Is it Legal for Owners to Record HOA Board Meetings?
Almost no one leaves their home without their smartphone, including HOA members attending a board meeting. A smartphone can quickly become a recording device with the tap of an app. Recording meetings and conversations is a slippery slope for many HOA boards. Finding the right balance between what's legal and how to protect your HOA board is possible and important for the community's success.
Why Record an HOA Board Meeting?
For some associations, recording the board meeting is an easy way to capture what is said and by whom. The recording serves as notes that are later transcribed in the meeting minutes. Recording what occurs during an executive session is also a helpful tool for transcribing the session minutes. Due to the privacy of executive sessions, the minutes can be held from public disclosure.
Recording as a method of record-keeping by an HOA board is a fairly common practice. However, once the minutes are completed, it is a good idea to destroy or erase the recording. A disgruntled member may find the recording and try to use it against the board in some manner. The same is especially true with recordings from executive sessions, where the topic typically involves sensitive matters.
If an association owner is obviously recording a board meeting, they are usually doing so for their own agenda. A very real side effect of a member openly recording a meeting is a decline in attendance by other members. The fear of speaking out—and someone recording their concerns—may result in them skipping the meeting. HOA members may fear retaliation or even embarrassment if the recording is posted on social media and shared with other members.
HOA Board Meetings, Recordings, and Ground Rules
The power of who can record during an HOA board meeting lies within the board itself. Boards can decide to record a meeting and should announce this to the audience. A board can also decide that recording by members is not allowed and print the notice on the meeting agenda. Any member wanting to record the meeting must seek permission from the board.
An HOA board has the authority to establish the rules of conduct for association meetings. The authority to do so is typically found in the CC&Rs or Articles of Incorporation and bylaws. Board members have every right to record meetings for transcription purposes only and not allow recording by a third party. For extra assurance, check with the legal representative for the association and for any state laws regarding the topic.
The First Amendment is often a member's first line of defense in wanting to record a board meeting. However, the First Amendment does not give others the right to record a private meeting. An HOA is a private organization, therefore the First Amendment isn't a valid argument.
The bottom line is that no one knows what someone will do with the recording after the meeting. Whether it is audio or video, no one likes to unexpectedly find themselves on a social media site.
Establishing rules regarding recordings and smartphone use during a meeting and including them in the rules of conduct is a smart idea. Take a proactive approach by setting guidelines and enforcing them. You might just find your meeting audience will grow—once members no longer have to fear where their words and image may later appear.
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