With almost everyone owning a smartphone, it doesn’t take much to record HOA board meetings. The question is: Is it legal to do so? There is no straightforward answer. It will depend on the HOA’s board and governing documents, as well as state laws. To gain a better understanding, here’s what you need to know about the legality of recording HOA board meetings.
Recording HOA Board Meetings: Is It Legal?
Is recording HOA meetings legal or not? It depends on where your association is located. States like California, Florida, and Pennsylvania have two-party consent laws, which means that all parties involved must consent to the recording. If there is no consent, it is illegal. However, states like South Carolina, North Carolina, and Ohio have one-party consent laws. Thus, the act of recording is legal as long as the recorder is part of the meeting.
Homeowners who want to record board meetings will also cite the First Amendment, which protects one’s right to record audio and video. However, this only applies to public settings. Since HOAs are private organizations, the board has the authority to prohibit the recording of meetings. Before deciding, though, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of recording HOA board meetings.
Advantages of Recording HOA Board Meetings
Here are the main advantages of recording public HOA meetings.
1. More Accurate Meeting Minutes
Recording HOA meetings can be helpful to the board if it is done as a form of note-taking. For instance, some board meetings can last a long time.
It could be because there are a lot of topics to discuss. If there are hot topics, a lot of homeowners may decide to voice their opinions. In these situations, having a recording can lead to more accurate board meeting minutes. The HOA secretary can also publish the minutes faster if there is a recording or transcription of the meeting.
2. An Official Recording of the Meeting
In some cases, homeowners will continue to record board meetings — even if it is not allowed. This could be dangerous if they have bad intentions. A disgruntled homeowner may decide to manipulate the video and put things out of context. As a countermeasure, the board can also record the meeting. Homeowners are less likely to distort the truth if there is an official recording.
3. Increase the Board’s Transparency
Not all homeowners can attend the board meetings. Since these individuals are not privy to the goings-on of the meeting, they may not understand the board’s handling of certain matters. This could lead to misunderstandings or conflicts between the board and homeowners. To increase transparency, the board can record the meeting and make it available to any homeowner who wants to see it.
Disadvantages of Recording HOA Board Meetings
Here are the disadvantages of recording HOA meetings.
1. Homeowners Can Question the Accuracy of Meeting Minutes
If the HOA decides to have both meeting minutes and a recording of the meeting, homeowners may repeatedly question the accuracy of the former.
Instead of trusting the content of the approved minutes, they will ask to see the recording. Remember, the meeting minutes should be the official record. To prevent this from happening, the board may want to delete the recording once the minutes are completed.
2. A Decrease in Board Meeting Attendance
Homeowner attendance may suffer if the board meetings will be recorded. Since homeowners are free to watch the recording at their convenience, they will no longer find it necessary to attend the meeting. As a result, board meetings will have a lack of fair representation. Only the views of homeowners who attend will be considered.
3. Lack of Openness During Board Meetings
Recording HOA board meetings can also lead to a lack of openness from both homeowners and board members. Since participants know they will be recorded, they may not want to fully express their opinions for fear of retaliation from opposing factions. Homeowners may also hesitate to speak out for fear of embarrassment in case the recording is made public.
4. A Breach of Confidential Information
Recording confidential HOA meetings can be dangerous. During executive sessions, board members usually discuss confidential information. If there is a recording, it could land in the hands of the wrong people who would then leak private or sensitive information. If possible, executive meetings should not be recorded — or the recording should be deleted as soon as the meeting minutes have been published.
5. More Conflicts with Homeowners
Board members should consider why homeowners would want to record meetings in the first place. It’s possible that a disgruntled homeowner will use the recording to sue or discredit the board. Homeowners may also use the recording to threaten other members of the association. These issues can continue to escalate and lead to length and costly litigation.
Should Boards Allow the Recording of HOA Meetings?
Given the advantages and disadvantages of recording HOA meetings, the board can then decide whether to allow it or not. First, check if there are already existing provisions in your governing documents. If you choose to restrict recordings, make sure to amend your CC&Rs to reflect the decision.
Board members should also make this decision clear to all homeowners. Include the “no recording” rule in the board meeting agenda or notice. Then, before each meeting, remind homeowners of the rules. Even if homeowners are not happy, remember that the board has the power to establish the rules of conduct for association meetings.
Recording HOA Board Meetings: The Verdict
It’s not easy being a board member. Aside from juggling many responsibilities, you also have to make tough decisions — some that homeowners will disagree with. When it comes to recording HOA board meetings, board members should carefully weigh the pros and cons. As long as it is in the best interest of the entire community, your decision will most certainly be the right decision.
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