Among the many aspects of our society that COVID-19 has affected are the functioning of homeowners’ associations and condominium owners’ associations. Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-51, with it amendments and extensions, affects how these associations conduct their affairs. The enforcement of several of our state statutes which regulate associations have been temporarily stayed and/or amended to address safety and economic concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Association members, officers, and directors need to be aware of these temporary changes so that their associations can continue to properly function and condominium unit owners and homeowners within the associations can continue to stay in their homes while their jobs are affected by business closures and layoffs. Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-51 states that “Violators of this order may be subject to criminal penalties pursuant to RCW 43.06.220(5)”, so there are serious potential repercussions for violating the dictates of the Proclamation.
Governor’s Proclamation 20-51, entitled Community Associations Meetings and Late Fees, was issued on April 17, 2020. It has since been extended and amended by Proclamations 20-51.1 through 20-51.9. These proclamations temporarily change RCW 24.03.075, RCW 24.03.120, and RCW 64.90.445(2)(i). Under Proclamations 20-51.1 through 20-51.9, association member meetings, board meetings, and committee meetings may be held by teleconference or similar means of communication regardless of whether such methods are allowed by an association’s governing documents. Participation by teleconference or similar method of communication, such as Zoom video conference, establishes a persons’ presence at the meeting.
Some association governing documents allow for meetings by teleconference or video conference and some do not. Due to the social distancing requirements of COVID-19, the governor and the state legislature have approved temporary changes to the statutes that enable all associations to hold their member meetings, board of directors’ meetings, and committee meetings in this manner.
Similar to the Governor’s Proclamations’ provision for electronic meetings where governing documents have not provided for them, the Governor’s Proclamation 20-51, extended and amended by 20-51.1 through 20-51.9, temporarily changes RCW 24.03.085(2) and RCW 24.03.085(3). Associations, along with their boards and board-appointed committees may vote electronically, by mail, or by proxy, whether the association’s governing documents provide for these voting methods or not. Members submitting votes by mail or electronic transmission are deemed present for purposes of quorum requirements, vote counts, and percentages of voting power.
Consistent with the Governor’s restriction on evictions and other economic protections related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Proclamation 20-51, extended and amended by 20-51.1 through 20-51.9, temporarily restricts associations from imposing and collecting charges for the late payment of association assessments.
Governor Inslee’s April 17, 2020 Proclamation 20-51 originally suspended RCW 64.34.304(1)(k), RCW 64.38.020(11), RCW 64.90.405(2)(k), and RCW 64.90.85(18). These changes temporarily banned Associations from imposing and collecting charges, fees, or interest on late assessment payments; and from levying fines for violation of the Association’s governing documents.
A later extension and amendment, Governor Inslee’s July 31, 2020 Proclamation 20-51.6, re-empowered Associations to levy fines for violation of bylaws, rules, and regulations of the Association. This amendment addressed changes to RCW 64.34.304(1)(k) and RCW 64.38.020(11). However, the temporary ban on imposing and collecting charges for the late payment of assessments remains. This includes the levying of late fees and the imposition of interest on late assessments.
Associations are currently empowered to conduct most of their normal activities while requiring that social distancing is maintained. Association meetings and voting are to be conducted by teleconference or other comparable electronic means; and participation in such meeting and voting equates to presence for the purposes of establishing a quorum and for calculation of voting power percentages. Further, Associations are mandated to refrain from imposing and collecting charges, fees, or interest on the late payment of assessments.
These required adjustments to association’s operations may be disruptive to the normal practice of associations. However, we need to remember that these associations are community associations because we are in fact, communities. We are neighbors. Frustrations and bumps in the road are part of being in a community, but so is a shared experience and hopefully, support and encouragement. Associations can function during the pandemic; communities can work together to allow our associations to fully function and individual homeowners and condominium unit owners to stay in their homes and fully participate in the decisions of their associations.