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Board’s handling of satellite dish vote gets bad reception

Dear Benny: We homeowners are having quite a problem with our board.

A few weeks ago all homeowners got a letter asking for us to vote yes or no on putting a satellite dish in the clubhouse. The understanding was that any unreturned ballots would count as a “no” vote.

Well, of the returned ballots, 18 were “no” and 15 were “yes.” The board made a motion to disregard the vote, there was a second vote and the satellite dish was approved.

We homeowners voiced our opinion and asked how they could just disregard our vote, which was their idea in the first place, and got the most stupid answer I ever heard in my life: “Well, it was only a difference of a few votes anyway.”

Can a board just toss aside a legitimate vote because they don’t like the answer? They are going to have another meeting soon, and I would like to be able to give my opinion and know it’s correct. –Irene

Dear Irene: I love that answer. Perhaps we should use it in political elections: “Hey, I got five less votes than my opponent so I am the real winner.”

Seriously, the answer to your question depends on your legal documents. Some actions of a community association must be approved by a majority of the owners (for example, spending over XX dollars for improvements). Other actions can be taken by the board pursuant to the authority given them in the legal documents.

If the board has the authority to install the dish — and merely wanted to run it by the owners — they can ignore the clear wishes of the owners. However, they run the risk that they will not be voted back in office at the next annual meeting.

On the other hand, if this decision must be approved by a majority of owners, then the board cannot ignore the negative vote. You all should complain and retain legal counsel to challenge the board’s action.

Benny Kass is a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. No legal relationship is created by this column. Questions for this column can be submitted to benny@inman.com.

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