Inspector of Elections
FAQ - HOA Elections
How much experience do you have in holding elections for common interest developments in California?
We have more than 33 years of experience holding elections for large and small homeowner associations. We have held hundreds of elections for every type of common interest development and serve all 58 counties in California.
Does HOA Inspector of Elections charge a rush fee for last minute engagements?
No. There is never a rush fee charged to our clients. We appreciate your business.
Is HOA Inspector of Elections a member of any professional organizations?
Yes. We are members of Community Associations Institute (CAl) and the California Association of Community Managers (CACM).
We have many owners that speak Mandarin Chinese. Do you have someone on your staff who speaks Chinese that can attend our annual meeting when we count the votes for directors?
Yes. One of the owners of HOA Inspector of Elections is from China. She speaks Mandarin Chinese, the dialect from her home city of Wenzhou, China, and, of course English.
Will HOA Inspector of Elections conduct its services by Zoom if requested?
Yes. We can provide our inspector of elections services in person or by Zoom depending on the location and preference of our client.
What are the types of elections that you have held?
We have held secret ballot elections for: (1) Election of Directors (2) Special Assessments, (3) Recall of Directors, (4) Amendments to CC&Rs, (5) Amendments to Bylaws (6) Repeal of Operating Rules, and (7) Grants of Exclusive Use Common Area.
Does HOA Inspector of Elections handle Delegate District Voting for community associations?
Will HOA Inspector of Elections provide us with a count of the ballots received prior to the actual counting of the ballots at an open meeting?
Yes. Upon request, we will provide existing board members, candidates, and the management company a ballot count as often as reasonably needed. We can also provide you with a list of owners whose ballots have been received by us. We fully understand the importance of providing this information.
How can anyone be certain that the inspector of election will act fairly and objectively?
The contract that we sign for election services is between the Inspector and the association which is either a corporation or an unincorporated association. The board members that sign the agreement are not a party to the agreement. The inspector of elections owes a duty to the association and every member of the association to act fairly and honesty, and to follow the law. We take our responsibility very seriously. When an election has been concluded, we want the person or persons who did not prevail to agree that the election was conducted fairly and honestly.
What happens after I send in my Nomination Application to the Inspector of Elections?
Your nomination application will be mailed to every member of your association along with the other nomination applications and the pre-ballot notice that is required by law. It is therefore important for every nominee to complete the optional part of application form which provides every nominee the opportunity to provide the membership reasons to vote for them. It is also important to write neatly or print the information using black ink so that members of your association have no difficulty reading your information. Any contact information will be redacted.
Who is permitted to witness or closely observe the counting of ballots by the inspector of elections?
Any member of the association has the legal right to observe the opening of the ballot envelopes and the counting of the votes, as long as they do not interfere with the conduct of the election. They may not observe how each member of the association voted.
How are tie votes for directors resolved?
The decision is left to the inspector of elections to determine whether the association’s bylaws or election rules provide an answer, and then utilize the method set forth in those documents, if any. If the bylaws or election rules do not provide an answer, the inspector of elections will usually request that the candidates agree to the flip of a coin. Otherwise, a run-off election will be required to break a tie vote.
I am not currently on the board of my condominium association. I have a group of homeowners that wants to recall the board of directors. Can you assist us?
Assuming the recall group properly submits a recall petition to the board of your association, the board will have the obligation to arrange an election. If we are selected by your board, both sides will experience a fair election process that meets all requirements of the law.
I have learned from several sources that it takes approximately 105 days to hold an HOA board election or other secret ballot election. Why does it take so long?
The California legislature passed a new in 2019 that went into effect on January 1, 2020. The law forces HOA boards to follow numerous time-consuming procedures and timelines that make it impossible to materially reduce the time to hold HOA elections. The law also made it far more expensive for associations to hold HOA elections.
I lost my ballot. How can I obtain a replacement?
Simply call or email our office and we will email a replacement ballot to you.
Does your firm act as the inspector of elections for organizations other than homeowner associations?
Absolutely. We can act as the inspector of elections for any type of corporation or unincorporated association such as private clubs, unions, fraternal organizations, mutual water companies, charities, and other types of organization anywhere in California.
Does your firm provide any other services in addition to acting as the inspector of elections for common interest developments?
Yes. Another division provides HOA assessment collection services throughout California. The website is Pacific-AssociationCollections.com. A separate division provides court judgment collection services: PRCColletions.net. Michael Chulak has also provided expert witness and consulting services for attorneys, management companies and homeowner associations more than 150 times.
Can a homeowner association sell or transfer exclusive use rights to a portion of the common area to one homeowner?
Yes, provided that two-thirds of the membership vote by secret ballot to approve the transfer.
Are the boards of stock cooperatives required to be elected by secret ballot?
Yes. All common interest developments must elect their boards by secret ballot.
Do you provide consulting services to homeowner associations and HOA management companies?
Yes. In addition to HOA Consulting, I also provide consulting services and expert witness services to attorneys throughout California.
If our homeowner association needs to restate or amend our CC&Rs or Bylaws, can you refer an attorney to our board or management company who has experience in this area the law?
Yes. Do not hesitate to call if you require a referral.
Can our homeowner association utilize our association's bylaws as a substitute for election rules and is there a default set of election rules we can rely upon?
No. The California Civil Code does not have a set of default election rules and clearly requires associations to adopt formal election rules. Associations that do not adopt election rules are in violation of California law.
Is it permissible for ballots to be mailed to the board or management company?
No. Ballots should always be mailed or delivered directly to the inspector of elections. If ballots are mailed or delivered to board members or the HOA management company, it is easy for an owner to accuse the board or management company of discarding ballots from specific individuals, thus tainting the fairness of the election.
What is the rationale for not allowing HOA boards of management companies to mail out and/or receive election ballots?
Prior to the new law being passed, the state legislature received numerous complaints that many boards and management companies were not sending ballots to certain owners, and in some cases were trashing ballots in order to make it more certain that the existing board members would be reelected or that no quorum would be achieved, resulting in the same board members keeping their positions. The result was a new law requiring an independent inspector of elections.
What functions can our management company perform in connection with board elections or other secret ballot elections?
Only two. The management company may mail Nomination Applications to the owners, but they should be returned directly to the inspector of elections in order to reduce the possibility that the management company might be drawn into any dispute regarding the election process. A better practice would be to have the inspector of elections mail out the Nomination Applications. The management company can also mail a copy of the Election Rules to every member of the association. Owners are entitled to a copy of the Election Rules by mail or by means of their being posted on the association's website.
Is it permissible for homeowner associations to fine owners who refuse to vote in HOA elections, or at least submit a ballot to be counted toward establishing a quorum?
No. Neither the Davis-Stirling Act nor the California Corporations Code authorize an HOA board of directors to fine members of an association for not voting.
Can an association disqualify a member from voting if the member is delinquent in paying their assessments?
Yes, provided the election rules allow for the disqualification. If the election rules are silent, a member can vote even though they are delinquent in paying assessments. Also, they may vote if they are on a payment plan, or if they have properly disputed the debt.
Can an association disqualify a member from voting if the member has failed to pay fines assessed after a proper hearing and notice?
Is it permissible for homeowner associations to offer gifts to members of their associations for voting in HOA elections?
Yes. As long as it is authorized by the board in their election rules and funds are budgeted for the gifts, it is permissible.
Who is entitled to vote when a unit or lot is owned by a legal entity that is not a natural person such as a corporation, limited liability company, or limited partnership?
The governing authority of the entity has the power to appoint a person to be a member for purposes of voting in elections.
Can the spouse of a record owner in California run for the board of directors of a homeowner association if their spouse is not on the board or does not run for a board position?
Possibly. It depends on how the governing documents define the word "member". See: Proof of Membership - Secret Ballot Elections.
Who is entitled to vote when a unit or lot is held in the name of a living trust?
A named trustee of the trust has the power to vote. Typically, the name of the trustee of a living trust is part of the name of the trust. For example: The John Doe Living Trust of 2021.
What is the record date and what is its significance as it relates to HOA board elections?
The record date is the date used to determine who has the right to vote in an election being held by a community association. The record date is usually, but not always, the date the ballots are mailed. The record date is defined in the bylaws of every homeowner association. See: Record Date for Meetings and Voting.
Can a developer of a common interest development nominate a non-member candidate for election to the board of directors of an association?
Yes. They can nominate a person consistent with the governing documents of the HOA and the regulations of the California Department of Real Estate.
If our homeowner association hires you as the HOA inspector of elections, will we be able to contact you after business hours or on weekends if necessary?
Absolutely. We fully appreciate how important HOA elections are to all members of the association. Accordingly, we will provide you with a cell phone number so you can reach us whenever necessary.
Can HOA Inspector of Elections prepare election rules for our homeowner association?
No. Election Rules must be prepared for an association by a California licensed attorney. An excellent attorney prepared document is on our website for educational purposes only. It should not be considered or relied upon as legal advice.
Our association does not have election rules. How long does it take to adopt election rules?
Election rules are adopted like any other operating rules. They must be reduced to writing, sent to the membership, and voted upon by the board of directors at an open board meeting. Members must be provided a 28 day notice of the meeting. While owners may not vote on the proposed election rules, they may comment on them before the board votes. Election rules do not go into effect until 90 days after they are adopted by the board.
If I mail in my ballot, but change my mind, can I rescind my ballot and submit a new one?
No. Under California law, all ballots submitted are irrevocable.
As part of your services, does HOA Inspector of Elections provide proxy forms to members of homeowner associations?
No. Given that most all elections are held by secret ballots mailed by each member to the inspector of elections, proxies have become obsolete.
What is SB 323?
Senate Bill 323 became law in California on January 1, 2020. It substantially modified the law regarding the conduct of secret ballot elections. It is the law followed by HOA Inspector of Elections.
Given the new law, elections for directors now take about 100 days from start to completion. Other elections require approximately 70 days from start to completion.
What happens if our homeowner association does not reach a quorum?
The answer will be found in your association's bylaws, election rules, and possibly in the CC&Rs. The answer will be found by the inspector of elections when he or she reviews your association governing documents. See: Adjournment of Meetings.
May I physically bring my completed ballot to the offices of HOA Inspector of Elections prior to the counting of the ballots?
Voters are required to deliver their ballots according to the written instructions delivered with the ballots.
Does HOA Inspector of Election contract with the community association or the management company?
The contract is always between the inspector of elections, Michael Chulak, and the homeowner association. However, it is common for the management company to sign the agreement as agent of the association.
Why did the California Legislature create the current law for all secret ballot, two envelopes elections?
The rationale expressed by the legislature is that it had become very clear that some HOA boards, had improperly influenced the outcome of elections and that a system needed to be created to assure HOA members that their elections were being conducted fairly. While the system in place is not perfect and takes a great deal of time, it does work and associations are now assured of fair and accurate results.
I have been nominated to run for the board of directors of my HOA but have changed my mind, can I have my name removed from the ballot?
If the ballots have not been prepared and mailed the answer is yes. If the ballots have been prepared and mailed , your name will remain on the ballot. If that happens, you and/or the board should promptly notify the membership of your withdrawal. If you are still elected , your withdrawal will be considered a resignation from the board.
Our next election for directors is nearly one year away. Can we book you now for our election next year so we can reserve a specific date?
Absolutely. We have many HOA clients that book a date a year or longer in advance.
Does HOA Inspector of Elections hold elections for Mutual Water Companies in California?
What can happen if the board of our community association refuses to hold an election when the bylaws of the association require the election to be held?
If the election is simply delayed for a month or six weeks probably nothing will happen other than some owners will be displeased. On the other hand, if the board fails to schedule an election by the time the election was scheduled to be held pursuant to the bylaws, the board risks that one or more members may file suit against the association for failing to comply with its governing documents. This is likely to result in the existing board not being re-elected. The cost of defense mayor may not be covered by insurance. Boards should avoid placing their associations in such a position.
What are the consequences of not holding a proper HOA election?
The results of an election can be challenged in court and it is possible for a court to require the holding of a new election under some circumstances. We are not aware of a successful challenge in situations where a homeowner association has hired a professional inspector of elections, but the risk of a challenge does exist. This is one of the reasons most homeowners do nor want to be appointed by their board to be the inspector of elections.
Are election rules required to be delivered with the secret ballots?
The election rules must be delivered with the secret ballots or posted on the association's website.