New Laws Spurring Fla. Community Associations to Implement E-Voting, Websites
Article Courtesy of The Daily Business Review
By Nicole R. Kurtz
Published August 25, 2019
Technology has been the focus of many recent changes to Florida laws, including those that now allow community associations to implement electronic voting and require condominium associations with 150 units or more to have a website containing digital copies of certain official records. These changes have led many of the more than 49,000 community associations in the state to consider how they are using technology to help facilitate their operations and comply with the state laws.
The condominium association website laws mandate that compliant websites should have been operational as of Jan. 1 of this year. The laws call for association websites that are accessible only to unit owners and employees where certain notices, records and documents are posted. These must include the declaration of condominium, bylaws, articles of incorporation, rules and regulations of the association, as well as all executory contracts or documents to which the association is a party, or under which the association or unit owners have an obligation or responsibility.
Condominium association websites must also feature the association’s annual budget and proposed annual budget; financial reports; monthly income or expense statements; copies of bids, or summaries of bids, exceeding $500; association meeting notices, and board member certification forms.
Since 2015, electronic voting has been a technological tool permitted by state law for both condominium and homeowners associations. Boards of directors that wish to implement and authorize an Internet-based voting system for any owner-required vote must first adopt a resolution supporting it at a properly noticed meeting. Once approved by the board, electronic voting may be used for any owner-required vote, as determined on a case-by-case basis at the board’s discretion. Associations must provide owners with notice of the opportunity to vote through an online voting system, and they must also establish reasonable procedures and deadlines for owners to provide written consent for their participation in online voting or to opt out of it after giving consent.
The electronic voting systems implemented by associations must be able to authenticate owners’ identities and receive ballots in a manner that ensures their secrecy and integrity. For board elections, the owner-identifying information must be separated from each ballot to render it impossible to tie authenticated ballots to specific owners. The systems must also be able to store and keep electronic votes accessible for recount, inspection and review purposes.
The Florida laws governing association websites and electronic voting are very specific as to the requirements that these new tools must meet for compliance. While there are several national providers of electronic voting systems that market their services for community associations, these platforms are not focused specifically on Florida community associations, so boards of directors interested in implementing electronic voting using them should first consult with association counsel to determine whether they meet the standards set by the state laws.
Florida-specific electronic voting platforms for associations are also now beginning to appear. One platform that several of our firm’s clients have turned to is ONR app (www.onrapp.com, pronounced “owner”), which uses an online application-based system to offer associations electronic voting as well as e-surveys, alerts and notifications on a secure platform. The Miami-based technology startup also offers association website implementation and administration.
In addition to the cost-efficiency and increased election turnout benefits stemming from electronic voting, the company behind the ONR app believes the smartphone application’s ability to easily and affordably create and distribute owner surveys on topics ranging from major renovation projects to prospective new equipment for the fitness center makes it a game changer for associations.
There is no doubt that electronic voting, surveys and website platforms can help associations maximize transparency and voter turnout, in addition to providing owners with a voice on important decisions. As long as the proper vetting takes place with association counsel to ensure that these tools and platforms meet the standards required by Florida laws, they can quickly become invaluable for associations.