the most part, these values have been incorporated into a legal framework called the Davis-Stirling Act. This act allows homeowners to manage their common interests. And even though there have been many assaults and judicial decisions that have challenged and remodeled the framework, this body of laws has survived as the preeminent framework within which HOA communities exist. In its evolution over the years, the Davis-Stirling Act has protected individual rights and liberties while giving legal weight to the importance of building norms and standards for

It takes time to orchestrate a community. It takes time to know time to listen to the voices and build a vision reflective of community and you will be more effective as a board member and satisfied your reason for being on the board.

ECHO is committed to helping homeowner boards and residents ing and advocacy – this is our “raison d’etre”.

This year marks a new, materially different post-pandemic era with an emerging new reality; 2023 was ushered in with frightening megatrends that are expected to materially disrupt the ability of volunteer boards to successfully manage the business of their communities. And while the Davis-Stirling Act provides some protection for the HOA entity, it is threatened by its own weight of amendments and propensity for rapid change, which is hurting the very communities it was established to protect and preserve. In 2023, the HOA industry is undergoing a fundamental shift. It is time to identify, understand, and manage the change – it’s not going away.

The threads in the articles are indicative

Continued on page 34

6 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal
CEO’S MESSAGE
ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 7

Echo Roots

An Historic View

8 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal

In 1972, a group of intrepid individuals in Northern California representing five homeowners associations recognized that housing industry growth was about to rapidly explode with communityled subdivisions. These homeowners association developments were loosely organized, and the state and residents were not prepared to deal with the challenges ahead.

In recognition of this need, a group of leaders met to solve the problems and help organize the industry. Out of their meeting, the team developed a vision for creating an association of homeowners to tackle the rapidly emerging challenges before them. Here is a remembrance of those early

Continued on page 10

ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 9

Continued from page 9

meetings from a past Echo board president, Tsuki Morgan, as told in her opening remarks at the Echo 20th Annual Seminar (edited for brevity):

“Meetings were held in a cramped, stifling hot little room at 1666 The Alameda. Around the paper-strewn oversized table were some of the greatest common interest subdivision consumer advocates in the state of California. Doug Christison, Phil Decker, Fred Gund, and Al Wilson were starting to create the rules by which condominium rights games would be played. Bylaws were drafted and committees were set up. Membership goals were established.

From this little room the concept crystallized that Echo was established to protect the common interest subdivision homeowners and their boards of directors. To achieve this goal, Echo decided to educate the boards of directors and to write, or help write, ordinances that would benefit homeowners. Outlines on the basic subjects to be covered at seminars and in the newsletters were worked upon until everyone sort of agreed.”

This resourceful group canvassed homeowners

associations across the greater Bay Area to generate support for and solicit membership in this foundling association. As a result of their efforts, on June 11, 1973, the Executive Council of Home Owners was incorporated in the State of California to officially begin their mission of providing a forum for the exchange of ideas between homeowners associations, and for the growth, education, and development of boards of directors and officers of all common interest developments. The first Echo Newsletter (later

the award-worthy Echo Journal) was published in May of 1974, and it has been in continuous publication since then.

It quickly became obvious that there was also a need to develop a network of HOA providers –attorneys, CPAs, contractors, and management companies, among others – people who understood the unique nature of HOAs. These business partners were invited to become a part of Echo. This very quickly transformed into the First Annual Seminar, which came to be known as the Echo Expo. It was not only the first, but in the early days it was the only HOA-centric event held in California. Thus, the industry was born, and the Expo became not only a place for vendors and other resource providers to confer and showcase their offerings, but also a place for board members and homeowners to learn. Thus, the board honed the mission of Echo to include education, advocacy, and networking, for the benefit of creating a better quality of life in HOAs.

Realizing that Echo could better serve its membership by developing more specific learning and networking opportunities, the regional and vocational-specific Resource Panels were born in the early 1990s. These Resource Panels continue today, and they provide valuable local resources to our membership, help to develop networking communities, and provide peer-to-peer learning opportunities.

In 2022, Echo HOA member Miguel Sanchez suggested and worked with Echo to establish the only club exclusively for HOA board members. The Echo Board Members Club is where ideas, thoughts, and stories are

10 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal
Echo Roots
Today,
50 years later, the original goal of Echo –to protect the common interest development homeowners and their boards of directors – remains unchanged.

shared peer-to-peer between board members (or former board members) who are or were in the trenches. The online club meetings are moderated by those who understand the nuances of the industry. This sharing has continued to be a valuable part of the new Echo, one focused on boards and engaged homeowners learning together to foster a better quality of life in HOAs.

Echo evolved out of necessity into the primary convener and thought leader of the volunteers in the common interest development world. All this because a few people in the early ’70s saw the explosive future of HOAs in California and cared enough to step up and organize the people most impacted into a formal body of knowledge and into an association solely concerned with

homeowners living in common interest developments.

Today, 50 years later, the original goal of Echo – to protect the common interest development homeowners and their boards of directors – remains unchanged. The membership of Echo has grown to more than 1,200 homeowner association members representing more than 125,000 individual units and 200 business and professional members. Beyond serving its own members, Echo works to strengthen its representation by pursuing working relationships with other common interest development advocacy groups. Echo remains a vital and necessary association whose mission is still relevant. As Tsuki Morgan said over 30 years ago:

“Without Echo, there would have been much less direction

and even less protection for all of the homeowner associations throughout the state of California.”

Those words ring ever truer today. So, on behalf of all Echo members, and for all those who have served and are serving in the association, cheers to the first fifty years – and here’s to the next fifty!

Rolf Crocker is the principal and chief executive officer of OMNI Community Management, a full-service management company that assists HOAs in community association management details such as maintenance, finance, compliance, construction, and technology. Rolf has served the community association industry in a variety of management capacities for more than 30 years. He is continuously involved as an industry speaker, educator, and author.

ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 11 © 2022 First-Citizens Bank & Trust Company. All rights reserved. CIT and the CIT logo are registered trademarks of First-Citizens Bank & Trust Company. MM#11612 Expertise.
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Focus.

Attend an Echo In-Person Event!

To augment our highly popular online events, Echo is bringing back select in-person events in 2023. Don’t miss an opportunity to get the education you need – and the networking and connection you want. Register today!

Educational Seminars

Learn from an acclaimed faculty delivering essential knowledge for HOA boards.

• Ask your questions of on-site attorneys

• Visit with industry experts at exhibit tables

• Meet and connect with board members from neighboring communities

Resource Panel Meetings

Come and reconnect with your peers and attend an upcoming Resource Panel in your region. These events are held in a casual atmosphere to enable homeowners, board members, managers, and other professionals to hear about important topics presented by experts in the HOA industry.

Invite-a-Homeowner Individual members will receive a one-time discounted annual membership rate of $50
NORTH BAY ORGANIZED BY ECHO EAST BAY ORGANIZED BY ECHO bit.ly/centralcoastRP bit.ly/eastbayRP bit.ly/SanDiegoRP bit.ly/winecountryRP bit.ly/northbayRP
($95 without discount) if they are invited by another Echo member!
12 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal
Sign up now for a Resource Panel Meeting near you! SAN DIEGO

Wine Country Resource Panel

Rohnert Park

North Bay Resource Panel

Novato

East Bay Resource Panel

Walnut Creek

50th Anniversary Celebration San Mateo

May 5, 2023

Central Coast Resource Panel

Capitola

Northern California Educational Seminar

Campbell Community Center

June 24, 2023

www.echo-ca.org

Educational Seminar: Legislative Update & Holiday Party

Rossmoor Community Center

Walnut Creek

November 18, 2023

Orange County Resource Panel

Southern California Educational Seminar

Laguna Hills Community Center

October 14, 2023

San Diego Resource Panel

San Diego

ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 13
14 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal

Mental Health Challenges in a Post-COVID World:

Strategies for Fostering Community and Connection

In March 2020, the world collectively experienced the beginning of a global pandemic that forever changed our lives in nearly every respect, including how people live together and how HOAs are managed. The physical and emotional effects of COVID have amplified existing mental health challenges, as well as creating and perpetuating new ones. This article examines some of the consequences of COVID that affect community mental health, including a changing statutory environment and other things that make everyone’s job harder; the effects of prolonged isolation and loss, including a decrease in civility, limited resources, and an alarming increase in violence; and some strategies for rising to these challenges and improving the mental health of our communities.

Post-COVID Changes: Scarcity and Stress

Many people feel that their jobs have gotten harder because of COVID (and not just health care professionals; everyone seems to feel this way) and this feeling is legitimate. Our communities have faced stressors and scarcity of resources in nearly every key area. For example, a rapidly changing statutory environment has forced community managers and directors to react quickly to new rules and requirements, even as the systems in place are resistant to rapid change. After enduring years of emergency orders regarding everything from swimming pools to conduct of meetings, it is a challenge to figure out what rules still apply and what rules need to be changed to reflect the new normal. With the California state

Continued on page 16

ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 15

Mental Health Challenges in a Post-COVID

World

Continued from page 15

of emergency lifted, boards are trying to balance practicality, safety, and statutory compliance to determine whether meetings can be held by Zoom, hybrid, or in person.

Staffing shortages have complicated compliance with new laws. It can be hard to find enough vendors to complete necessary ongoing maintenance projects, as well as comply with statutory balcony inspections and lender-required infrastructure repairs. Managers are finding their workload heavier than ever, as there are fewer people doing the same jobs once carried out by many. Operating in a continually stressful environment leads to breakdowns of communication, procedures, and, ultimately,

There has been a noticeable and significant decrease in civility, including negative interactions between residents and managers and vendors, and outbursts and occasional violence at board meetings. People are sicker, as evidenced by nuisance behavior brought on by mental illness, compromising the quiet enjoyment of people’s homes. There are limited resources to manage all of these challenges, including shortages of mental health professionals to treat people in need of care. PostCOVID, most people seem to be struggling.

Strategies for Improving the Mental Health of Our Communities

The first and most important thing boards and managers can do is turn down the heat. This

community members to follow. Treating a disciplinary hearing as an opportunity to meet and hear what everyone has to say, as opposed to a time to hand out punishment, can result in a better understanding of people’s motivations and needs. Few situations are truly black and white. Actively listening to what people have to say and honoring their experiences can result in greater understanding of one another and also a shared commitment to following the reasonable rules of the community. Using the dispute resolution tools found in the Davis-Stirling Act – primarily IDR (Internal Dispute Resolution, the informal “meet and confer” meetings that are the first step in the process) and ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution, most effectively in the form of mediation) – allows boards to actually resolve the problems presented in a costeffective and efficient manner.

people. Increased incidences of stress leave and resignations due to unpleasant working environments exacerbate the staffing shortages that caused the problem in the first place.

Effects of Prolonged Isolation and Loss

Three years of isolation and profound community loss has affected everyone. It seems that the world has become meaner.

means treating all interactions with residents who are violating community standards and rules as an opportunity to educate, connect, and restore community rather than as an obligation to judge and punish. Softening the language of a violation letter, as opposed to criticizing and condemning someone for what they have done, can lead to a resident understanding a policy and why it is necessary for all

Improving communication is another way to create connection and reduce conflict in the community. Providing members with information about the community and what is happening makes people feel like they belong and have a stake in what happens. Directors also need to lead from the top and treat each other with civility and courtesy. When directors come together and agree to a board code of conduct or civility pledge and then treat each other with respect and collegiality, the members are more likely to treat the board, manager,

16 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal
Providing members with information about the community and what is happening makes people feel like they belong and have a stake in what happens.

and each other with respect as well. This cycle of kindness and cooperation is contagious.

It is important for everyone’s safety and well-being to deescalate situations whenever possible. Situations where people living with mental illness have resorted to violence as a result of their condition or their situation appear to be on the rise. Recent incidents of gun violence against directors, managers, and attorneys have highlighted the danger of ignoring threats of violence. While associations and boards are not responsible for the safety and security of residents, the safety and security of the community is of paramount concern to all. Further, associations have an obligation to protect their employees and managing agents as part of their role as employers. Therefore, when the possibility of violence arises, it is important to act promptly.

Here are steps that should be taken when faced with threats of violence:

• Enlist the help and support of social services agencies and local law enforcement, especially specialized mental health response teams, which are often available to respond to people having a mental health crisis.

• Document incidents to assist with enforcement activities such as violation notices and disciplinary hearings.

• Soften the language of communications and streamline procedures as much as possible to encourage cooperation and collaborative problem solving.

• Do not hesitate to obtain restraining orders as needed so that law enforcement and social services agencies have the authority to step in and help.

• Hold meetings by Zoom if there is any question of safety and security.

Community First

Everyone is coming out of a period of extreme emotional trauma on a global, local, and personal basis. It is more important than ever that we really see each other and care for one another. Mental health challenges are, fortunately, becoming destigmatized, and seeking help for mental illness is no longer seen as a sign of weakness. One way to improve our community’s mental health overall and individually is to

create connection and reduce conflict by valuing connection over being correct, and valuing each other most of all. Using available resources to respond to mental health challenges ultimately makes our communities healthier and stronger.

Bauman Ward, Esq., CCAL, is a partner at the Adams Stirling law firm and manages the firm’s Northern California offices. Her practice consists entirely of counseling HOAs and their managers in all matters related to their communities. When not practicing law, Melissa enjoys traveling, reading, and playing the cello.

ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 17
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PLANNING & PREPARING FOR

Effective Meetings

Ineffective meetings in common interest developments, especially when addressing sensitive topics, can easily devolve into shouting matches, threats, and even news coverage. Fortunately, these meetings are rare. More common is apathy or frustration with how business is conducted, which results in very few homeowners attending association meetings, even when important topics are discussed. Whether the concern is a potentially volatile meeting or disinterest, there are ways to conduct meetings that are productive and beneficial for the community.

Community associations hold an annual membership meeting and board meetings at regular intervals throughout the year to conduct their business. Occasionally, special meetings of the members may be held to conduct a membership vote on matters other than the annual election of directors. California law and community association governing documents impose different requirements for board meetings and membership meetings, so it is important to be clear in the meeting notice and agenda about which type of meeting is being held.

For both board meetings and membership meetings, there are procedures and processes dictated by law and the community association’s governing documents related to notices and how to conduct business; these will be discussed below for each type of meeting. The primary sources of information for conducting meetings are in the association’s bylaws, the Common Interest Development Act beginning at Civil Code § 4900 for board meetings and § 5000 for member meetings, California Corporations Code beginning at § 7211 for board meetings and § 7510 for member meetings for incorporated associations, and California Corporations Code at § 18330 for unincorporated associations.

Beyond these requirements for meetings, there are some practices that can help make meetings more effective. Effective meetings can serve multiple purposes beyond just conducting business. They can

ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 21
Continued
22
Meetings are the primary mechanism for conducting business in common interest developments, so effective meetings are a key element in the health of the community.
on page

Planning and Preparing for Effective Meetings

Continued from page 21 create confidence in the board and a greater sense of community among the members. Ineffective meetings can lead to conflicts between the board members and the members of the community association.

Board Meetings

Board meetings are held for the purpose of conducting board business. The board president presides as the chairperson and is responsible for leading the board members through the agenda items and keeping the discussions focused on those agenda items. Board meetings are required to be open to attendance by the association members unless certain sensitive topics are to be discussed and statute allows for a closed-door conversation.

The first step in keeping board meetings productive and effective is to establish rules of order and decorum. Some of the rules will be different depending on whether one is a

board member or an association member attending the meeting. Board meetings are for the board to conduct board business.

Association members who are not on the board should be limited to observing the meetings, except during the designated association member comment periods.

While some of the rules should probably “go without saying,” they need to be said and should also be written down and read as a reminder to the attendees at the beginning of each meeting. The board may want to have copies of the rules readily available for board members and audience members. For an electronic meeting, the rules could be posted on a slide. These rules of decorum can include a reminder that members who are not on the board may only speak during the homeowner comment period unless specifically addressed by the board, that only one person may speak at a time, that all meeting attendees must refrain from interrupting speakers, and that speakers must stay on the topic of the agenda item being

discussed. The chair of the meeting or another designated board member should enforce these rules so that all attendees maintain trust in the board and know that differing opinions may be presented and will be considered in a respectful, businesslike manner. Healthy associations are those that are open to new ideas and respectfully consider dissenting opinions.

The second step is to set the meeting agenda in advance.

Common interest development board meetings must have an agenda per California Civil Code § 4920. The agenda must be posted with the meeting notice at least four days in advance of the board meeting, except in an emergency. For a meeting held solely in executive session, only two days’ notice is required. These timelines for notice of the meeting may be longer if required by the association’s governing documents.

The agenda can include time limits for each agenda item to keep the meeting moving, but

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Reach out to

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22 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal

flexibility should be allowed as long as the discussion remains productive and on topic. The board can adopt protocols for determining how a decision is made to extend a discussion beyond a designated time period. Options can include approval by a majority of a quorum of the board or approval by any two board members.

The third step is for the chair of the meeting to keep the meeting on topic and maintain the rules of order or decorum. The president usually acts as the chair of the meetings. As a side note, most bylaws define the roles of the board officers and list their duties. The bylaws also usually provide for the delegation of some of these duties to other board members or association management, as well as making provisions for assigning these

duties to another officer in the absence of the assigned officer. It is very common for many of the administerial tasks (such as taking meeting minutes, posting meeting notices and agendas, creating financial documents, and other similar tasks) to be delegated to management representatives, with oversight by the officers and directors.

The chair of the meeting can keep the meeting moving forward by following the agenda and requiring that discussions remain focused on the agenda item being considered. A specific amount of time can be allotted to each agenda item and the time extended only by agreement of a majority of the directors present, to avoid “going in circles” on a topic without reaching a conclusion. If conversations tend to go on for longer than needed

to adequately address agenda items, a motion can be made and approved by a majority of the board to discontinue discussion and call for a vote.

The chair of the meeting should also maintain decorum by ensuring that only one person at a time is speaking, that all speakers stay on the topic under discussion, and that any time limit for a topic is enforced unless extended by the board.

Board meetings are for conducting board business, and often owners/members not on the board will be limited to observing and making comments during one or more designated comment periods. At least one owner comment period is required by law at open session board meetings. The timing of this comment period can be

Continued on page 24

ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 23

Planning and Preparing for Effective Meetings

Continued from page 23

designated by the board. The law does not address any time limits or set out any specific time during the meeting for owner comments.

Most commonly the comment period is at the beginning of the meeting, but some associations choose to allow comments for each agenda item as it arises on the agenda, and other associations only allow comments at the end of the meeting. The disadvantage of only allowing members to comment at the end of the meeting is that it does not allow the members to comment in advance of the board’s consideration of agenda items during the meeting. This seems to defeat one of the primary purposes of the owner comment period – namely, owner input on an agenda item prior to the board considering the item. So a comment period should be allowed before the board conducts its business.

The board may set reasonable time limits for comments by individual owners as well as an overall time limit for owners’ comments. These time limits should be set by the board in advance of meetings and stated on the posted agenda for each meeting so members are informed of the time limits before the meeting. Typically, individual owner comments are limited to two to three minutes and the overall owner comment period to 15 minutes. These time limitations can vary depending on the size of the community and the number of owners who regularly attend board meetings.

The board may decide to extend these time limits for a

particular meeting or topic if they believe that additional time is needed to allow individual owners sufficient opportunity to comment. This most commonly occurs when the board is considering a large project or a significant change in policies or procedures.

The board is not obligated to provide any response to owner comments, but it does promote community goodwill if easily answered questions are addressed and other comments, even negative ones, are acknowledged.

Membership Meetings

Membership meetings are not board meetings and are treated differently in the law than board meetings. Membership meetings are either annual meetings to hold the board election and conduct any other items of business set by the board in the notice and agenda for the meeting, or special meetings to address a specific topic.

Special meetings of the members can be called by the board or by a petition signed by association members. For incorporated associations, Corporations Code § 7510(e) provides that special meetings “for any lawful purpose” may be called by the board, by the board president or chairperson, by other persons specified in the bylaws (which is rare), or by 5 percent or more of the members. Some association bylaws set a higher percentage of the members required to call a special meeting.

Legal counsel for the association should be consulted upon receipt of any member petition to determine if the meeting is properly called and whether the association’s governing

documents may set a higher percentage of the members to call a special meeting than the 5 percent set by § 7510(e) noted above. The minimum requirements for members to call a special meeting for unincorporated associations should be set forth in the governing documents.

Membership meetings are held for the members to conduct business, primarily in the form of voting. The primary business conducted at most membership meetings is the election of directors at an annual membership meeting. Infrequently, special membership meetings are held for other types of votes, such as approval of capital improvement projects and document amendments.

Membership meetings are typically conducted by the board. The opportunity for members to speak at membership meetings is different than the opportunity to speak at board meetings as discussed above. Civil Code § 5000 requires that the board permit any member to speak at any membership meeting and allows the board to set a “reasonable time limit for all members to speak.” Section 5000 specifically references the overall time for members to speak and does not mention any per-person limitation, although a per-person time limit may be set in the meeting procedures. The agenda should include a designated time for homeowners’ comments.

Larger associations often ask members who wish to speak at a membership meeting to complete a form requesting to speak and identifying the agenda item or topic of the member’s comments, so the president or other chair of the meeting can call on those

24 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal

members who wish to speak in an orderly manner by topic. Smaller associations generally allow members to take turns speaking merely by raising their hand and being called on in turn by the chair of the meeting.

Civil Code § 5000 also requires that all membership meetings be conducted using some form of parliamentary procedure to maintain order and allow opinions to be voiced respectfully. This procedure should not be overly complicated and difficult to follow. The board does not need to adopt a one-hundred-page tome on parliamentary procedure. There are simplified forms of parliamentary procedure available that do not require interpretation by a professional parliamentarian. The goal of the procedure is to maintain decorum and ensure fairness to all members wishing to speak. The board should not

censor statements (unless the statements are discriminatory, offensive, or inappropriate) or show favoritism or preferential treatment toward any individual members.

As with owner comments at board meetings, the board is not obligated to provide any response to owner comments, but it does promote community goodwill if easily answered questions are addressed and other comments, even negative ones, are acknowledged.

Conclusion

When association meetings are conducted in an orderly, calm manner, they are much more likely to be productive and create positive relationships in the community than if they are disorganized, unruly, and unproductive. Setting meeting procedures in advance and

consistently enforcing the use of those procedures throughout the meeting will help set a positive tone for the interactions among the board members and association members. This positive tone can greatly benefit the community as a whole and lead to more productive, effective governance of the community.

Susan M. Hawks

McClintic has more than 30 years of experience in community association law and is managing shareholder and a department chair at Epsten. She has developed a special expertise in document interpretation, amendments, and restatements, and she regularly speaks throughout the Community Association industry. Sue graduated from the University of Notre Dame Law School and is an inducted fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL).

Echo Professional Services Panel (PSP)

Echo’s Oldest Running Resource Panel Begins Again!

The panel is open to Echo professional service provider members and meets quarterly, in-person for lunch, learning, and industry networking.

Next Meeting Date:

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

11:30am – 1:00 pm

Heritage Bank of Commerce

San Jose

Under renewed direction, the panel is looking to grow. Echo members who are professional service providers serving the HOA industry are encouraged to join.

Please contact David Zepponi at dzepponi@echo-ca.org for more information about becoming a member of the panel.

ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 25

ECHO EVENT HIGHLIGHTS

PROFESSIONAL SERVICE PROVIDER

LEFT: Echo Professional Service Provider members work feverishly to bring solutions to HOA boards and communities. At the end of the year, Echo brings together HOA industry friends to celebrate the triumphs of the year and gather in friendship over a special holiday meal. Leonel Soto of Heritage Bank of Commerce dressed for the festive occasion!

BELOW: In 2022, Echo launched its new “Club” Program at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek. Charlotte Allen of Socher Insurance and Adam Haney of CID Consortium spoke at two of the wellattended joint East Bay Resource Panel and Echo Club at Rossmoor meetings.

26 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal

NORTH BAY

Brimming with success, the North Bay Resource Panel usually reaches its maximum room capacity at Edgewater Condominium, the host venue. In 2022, there was a leadership change and long-term chairs Stephany Charles and Diane Kay passed the baton to Sarah Kelley, Kevin Boland, and Megan Mutimer. Echo is looking to bring in members to continue the legacy. BELOW: New members Jose Hernandez and Oran Egger of LandCare show their support of Echo education at the meeting.

ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 27
ECHO EVENT HIGHLIGHTS

Which approach is best when running a California homeowners association: high tech or high touch? Banks and retailers are technology’s perennial early adopters, improving customer experience with systems like checkout scanners and ATMs even as they reduce costs. In 2023, as hiring remains a major challenge for businesses, even laggards are doing whatever they can to reduce the need for staff.

When it comes to technology adoption, HOA boards have remained stubbornly high touch, preferring a more personal, human approach. But this demands customer service acumen and, crucially, time –something almost no board can spare. Unsurprisingly, critical items get dropped. An example: a quick search of “condominium” on the Secretary of State’s “Business Search” web page (bizfileonline.sos.ca.gov/search/ business) shows about 10% of California HOAs out of status: corporate suspension, nonfiling of taxes, etc. These issues are costly and irritating in their own right (inability to open a bank account, reinstatement charges), but worse, they cause boards to be treated as unincorporated associations, meaning full personal liability in the case of contracts. A high-tech approach could avoid this issue by automatically making sure fees

COMMUNITY

High Tech or

and forms are processed timely for the Secretary of State.

The lack of employees and the rapid movement of people in community management have created massive challenges for management firms and HOAs. It is just too difficult to find and retain community managers. This lack of labor supply is further aggravated by management firm consolidations and buyouts. The diseconomy of managing small HOAs versus large HOAs has created a difficult dilemma for management companies. Many management firms are being

forced to abandon the smaller association market. This market is just no longer economical, for them or the HOAs.

The industry is in the grip of a full-blown labor crisis with many entry-level and solo managers now charging fees of $750 to $1,000 per month for an association, up from last year’s $500 to $600 per month. The labor shortage and the resulting inflation in compensation is pushing management firms and HOAs to consider alternative, nonhuman solutions – that is, high-tech solutions.

28 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal
MANAGEMENT:

MANAGEMENT: or High Touch?

It is inevitable that software will take over a big part of HOA management. The economics and demographics, notably younger, tech-savvy owners, are moving in that direction. This reality is the only solution available to management firms.

Boards (and even communities) should be looking for technology solutions too. Software keeps getting better, easier to use, and cheaper. It can easily and efficiently handle most routine and mundane tasks, ultimately providing happier homeowners and a

better-managed association. Even the in-person things, like reserve planning and property inspections, can be significantly improved with software that helps boards and management companies make decisions, schedule meetings, and provide information.

Small HOAs are at particular risk. The costs of repairs, maintenance, and replacement of common assets is spread over a smaller pool of owners. The cost of the manager is usually fixed plus a variable component. The minimum price to hire a person,

as mentioned above, is necessarily high, especially in urban California. All these factors lead to higher costs for those with the hightouch method.

David Levy (retired cofounder of Levy, Erlanger & Co.) conservatively estimates that the market share of so-called “selfmanaged” associations, those without a hired management firm, is about 40% of California HOAs. Other information validates this estimate, and the reality is likely higher and climbing as HOAs struggle to afford management.

Nowhere is change needed more than in self-managed associations. An eight-unit townhome in the San Francisco Bay Area was having serious problems. The situation was typical: a small building with an annual budget of $34,560 ($360/ month per unit) with a volunteer board that knew very little about running a community association. The volunteer president found himself in a role for which he was ill-prepared and out of his depth. During the day, he was a successful marketing manager at a Silicon Valley technology firm.

The association president found himself in a particularly troubling quandary. He didn’t know how to run an HOA and had no experience with community management. They wanted help but knew that at roughly onethird of the entire current budget,

Continued on page 30

ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 29
ALBRECHT

Continued from page 29

the community wouldn’t tolerate the expense of professional management.

It is unfortunate that so many common interest developments suffer from similar problems. These concerns are only heightened by increasing government requirements, inflation, and a tight labor supply. In many cases boards are unaware of the Davis-Stirling Act and don’t have industry connections to check prices or find the competent service providers they need.

In the end, unskilled management of an association is extremely inefficient, and the homeowners pay the price. It is not uncommon to find that a small self-managed association has no reserves and can’t remember the last time a reserve study was performed. Often, mandatory information sharing with the community and annual disclosure packets are nonexistent. A hightech approach can resolve many of these concerns. A high-touch approach is simply a legacy of the past for smaller HOAs and many larger ones too. For HOA boards, the time is right to search for a new high-tech future.

David Albrecht is the founder of Dials (www.dials.com), providers of softwarepowered automation for California HOAs (payments and compliance). David got the idea for Dials when serving as treasurer of City Center Plaza, a 348-unit residential/ commercial high-rise in Oakland.

30 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal
You’re not alone. Sign Up for the Board Members Club Here Join Echo’s Exclusive Board Members Club. • Open to current or recent HOA board members only • Opportunities to meet other board members
Share ideas and information
Learn peer-to-peer It’s included with your Echo membership! https://bit.ly/ECHO-BMC
Management: High Tech or High Touch?
Community

The Echo Legislation Tracker: 2023–2024 California Legislative Session

With a new legislative session comes new bills to watch. A description of bills Echo will be tracking follows:

AB-572; Haney – Imposition of Assessment

SUBJECT: Regular assessment increases limited to 5% of preceding year for deed-restricted affordable housing units.

STATUS: Introduced February 8, 2023.

POSITION: This may be difficult for associations to keep track of but makes sense for affordable housing. These units already pay less in county taxes, so it follows that assessments are less as well. Echo position: Oppose.

AB-648; Valencia – Virtual or Teleconference Board Meetings

SUBJECT: Virtual and teleconference board meetings.

STATUS: February 9, 2023, first time read.

POSITION: With the state of emergency coming to an end, so does the ability to conduct board meetings completely by teleconference or virtually. This bill seeks to do away with the physical location requirements for a teleconference or virtual meeting that existed pre-pandemic. If signed into law, the convenience and accessibility of virtual and teleconference board meetings will be allowed permanently. Echo position: Support.

SB-71; Umberg – Classification Changes to the Courts Impact Association Collections

SUBJECT: Mostly changes to court filing classifications. The limits for small claims increased to $25,000 and the limits for limited courts increased to $100,000.

STATUS: January 9, 2023 – Introduced and read for the first time.

POSITION: The most relevant change in this proposed bill is to CCP §86(6) where it specifies that association assessment lien foreclosure actions may be filed in Superior Court under a limited classification so long as the lien is less than $100,000. This limit has increased from $25,000, and that matters because the rules in limited court are more

relaxed and initial filing fees are less than in unlimited cases. Pursuant to California Rules of Court, Rule 3.714(b), the goal of limited cases is to have 90 percent of cases disposed within 12 months, whereas for unlimited cases, the goal identified for 12 months is only 75 percent. In that regard, an unlimited filing may allow associations to get to judgment faster. Discovery is also capped in cases classified as limited, so these cases may also be more cost-effective (See CCP §§ 94, subd. (a), 2030.010, 2031.010 and 2033.010.). Echo position: Oppose.

AB-1458; Ta – Election Changes

SUBJECT: Adjournment of membership meeting dates shall be no less than 5 and no more than 30 days after adjourned proceedings. Quorum reduces to persons present in person, by proxy, or by ballot at the adjourned meeting date.

STATUS: Introduced February 17, 2023.

POSITION: This bill creates efficiency for elections. By statute, there would be a way to open ballots after at least one attempt to meet quorum. Echo position: Support with Amendment.

Other Legislation Being Tracked

AB-478: Wildfire Insurance - Watch

SB-505: Spot bill for HOA inclusion in FAIR - Support

AB-591: Credit Cards for EV Stations - Neutral

AB-288: Deed Transfer on Death - Watch

AB-925: Removal of Vehicles from Private Driveways - Review

Maria Kao, Esq. has served as litigation and transactional counsel since 2009. She has represented community associations of all sizes and has dealt with a broad spectrum of real estate and land use issues including review and interpretation of governing documents (e.g., voting, maintenance and repair, and insurance), contract review and vendor negotiations, disciplinary proceedings, and litigation. Ms. Kao is currently a partner with the firm of Briscoe, Ivester & Bazel, LLP.

ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 31

WELCOME TO ECHO’S

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32 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal Check Out Our Professional Service Provider Online Directory! Quick and easy access to more than 250 industry providers who support HOAs and Echo. Visit www.echo-ca.org and click on Professional Directory QUICK & EASY RESOURCE FOR HOA BOARDS & HOMEOWNERS

As a onestop shop in asphalt, concrete, and fencing services, DRYCO offers the capacity, skills, and equipment required to execute all asphalt jobs, concrete construction, whole-site building projects, and fencing tasks in the San Francisco Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, and California’s Central Valley region.

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Communities often suffer from dysfunctional management. This can present itself in a variety of ways, such as poor financial oversight and reporting, lack of follow-through, or inadequate communication. All of these can leave communities and their leaders feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.

With HOA Organizers as your partner, our nationally-certified managers will guide you with a clear roadmap to success. Our customized platform provides accurate and timely financial reports available to Board members 24/7. Comprehensive and frequent updates are provided without Boards having to ask. Our experts anticipate community needs, taking a proactive approach to maintenance, compliance, and large projects. By maximizing technology, we deliver consistent communication tailored to your association.

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ECHO journal | MARCH 2023 33

Continued from page 6

of the 2023 HOA megatrends: 1. Systemic Inflation, 2. Chronic Labor Shortages, and 3. Community Mental Health Awareness.

Reading the articles in this issue of the Echo Journal helped me to crystallize what appear to be three major trends that could, if not properly anticipated and managed, cause great harm to HOA communities.

A megatrend causes a structural or systemic shift in the nature of the business environment and results in a permanent change in the fundamental assumptions of the business environment. Because of the significance of the change, every HOA board should prepare their communities at the operational level to optimize their budgets, their long-term planning, and the vitality of their communities.

The 2023 HOA megatrends are found as underlying threads in the articles featured in this Echo Journal. Now that they’re identified, boards should include these realities in their planning. Good environmental visioning will result in better assumptions and improve planning to deal with the change. A solid long-term plan built on good assumptions can minimize community disruption and potentially propel the HOA to be a leader for positive change.

We challenge our readers to look for the megatrends in the articles in this Echo Journal. The trends are not necessarily explicit, but they are apparent when one looks for them. The result will be a richer and, hopefully, more insightful read. However, it is not

for this issue to explore the trends more deeply. That is best left for another time, and maybe another article, workshop, or Echo Board Members Club discussion.

Here are some examples from the writing that support the above assertion.

In his article “Association Management: High Tech vs. High Touch,” author David Albrecht discusses labor shortages and the need for every board to consider greater utilization of HOA management technology. It is challenging to find qualified, affordable workers in almost any field. In the HOA business, shortages of skilled labor are particularly acute, especially in the trades and community management. This situation is permanently driving costs higher and, worse, leaving some associations without qualified paid managers. The argument advanced by Albrecht is that many HOA tasks should be moved away from high touch and transitioned to technology.

Susan Hawks McClintic, Esq., writes, “Effective meetings are a key element in the health of the community. Ineffective meetings in common interest developments, especially when addressing sensitive topics, can easily devolve into shouting matches, threats, and even news coverage.” Her statement emphasizes the need for HOA boards to actively mitigate the potential threat of emotionally charged meetings by being better managers and ensuring that investments are well-planned, communicated, and affordable for the community.

Author Melissa Bauman, Esq., writes that the global pandemic has “forever changed our lives in

nearly every respect, including how people live together and how HOAs are managed.” And as community health frays due to congested and constrained living, boards are being forced, more than ever, to find better, more sensitive ways to govern and to intercede in the mental health concerns of the community.

Each of these authors has touched on at least one of the megatrends influencing a permanent change in how HOA communities are managed. After the pandemic, the world changed forever – and so will living in and managing HOAs. First the board must recognize and understand the three megatrends affecting their leadership reality. Once those are identified and understood, boards must plan to minimize the long-term negative effects on the community and hopefully leverage their decisions for the greater good.

After 50 years, Echo is still here to help communities identify critical areas of change in the industry and help them adapt to these changes. Echo is here to stay and to foster a better quality of life in homeowners associations through education, advocacy, and connection.

34 MARCH 2023 | ECHO journal CEO’s Message

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