On April 22, 2020, the Virginia General Assembly approved two budget amendments recommended by Governor Northam that allow boards of directors of property owners’ associations and condominium unit owners’ associations to meet virtually when the Governor has declared a state of emergency. It will be effective once the Governor signs the legislation. Prior existing law allowed property owners’ associations and condominium unit owners’ associations to have virtual meetings only if at least two board members were physically present at the meeting location stated in the notice. Thus, having a board meeting that satisfied the statutory requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic proved challenging.
The amendments allow a common interest community to meet by electronic communication without having a member of the board physically present at a certain location when the Governor has declared a state of emergency so long as:
- the nature of the emergency makes it impracticable or unsafe for the board to assemble in a single location;
- the meeting is to discuss or transact business required by law or necessary to continue operations of the association and the discharge of its lawful purposes, duties, and responsibilities; and
- the board distributes minutes of the meeting to its members using the same method it used to provide notice of the board meeting to its members.
The board is also required to (1) give notice of the meeting to the association’s members using the best available method in light of the emergency and that notice must be given at the same time as notice is provided to members of the board; and (2) make arrangements for association members to access the meeting electronically, including, to the extent practicable, videoconferencing technology and, if the means of communication allow, provide members with an opportunity to comment.
The minutes of the meeting should state the nature of an emergency, the fact that the meeting was held by electronic communication and the type of electronic communication used.
Notably, these changes are temporary, as this provision lasts only through June 30, 2022, unless the General Assembly decides to modify, extend or make permanent this provision.
These changes will give boards a useful tool to make decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic and other times of emergency declared by the Governor when meeting in person for necessary business would be impracticable or unsafe. Association boards need to be intentional and careful in closely adhering to the reasons that dispense with physical presence at a meeting location and the required procedures to have a virtual meeting. This will involve care and steps be taken before and after the meeting. Boards and managers should familiarize themselves with the parameters of this new law and consult legal counsel to ensure compliance.