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Brad Watson: Not all information needs to be shared

Posted: February 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 2, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

Sebastian F.

I live in a townhome in a community burdened with repairs that have lead to several special assessments.

Although we have a lot going on in our community, neither our management company nor our board of directors share important community information with the homeowners.

It seems that the community newsletter or the association website would be great places to share information such as the number of property violations and assessment delinquencies so that the homeowners know that something is being done.

I also know we are currently in litigation with a construction company that did work on some of our buildings.

Why would we not get regular updates?

What is the board or management company’s obligation when it comes to sharing important association information?

I don’t trust our board.



DR HOA

I always recommend associations be as open and transparent as possible with association business.

That said, oftentimes what is considered important is subjective.

Association updates and information that one owner considers important and newsworthy may be considered trivial by another.

Certain updates and information may also be inappropriate or premature to share with the association owners.

For instance, an association engaged in a sensitive legal matter will look to their legal counsel to determine what and when information is shared with the membership.

As it relates to the contents of the association’s monthly newsletter and/or on the community website, this is completely up to the board’s discretion.

Some associations prefer for community newsletters to be limited to positive community-building topics such as social activities, baking recipes and local events.

Other associations prefer to convey more business related information, such as the association’s financial health, common area improvement updates or planned capital improvements.

One thing I urge homeowners to keep in mind is that information that may seem relevant or useful to share with homeowners may actually be inappropriate or potentially create liability exposure.

For instance, I would strongly discourage publishing any information related to association’s violations or delinquencies.

It goes without saying that sharing confidential information such as the addresses or names of delinquent or non-compliant owners is inappropriate and may lead to legal claims against the association.

But even publishing the number of owners who are not paying their assessments or the number of properties in violation of the association’s governing documents can have negative implications on the association and property values.

Publishing information that could be interpreted by local real estate agents or prospective buyers as negative attributes could arguably harm the value and integrity of the neighborhood.

Most associations have delinquent owners as well as active violations.

To intentionally make this information public is unnecessary and I do not see the benefit.

As it relates to association litigation, the board is most likely working closely with the association’s legal counsel.

The law governs what must be shared with association owners, so I would think an update will be provided to the membership once it is appropriate to do so, but it never hurts to ask if you feel that an update is past due.

Board members are often tasked with engaging in confidential discourse and making critical decisions that impact the association.

While board members work at the pleasure of the owners, it is a volunteer position and they are dedicating their valuable time to serve the community.

Management companies also work at the pleasure of the membership, but at the direction of the board of directors.

There are very few decisions that a management company is able to unilaterally make without board direction, including what is included in the community newsletter or on the website.

If you have suggestions on ways to improve the community newsletter or website I would encourage you to attend a board meeting and share your ideas.

If you continue to have trust issues with your association’s board of directors, I would suggest you consider running for a position on the board at the next election.

The association board member election process is democratic, so if you do not like your current leadership, vote them out.

Readers can submit questions to: drhoa@pmprollc.com.

Brad Watson is managing director of Property Management Professionals which is located at 27413 Tourney Road, Suite 100, Valencia. He can be reached at 661-295-4900 or www.pmprofessionalsllc.com. The column contains general information about HOA practices and does not represent the specific CC&Rs of each HOA or replace the advice of an attorney. Watson’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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