Now that North Carolina allows larger in-person gatherings (see NC Easing Covid Restrictions), many of our homeowner and condominium associations are wondering if it is time to restart in-person membership meetings. Here are questions and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about meetings that we’ve received.
Can HOA/condo associations begin holding in-person membership meetings again?
Perhaps. There are two aspects to the question: (1) CAN the association membership meeting be held in person?, and (2) SHOULD the association membership meeting be held in person? As with other state Executive Orders, the question of whether members can gather in person depends on whether the association can abide by the provisions of various Executive Orders. If the health and safety provisions of the Orders can be followed, then “yes,” members can meet in person.
Beyond complying with the Order, however, is the question of whether the association members should meet in person. The purpose of Executive Orders and CDC guidelines is to protect the public. Given that association membership meetings can currently be held virtually, is the potential risk of an in-person meeting worth it? FYI, the most recent Executive Order related to meetings specifically recommends avoiding “large gatherings.”
Our general guidance is that unless all provisions of current Executive Orders can be followed and unless there is a compelling reason that a membership meeting must be held in person, it is best to continue meeting virtually for the time being.
Tips on holding virtual membership meetings can be found at New NC Executive Order Extends Ability to Hold Electronic Membership Meetings.
How many people can meet at one time and in one place?
Executive Order #204 that took effect March 26 increases the maximum gathering numbers of “mass meetings” for indoor gatherings to 50 and for outdoor gatherings to 100 “at the same time in a single confined indoor or outdoor space.” Such requirements should be considered when planning any association in-person membership or board meeting.
Is an association meeting on its own property a “meeting space, conference center, or reception venue” under the Order?
No. In the Executive Order, Section 3.8 provides details on “Meeting Spaces, Conference Centers, and Reception Venues,” including how to calculate maximum occupancy limits, requiring that such events be seated, etc. While this provision might apply to those who rent an association clubhouse for an event, it does not apply to an association meeting on its own property.
Under the Order, what type of “setting” is an association membership meeting at its own property?
A “mass gathering” as defined in Section 5. As a result, the 50 indoor and 100 outdoor maximum numbers above apply, but there is no need to calculate square footage and maximum occupancy limits. To confirm this, we contacted the Governor’s Office which agreed that if an HOA or condo association “membership meeting is in person, then the mass gathering limit would apply.”
What other restrictions apply to association in-person membership meetings?
Executive Order #204 recommends that all mass gatherings abide by the “Recommendations to Promote Social Distancing and Reduce Transmission” detailed in the Order, including
- keeping 6 feet of social distancing (with the exception of family or household members)
- wearing an acceptable face covering over the nose and mouth
- using hand sanitizer
- cleaning high touch surfaces, and
- washing hands.
In an effort to double-check that social distancing rules DO APPLY at mass meetings, the Governor’s Office confirmed that the Executive Order “contemplated social distancing at all indoor events unless somehow excepted” (and association meetings are not one of the exceptions).
If we choose to meet virtually for now, how far in the future can we schedule an electronic membership meeting?
Right now, not past May 10 with any certainty. That’s because Executive Order #185 that extended the ability to hold virtual meetings (see Governor Extends Order Allowing Virtual Membership Meetings) expires on May 10. However, given current Covid trends and Executive Orders limiting attendance at mass gatherings to 50 inside and 100 outside, there is certainly the POSSIBILITY of an extension to the virtual membership meeting Executive Order. Just no guarantees. FYI, there are pending bills in the NC General Assembly, such as Senate Bill 540 (“Modernize Remote Business Access“), that would change state statute to allow association membership meetings to meet and vote through electronic means.
As any Executive Orders or state laws are changed, we’ll provide details through new posts.
For any questions about North or South Carolina regulations or using/opening amenities in your community, contact one of the community association attorneys at any of our four Law Firm Carolinas offices.