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While there are qualities that all HOA board and committee members should share – reliability, dedication and ethical decision making just to name a few – state laws and HOA Bylaws lay out legal restrictions on who can serve on a community’s board and in the various committees established by the directors.

If you plan on serving as a board member for your community, or want to assist the board by volunteering to participate in a committee, there are several legal restrictions you should be aware of. Here are a few of the most important restrictions to holding a board or committee seat.

Residential Status

Whether a board member must live in an association to serve as an officer will vary from state to state. Arizona law does not require that board members live in the community they serve. Other states mandate residency, as well as HOA membership, to serve on the board.

Of course, it probably is not a good idea to volunteer for service on a board you don’t have a vested interest in beforehand. How can you expect to be able serve a community when you’re understanding of the issues residents are facing is still forming?

Family Ties

Depending on the state you live in, family members might not be allowed to serve on a board together. States like Florida have a blanket rule against spouses serving on a board together, while Arizona permits partners to serve together – unless otherwise stated in the association’s governing documents. Though Arizona law does stipulate that if spouses are serving on the board together, that only one may vote in a special election or annual meeting.

As a general best practice, we recommend not serving concurrently with a spouse or another family member.

While some states or governing documents may allow it, serving on the board with a family member has the potential to create additional tension between the board as a whole and may, overtime, promote a sense of ambiguity in the membership toward their leadership.

Criminal History

Another detail capable of complicating potential board service is a previous criminal conviction.

Governing documents often fail to address this subject, so you must refer to state law before going forward.

The laws on this will vary from state to state, so it is difficult for us to give general recommendations or advice on this subject. In Texas, for example, board members convicted of a felony “immoral in nature” within the past 20 years are prevented from board membership and may be immediately removed if currently serving.

How Big Can a Board Be?

If you’re a current board member, you may wonder, “In addition to a president, secretary, and treasurer, how many directors are appropriate to appoint to the board?”

The answer to this question is another balancing act between association bylaws and state law.

Texas law states that if an association’s bylaws do not specify how many people may make up the Board of Directors, there should be at least three people serving, or as many as the initial number of directors listed in the Articles of Incorporation at the time the association was founded. Most states will require at least 3 directors serve at any given time. In Texas, if an associations governing documents do not state how many people must serve on a board, the board must be made up of the same number of members constituting the initial board listed in the HOA’s Articles of Incorporation.

If your board seems to be struggling to accomplish the workload required of you by your governing documents, consider expanding. Unless regulated by the state, an HOA board can be expanded through amendments to the association’s bylaws.

Alternatively, you could shop for a new HOA management company, as the right company should be making your workload lighter. A HOA management company would be able to handle amenity access and repair, infrastructure problems, send out information relevant to the association, help the board schedule meetings with proper notice and more.

Term Limits

While considering running for a board position, potential nominees need to consider the length of the term they’re signing on for.  Some board members are elected annually, while others serve for two or three years consecutively.

Either the Articles of Incorporation or Bylaws should specify term length for board members, but if they don’t, state laws should have more specific conditions.

Texas allows for the first board to serve until the first annual election, with all subsequent members serving until the next annual election. In Arizona, board members may only serve for one year unless otherwise stated by the association’s governing documents. Florida law allows for officers to serve for eight consecutive years.

Serving on HOA Committees

Many HOAs have committees to handle aspects of running the association, like planning community events or reviewing a homeowner’s proposed renovation. How these committees run is largely dependent on HOA bylaws, but state law can also restrict who can serve. In 2021, the Texas property code introduced rules adding limitations to who can serve on the Architectural Control Committee (ACC), many of which prohibited board member involvement.

Texas homeowners wishing to serve on the ACC are unable to be a current board member, a spouse of a board member or be a person living with a current board member.

Of course, the ACC is unique when compared to other committees since it operates independently from the board.

The number of committees a board can create will be outlined in the HOA’s governing documents, with most not putting a hard limit on the number or types that can be created. The real limiting factor which will keep your HOA from setting up a vast network of committees are the time constraints of homeowners who could volunteer for these roles.

Besides possessing great interpersonal and managerial skills, it is critical that HOA directors meet all legal qualifications before they serve. Ensuring the shepherding of your community is in the hands of an ethical, by the books board is a key foundation of maintaining homeowner trust and fostering community engagement.

If your governing documents fail to establish specific regulations, check your state laws to ensure that your board is compliant and able to function at full capacity and in the best interest of the entire community.