Recording Board and Homeowner Meetings

Neither individual board members nor those in attendance at board and homeowner meetings have the right to electronically record the meeting.

Association meetings are not public meetings. Under the Open Meeting Act, which is part of the Davis-Stirling Act, association members (not the general public) have the right to attend board meetings and address the board. Otherwise boards have the authority to establish meeting practices. That means boards of directors can adopt rules that include prohibitions on recording meetings.

The Open Meeting Act, which governs board meetings, is separate from the Brown Act. There is no statute or case that converts a board meeting of a common interest development into a public gathering and permits the unauthorized recording of those meetings. The Davis-Stirling Open Meeting Act permits only two things: (1) a member's right to attend an open meeting and (2) their right to speak during an open meeting. There is nothing in the statute or current case law that allows members to record HOA meetings.

Owners who bring audio or video recorders to board meetings often do so because they are threatening a lawsuit or want to intimidate participants into silence. Under those conditions, meeting participants are reluctant to speak freely for fear of being dragged into a lawsuit or having their voices appear on internet websites. As a result, members' free speech rights are suppressed by the person doing the recording.

Even though owners attending a board meeting may not have an expectation of privacy within the community, they have a reasonable expectation that their conversations and likeness will not be posted on YouTube or other websites open to the general public outside their community. For these reasons, most boards prohibit private recordings, whether audio or video. This is especially true for executive session disciplinary hearings.

Sometimes the First Amendment to the United States Constitution will be cited by people in support of private recordings. The First Amendment does not give owners the right to record private meetings. The First Amendment applies to governmental restrictions on free speech and does not apply to private meetings.

Secret recordings can be subject to fines under an association's rules and regulations. Boards have the authority to create reasonable rules of conduct for their meetings, such as restrictions on recording, disrupting the meeting, and prohibiting foul language.