A proxy is a document authorizing a person to act on behalf of another person. When it comes to Association voting, this means that a unit or homeowner may authorize someone else to represent them at an election meeting and to vote on their behalf. Details common to a proxy form include the date and time of the meeting and a statement declaring authorization. The purpose of a proxy is to give representation to owners who are unable to attend a meeting and for association members to have a better understanding of how the overall membership feels about a certain issue.
A good choice for a proxy representative is another owner. Specific rules about who may serve as a proxy representative are found in the association bylaws and/or sometimes in state law. For example, a tenant may or may not have a right to voting on any association matters. If the tenant is not allowed to vote then the tenant is not a good choice for a proxy representative. If another owner isn’t a possibility, the best course of action is to review the rules and laws to see who else might be a good fit.
Proxies Versus Ballots
A proxy is different than a ballot, and to some, this is rather confusing. It is especially confusing in the states that have mail-in ballots. When an owner receives a proxy form in the mail but perceives it as a ballot, they complete and return the form believing they just voted. HOAs typically do not have the time needed to contact the member and explain the difference. Again, state law varies on mail-in ballots, and for those states that allow it, the confusion arises when a proxy form is also mailed to association members.
The Balance of Power
A person with power of attorney usually doesn’t need a proxy form, depending upon state law. Another consideration when it comes to proxies is who has the authority to sign the deed for the property. A proxy on behalf of a qualified person who, as owner, is qualified to sign legal documents for the property, is the right way to go.
Depending upon the type of vote, proxy abuse may occur. It is tempting to offer to serve as the proxy representative for more than one owner if the goal is to get a particular voting outcome. Best advice practices are to let management send out the proxies. Discourage association board members from handing out proxies and from soliciting proxies from fellow owners. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of an impending vote; however, the best part of an HOA is the democratic process in reaching a decision.
Members Right to Input
Life is busy, and sometimes you just have to miss a meeting. Add in the factor of out-of-town owners, and you’ll quickly see how proxies are valuable tools in reaching a consensus from the majority, not just a few. By taking the following steps, your association will be on its way to better owner engagement during the voting process:
- Do your research and pinpoint any bylaw language concerning proxies.
- Review state law for voting by proxy.
- Create awareness with a pre-proxy campaign.
- While board members are discouraged from soliciting or collecting proxies, they can help educate other members. Develop a cheat sheet of common questions and answers regarding the process and give one to each board member.
The proxy process doesn’t have to be complicated. Most members, once educated about the process, will appreciate the opportunity to have their voice heard, even if it’s via a form.
A proxy is the written authorization that allows one person to appoint another (the proxy holder) to vote on his or her behalf. State law and the association’s governing documents specify that the association can use proxy voting.
Why would you use a proxy? Maybe you’re traveling during the election or have other obligations that prevent you from attending the meeting, but you still want your voice to be heard.
If you’re interested in using a proxy, ask the manager or a board member for a proxy form. Cite the name and address of the individual you’re appointing to cast your vote. Then list your name, address and telephone number, and sign and date the form.
The association can only accept one proxy form per person, so be sure to fill out your form accurately. By only accepting one official form, the association doesn’t need to check each proxy to determine if it’s legally sufficient. It also eliminates any potential problems if the vote is close.
Just be aware that by assigning your proxy to another person, you’ve authorized the proxy holder to vote for you as he or she sees fit. The proxy holder is responsible for voting or abstaining from a vote.
Essentially, a proxy is an act of trust—the proxy giver must trust the judgment of the proxy holder. The proxy giver may think the proxy holder will vote for a certain candidate or issue, but the proxy holder isn’t legally bound by that assumption unless it’s written on the proxy form.
Lieberman is a leading Chicago Property Management Company, serving condo, HOA and co-op communities.