The Florida Statutes, in combination with the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C), provide specific processes and procedures relating to condominium association Board member elections. These rules have been established to ensure fair elections and to provide all unit owners interested in running for a seat on the Board the opportunity to do so. Failure to follow these procedures not only creates unit owner distrust of the Board but may also result in fines pursuant to FAC Rule 61B-21. Further, the association may be required to repeat the entire election process. This post will outline the Board election process and provide guidance on issues including search committees and campaigning.
NOTE: These rules generally do not apply to timeshare condominiums. Condominiums with less than 10 units are not obligated to follow these procedures. In order to adopt different voting and election procedures , an association must obtain a 51% affirmative vote of the membership.
Regular Board elections to fill vacancies created by the expiration of a Board term must be held at the annual meeting of the membership regardless of whether a quorum is present. Any Board vacancies not filled by an election (e.g., not enough people ran for the Board, a Board member resigns) may be filled by a vote of the remaining Board members at a duly called Board meeting.
The Election Process
First Notice of Election
The first notice of election must be mailed, emailed (so long as an electronic consent form has been received) or hand-delivered at least 60 days prior to the annual meeting/ election day. This notice may be part of another unit owner communication such as a routine newsletter. There is no specific format in which this notice must be given but the notice should include, at a minimum:
- The date, time and location of the annual meeting/ election
- Details surrounding how a unit owner may become a candidate for the Board (discussed below)
- Details surrounding the information sheet a Board candidate may submit (discussed below)
If the association fails to properly issue the first notice, the association must restart the notification process.
Receipt of Intents to Run for the Board
At least 40 days prior to the annual meeting/ election, all unit owners desiring to be candidates for the Board must inform the association in writing of their intent to run. Unit owners may send a letter (certified mail or regular mail), an email, a fax, or hand-deliver a written statement. I recommend that the association provide an “intent to run” form for unit owners to fill out. The association must issue a written notice of receipt of the unit owner’s intent to run and may deliver this receipt via mail, email, fax or hand-delivery.
At least 35 days prior to the annual meeting/ election, candidates for the Board may submit to the association an information sheet discussing their qualifications/ reasons for running for the Board. The information sheet must be a one-sided, 8.5”x11” sheet of paper. Associations may use two-sided printing when distributing the information sheets (discussed below) to reduce paper usage.
NOTE: At 40 days prior to the annual meeting/ election, if there are fewer candidates for the Board than spaces on the Board to fill, no election is necessary.
NOTE: At 40 days prior to the annual meeting/ election, unit owners that are more than 90 days delinquent in paying a monetary obligation to the association are not eligible to run for the Board. Further, felons that have not had their civil rights restored for at least 5 years are not eligible.
Second Notice of Election
The second notice of election must be mailed or hand-delivered (electronic transmission is not is NOT an option) between 14 and 34 days prior to the annual meeting/ election day. There is no specific format required for this notice but I recommend that it include:
- Details surrounding how to cast a vote in the Board member election (discussed below)
- Details surrounding how to fill out and submit the annual meeting limited proxy
- Explanations of any specific items (e.g., surplus carryover, year-end financial reporting waive down) on which the association is requesting the membership vote
Along with the second notice, the association should include:
- The agenda for the annual meeting
- A limited proxy for quorum purposes (if interested, consider adding the vote to waive down the year-end financial reporting requirement to the annual meeting agenda and add the vote to the proxy)
- A ballot including only the names of all candidates for the Board, listed alphabetically by surname (ensure all ballots are consistent in appearance)
- An outer envelope labeled with the address of the property manager OR association (wherever you would prefer the votes go) and spaces for the owner’s unit number, name and signature
- An inner envelope with nothing on the outside (unit owners that own more than one unit should have an inner envelope for each unit they own)
If the association fails to properly issue the second notice, the association must restart the notification process.
Voting in the Election
To cast a vote in the election, a unit owner must write their name, unit number and signature on the outside of the outer envelope. They must select their chosen candidates using the ballot (nothing else is to be written on the ballot, no write-in candidates are allowed) and place the ballot in the inner envelope. The inner envelope(s) must be placed into the outer envelope and should be mailed or hand-delivered to the association/ property manager. Unit owners may cast their votes using the same process at the annual meeting up to the point that outer envelopes begin to be opened. Once a ballot is submitted, it cannot be rescinded or changed.
NOTE: F.A.C has specific rules for voting machines.
The vote count must be conducted at the annual meeting in a location that is visible to all attendees. Once all ballots have been collected, the names and unit numbers listed on the outer envelopes will be checked against a list of eligible voting by an impartial committee (i.e., no Board members, candidates, or family members of Board members/ candidates). Any outer envelopes without signature shall be marked with the word DISREGARDED and not included in the vote count. Once completed, all inner envelopes should be removed from outer envelopes and placed in a separate receptacle by the impartial committee. The inner envelopes will then be opened. Any inner envelopes with more than one ballot inside should be marked as DISREGARDED and not included in the vote count. The results should be announced at the annual meeting.
NOTE: In order for an election to be valid, at least 20% of the membership must have voted. If not achieved, the association must begin the election process again.
If there is a tie vote that creates the need for a runoff election, the association must send a Notice of Runoff Election during the 7 days after the annual meeting/ election. This notice must include a new ballot listing the tied candidates’ names, the candidates’ information sheets, as well as inner and outer envelopes. All previous voting and vote counting procedures must be followed. The runoff election must be held 21-30 days after the annual meeting/ election.
Fair Election Concerns
If unit owners are concerned that the association is not going to run a fair election, an election monitor may be petitioned using DBPR Form CO 6000-9. The F.A.C requires that the greater of 15% of the membership and 6 members sign the petition.
If a unit owner wishes to challenge an election, they must do so using the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s complaint form within 60 days of the election results.
Election Official Records
The first notice, second notice, intents to run, information sheets, envelopes, and ballots (including those marked as DISREGARDED) are considered official records of the association and must be maintained for at least one year from the date of the election.
Search Committees and Campaigning
The F.AC is very clear that committees designed to officially nominate potential candidates for the Board (“ nominating committees”) are strictly prohibited. That being said, there is no reason why a Board can not put together a search committee responsible for identifying unit owners that may be good Board members and discussing with them the possibility of running for the Board. Further, there is nothing prohibiting current Board members or the association manger from encouraging certain unit owners to run for the Board.
Campaigning for Board elections is allowed per the FAC and the Florida Statutes; however, it is in the best interest of the Board so set up some guidelines regarding campaigning. For example, the Board may identify certain areas (e.g., an information board in a common area) that candidates can post campaign ads so as to avoid a candidate papering the property with “Vote for Me” posters.
NOTE: The community’s manager should remain impartial as it relates to Board elections. If your manager is telling unit owners how to vote in an election, consider submitting a complaint to the DBPR regarding their behavior.
If you have any questions about the above process, do not hesitate to comment or send me an email. Templates for any of the notices or forms discussed above are available upon request.
Emily Shaw is a condominium homeowner in Tampa, Florida and a Director of VERA Property Management, a firm providing full-service community association management in the Tampa Bay Area as well as consulting, financial and legal services to all Florida community associations.