Most ROC managers and board members know that Florida statutes governing condominium associations and cooperative associations allow directors to attend a board meeting by phone.
While the statutes governing mandatory homeowners associations don’t provide for an HOA board member to appear by phone at a board meeting, if the HOA is a not-for-profit corporation (and most are), the provisions of Florida Statute Section 617.0820(4) may apply and allow HOA directors to participate by "any means of communication by which all directors participating may simultaneously hear each other during the meeting".
The statutory provisions governing condominium and cooperative associations focus on the ability the directors not attending the meeting in person to hear and be heard by the board members attending in person as well as the unit owners present at the board meeting. Both statutes (Section 718.112(2)(b)5 for condominium associations and 719.106(1)(b)5 for cooperative associations), in contrast to Section 617.0820(4), specifically refer to a "telephone conference" and the use of a "telephone speaker".
But what about Skype?
Many of my blog readers may know that Skype is a free computer program that allows its users to speak at no expense with other Skype users through their computers via the internet.
One of the manufactured housing cooperatives we represent was thinking about using Skype as a substitute for phone conference calls for directors who could not appear in person for board meetings. At the time, I hadn’t sampled Skype and felt that the process might be too cumbersome and was concerned about statute’s specific reference to the use of a telephone.
That was several months ago–before I retired the old but trusty laptop that my younger daughter had handed down to me and purchased a new laptop with a built-in web camera feature. I thus had an excuse to try Skype and was very impressed with the audio and visual quality of the connection (no doubt to the amusement and mild annoyance of my daughters and one of my nieces who were the first three recipients of my Skype "test run" and who of course have used Skype for several years).
I visited Skype’s website and it appears that Skype users can easily arrange for conference calls that will allow everyone on the call to hear and be heard. I can certainly picture board meetings where there will be a laptop (rather than a telephone speaker) in the center of the table at the ROC clubhouse where the meeting is being held–all at no cost to the association other than the ongoing monthly charge for internet service and, if a member’s laptop is not on that clubhouse table, the one-time charge for the association to purchase a laptop.
While using Skype rather than a telephone speaker may not technically constitute a "telephone conference," I would certainly hope that as long as all board members and unit owners can hear and be heard, a board meeting where some directors attend by Skype would meet the statutory requirements.
I’m can’t wait for my next chat with that forward thinking ROC.