An issue that is frequently encountered within homeowners associations is whether or not Homeowners should be able to record HOA meetings. An extension of that issue is whether individual homeowners who attend an open meeting of their associations board of directors have a right to record the meeting, irrespective of whether the association is recording the meeting. While there is general consensus that the association, acting through its directors, has a right to record its board meetings, there are conflicting views on whether homeowners have a right to record a meeting that they attend.

Homeowner Right to Record HOA Meetings

A meeting of the directors of a homeowners association is not a public gathering that those in attendance have a right to record. The fact that state laws, or an associations governing documents may specify that directors meetings be open to the associations members, does not mean that the meeting is open to the general public. In fact, state laws and association governing documents typically specify that association members, and not the general public, can attend meetings of the associations directors that are not conducted in executive session. The state statutes and association governing documents also provide that an associations board of directors has the authority and duty to govern the business and affairs of the association. Thus, it follows that, absent provisions in state statutes or governing documents that specifically allow for the recording of directors meetings by members, an associations board of directors has the power to adopt reasonable rules of conduct for their meetings that include restrictions on the recording of the meeting by members in attendance.

Arguments in Favor of Allowing the Recording of Board Meetings

Proponents of allowing the people to record HOA meetings argue that it creates an accurate record of what transpired at a meeting and also promotes openness and transparency by the associations directors. Additionally, the fact that a meeting is being recorded will frequently deter inappropriate behavior by agitated members in attendance that might tend to engage in conduct that is disruptive to the meeting. If the recording does not deter inappropriate behavior, it will create a record for future action that may be taken to address the improper conduct.

Arguments Against the Right to Record HOA Meetings

Many opponents of allowing members to record board meetings argue that knowledge of the fact that the proceedings are being recorded has a tendency to suppress open discussion by those in attendance. Because the person who is desirous of recording the meeting is frequently involved in conflicts with the association, the other participants in the meeting may be reluctant to speak freely out of concern about becoming involved in the conflict. Thus, the recording of the proceedings could have a chilling effect on the directors debate over important issues that must be addressed by the board.

Another argument against allowing the recording of board meetings relates to the fact that the recordings can often create unnecessary conflicts, consumption of time, and considerable expense dealing with issues over what actually went on at the meeting in question. This results from the fact that, because board meetings can last for hours, frequently sound bites or portions of discussions that took place at the meeting are taken out of context in order to promote a particular position.

The authority for the adoption of reasonable rules of conduct at board meetings is found in state laws and/or the associations governing documents such as the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), the Bylaws, and/or the Articles of Incorporation. Because the requirements for the adoption of rules vary from state-to-state and association-to-association, it is critical that the relevant provisions in the state statutes and the associations governing documents pertaining to the adoption of rules be thoroughly reviewed before the rules are drafted and adopted by the association. It is also a good practice, and may be a requirement of the laws and/or statutes, to submit the rule to the associations membership for review and comment prior to taking official action to adopt the rule. Finally, if an associations board of directors adopts rules of conduct for their meetings, it is a good practice to include those rules on the agenda for board meetings and/or as a separate handout at the meetings.