Get 6 months of free community web site hosting from Community123.com!
Monday, July 28, 2014
HOA Websites by Community123.com (National Community Website Provider)
We built HOATalk and we'll build your community website for free!  Click here for information on a free trial website.
Community Associations Network (National HOA Reference Library)
News, articles and blogs about condos/HOA's
Only members have access to all features.
Click here to join HOATalk for Free! Members click here to login and access all features.
Subject: Website Legality
Prev Next
Please login to post a reply (click Member Login on the menu).
Author Messages
CarolS2
(California)

Posts:1


01/15/2006 7:16 PM  
I have a question I am hoping someone can answer... Can anyone tell me if having a website could be construed as invasion of privacy? Our former president (who was ruling with an iron fist) has questioned whether having a public website may be an invasion of privacy. We are posting minutes, financial information and our newsletters! Has anyone been exposed to this?

Sincerely

Carol Steinbrecher

Carol Steinbrecher
RogerB
(Colorado)

Posts:4861


01/15/2006 8:46 PM  
Perhaps community 123.com will provide info on this subject. You can remove the concerns about privacy by having pulic pages plus separate private pages which can only be accessed by a members only login. A web site needs to have privacy protection for certain HOA info, such as a membership directory with names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses which have had prior approval for publication.

Roger
SamuelB
(North Carolina)

Posts:83


01/15/2006 8:47 PM  
I'm far from understanding where the website would be considered invasion of privacy (yes I am responsible for such websites). The website should be restricted to the homeowners where homeowner information is present. I would be reluctant to publish financial data on the website that was available to anyone except board members. All financial data, indeed all data, that is relevant to the Association should be accessible to each and every homeowner upon request, but that does not mean publish it on a website. That is a NO-NO.

I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things . . . - Antoine de St-Exupéry
SamuelB
(North Carolina)

Posts:83


01/15/2006 8:49 PM  
To elaborate further, as Roger mentioned, personal information, such as addresses, etc, should only be published with permission from the homeowner.

I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things . . . - Antoine de St-Exupéry
SteveH
(North Carolina)

Posts:10


01/16/2006 4:39 AM  
Permission or not, I'd strongly suggest that personal information NOT be published, password or not, other than the names of officers. Even where those are concerned, I'd give them domain email addresses so that you aren't giving out their own private addresses and subject them to spam.

Consider that while you think you may know everyone very well in your community, you can really be surprised. About a year ago, we discovered that we had a convicted pedophile in the community. While he'd moved by the time we learned it, if we'd had our site live then with contact info for any neighbors, it could have been used to track down neighbors.
hoatalk


Posts:562


01/16/2006 4:47 AM  
First, I'm no attorney and the opinion below comes from my research only:

The opinion I've seen in my research is that the Board has a fiduciary duty/obligation only to its members, not to prospective buyers or the public at large.

How does this apply to a public web site? If the Board publishes documents that have an adverse affect on the community or a member, then there could be some liability for the association. Some hypothetical examples:
(1) A prospective buyer signs a purchase agreement, then backs out because of negative information it finds on your public web site (some feedback in your newsletter, some item in your financials, etc). You don't know what someone may consider negative. If that information was not a required disclosure item under your state law, then might the Board/association be liable to that homeowner for making them lose the sale?
(2) A Florida condo HOA publicly publishes their financials which show a relatively low reserve fund. The local newspaper is doing a story on the effect of hurricanes on local homeowners called, "Condos going broke!", where it lists your neighborhood as one to stay away from, due to it's low reserve fund and the potential for a huge member assessment after the next storm. Even if the community was in the process of addressing the issue, the damage is done.

The basic idea here is that the Board should only make documents publicly available that it is required to do so by law. Disclosing more may actually open up the Board/Association to liability. Please note that this is not a discussion of ethics and right and wrong, only Board obligations. It's not a matter of the Board trying to hide anything from the public; rather following the rules of it's obligations to its members.

It's better to publish most HOA information in a private, password protected website that only members can access. Of course, Community123.com (the creators of HOATalk) would be happy to provide you with such a web site :-) .

HOATalk.com, A free service of Community123.com
Provider of Upscale Community Websites
CLICK HERE to get a FREE trial community website
*See legal notice below (end of page) or go to www.hoatalk.com/legal
LisaS
(Illinois)

Posts:341


01/17/2006 3:49 PM  
What exactly does this Board President wish to hide? I disagree with others who believe that financial information should be easily acceptable to Board members only. It should be accessible to all who wish to review it- but especially to those who pay dues and are members to whom the Association is accountable. If you are an incorporated HOA (as many of us are)the information is subject to Freedom of Information Act anyway.

If you have a well run, financially stable association, it can only help for buyers to see the statements. They are more confident in their purchase, and property values go up. If I were buying a proeprty and was given a hard time in accessing these documents, I would have serious reservations (I am a Realtor and an HOA VP).

Individual homeowner information should not be accessed by the public, and if it is included on your site should be in a password protected area. As well, information can be input by homeowner, or with their written permission .

In the technology age, website are so important. We post minutes, financials, and newsletters as well as Board member bios and current issues. All of our mebers have 24 hour easy access and contact with us. We have had only compliments.
FrankD
(Arizona)

Posts:10


06/02/2006 11:59 AM  
Lisa,
This may be beterr asked as a new thread but...
How are you suggesting to use he Freedom of Information Act to "force" an HOA (incorporated) to release information.

Our current HOA board is being very closed in their dealings and our attempts to get the board to release vendor contracts, management agreements, and the like are meeting a brick wall.

I just wanted to know how to use the FIA as another way to get this information.

Thanks
SwanB
(Washington)

Posts:199


06/04/2006 9:41 AM  
We are in the process of redesigning our website after I discovered the volunteer who was helping put it together included a link on the frontpage which included religious and political opinions I am personally opposed to. Besides the fact I don't believe an HOA should be promoting any religious or political opinions.
Our previous website was the clunkiest and most unattractive one I had seen. We did discuss who we were aiming the website for and the legalities of documents, etc.
Our decision was to include our governing documents on our website but not meeting minutes. The reason was members have access to our minutes automatically through our email list and office so there isn't a need for them to access them on our website.
Potential buyers communicate with the Secretary for minutes through phone calls and emails and this allows for the FAQ we often encounter and the personal touch.
BrianB
(California)

Posts:2803


06/04/2006 4:49 PM  
HOA's are not governmental bodies, hence, are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act.

JulieS
(Georgia)

Posts:412


06/04/2006 7:43 PM  
Our website was created out of necessity...with residents complaining about the lack of access to information. We have general public pages and then a private resident page requiring a log-in and password. In this area we post financials (but not receivables and legal information), meeting minutes, by-laws/covenants/declaration & design standards, annual meeting presentations, pool rules, newsletters and the on-going initiation fee amendment & consent form we are trying to pass. There is also a link to email our MC manager and the ability to pay your dues on-line. Now, if anyone complains that they do not have access to the information, we can tell them that all they have to do is go on-line and check it out. Those who are really interested in knowing what is going on will access this information via the internet which saves a lot of time and money.
GeraldT1


Posts:0


06/06/2006 7:08 AM  
A website is a good tool, but can not replace the responsibility of the boards to post and mail association related matters. Believe it or not, everyone does not have access to the web.
A member login is critical.
The minutes should be in PDF format as opposed to word format. PDF will keep the minutes from being easily reproduced or changed.

Gerald
DonH
(Florida)

Posts:9


12/31/2007 9:45 AM  
Posted By SamuelB on 01/15/2006 8:47 PM
I'm far from understanding where the website would be considered invasion of privacy (yes I am responsible for such websites). The website should be restricted to the homeowners where homeowner information is present. I would be reluctant to publish financial data on the website that was available to anyone except board members. All financial data, indeed all data, that is relevant to the Association should be accessible to each and every homeowner upon request, but that does not mean publish it on a website. That is a NO-NO.




I assume you have Statutes that back up this opinion?

HOA's are State Corporations. Liens against unit owners(Members) are public record, as are Minutes of the Board and Members meetings. The only thing that you could not publish would be medical files of Association employees, socials, etc. As far as address an phone numbers Florida statutes REQUIRE the Directors and Officers of the BOD to be posted. In Florida you may refer to Statutes chapter 720 for HOA's. There is also a list of records that are Required by the State from the HOA. Any HOA who insists on secrecy usually has something to hide.
GloriaM
(North Carolina)

Posts:829


12/31/2007 9:54 AM  
An HOA's website should be designed so that there are pages that the public could visit, so that if someone is shopping for a home within that community can easily have certain information that would help in the decision of whether to purchase within that neighborhood.

The secured pages should have the downloads to membership only information such as newsletters, Minutes of the Meetings etc.

As a member of that community you have the right to see certain documents as per your governing articles.

As a board I would not recommend posting who is delinquent, however the board could say there are 9 owners in arrears totaling X amount of dollars.
DonH
(Florida)

Posts:9


12/31/2007 9:59 AM  
Posted By hoatalk on 01/16/2006 4:47 AM
First, I'm no attorney and the opinion below comes from my research only:

How does this apply to a public web site? If the Board publishes documents that have an adverse affect on the community or a member, then there could be some liability for the association. Some hypothetical examples:
(1) A prospective buyer signs a purchase agreement, then backs out because of negative information it finds on your public web site (some feedback in your newsletter, some item in your financials, etc). You don't know what someone may consider negative. If that information was not a required disclosure item under your state law, then might the Board/association be liable to that homeowner for making them lose the sale?
(2) A Florida condo HOA publicly publishes their financials which show a relatively low reserve fund. The local newspaper is doing a story on the effect of hurricanes on local homeowners called, "Condos going broke!", where it lists your neighborhood as one to stay away from, due to it's low reserve fund and the potential for a huge member assessment after the next storm. Even if the community was in the process of addressing the issue, the damage is done.





Florida Statutes have recently changed to REQUIRE Association run communities:
720.401 Prospective purchasers subject to association membership requirement; disclosure required; covenants; assessments; contract cancellation.
720.402 Publication of false and misleading information.
720.401 Prospective purchasers subject to association membership requirement; disclosure required; covenants; assessments; contract cancellation.--
(1)(a) A prospective parcel owner in a community must be presented a disclosure summary before executing the contract for sale. The disclosure summary must be in a form substantially similar to the following form:
And to get out of the contract for sale:
IF THE DISCLOSURE SUMMARY REQUIRED BY SECTION 720.401, FLORIDA STATUTES, HAS NOT BEEN PROVIDED TO THE PROSPECTIVE PURCHASER BEFORE EXECUTING THIS CONTRACT FOR SALE, THIS CONTRACT IS VOIDABLE BY BUYER BY DELIVERING TO SELLER OR SELLER'S AGENT OR REPRESENTATIVE WRITTEN NOTICE OF THE BUYER'S INTENTION TO CANCEL WITHIN 3 DAYS AFTER RECEIPT OF THE DISCLOSURE

So as to publication of documents, etc. I would say the public has the right to know the negatives and positives about a community they are spending a huge amount of money to live in.
BradP
(Kansas)

Posts:2640


12/31/2007 10:30 AM  
I think communities need to keep up with the changes in technology. Websites are a common part of today's lives and people are becoming more and more accustomed to turning to the web for information. I agree with others that information sensitvie to the association such as minutes, etc. either be password protected or not put on at all. But a well constructed and informative website can be a valuable tool for both current owners and prospective buyers.
hoatalk


Posts:562


12/31/2007 12:10 PM  
Posted By DonH on 12/31/2007 9:59 AM
Posted By hoatalk on 01/16/2006 4:47 AM
First, I'm no attorney and the opinion below comes from my research only:

How does this apply to a public web site? If the Board publishes documents that have an adverse affect on the community or a member, then there could be some liability for the association. Some hypothetical examples:
(1) A prospective buyer signs a purchase agreement, then backs out because of negative information it finds on your public web site (some feedback in your newsletter, some item in your financials, etc). You don't know what someone may consider negative. If that information was not a required disclosure item under your state law, then might the Board/association be liable to that homeowner for making them lose the sale?
(2) A Florida condo HOA publicly publishes their financials which show a relatively low reserve fund. The local newspaper is doing a story on the effect of hurricanes on local homeowners called, "Condos going broke!", where it lists your neighborhood as one to stay away from, due to it's low reserve fund and the potential for a huge member assessment after the next storm. Even if the community was in the process of addressing the issue, the damage is done.


...
So as to publication of documents, etc. I would say the public has the right to know the negatives and positives about a community they are spending a huge amount of money to live in.



You missed part of the HOATalk post in your quote:
" The basic idea here is that the Board should only make documents publicly available that it is required to do so by law. Disclosing more may actually open up the Board/Association to liability. Please note that this is not a discussion of ethics and right and wrong, only Board obligations. It's not a matter of the Board trying to hide anything from the public; rather following the rules of it's obligations to its members."

This is directly in line with the Florida statute you mention.

In addition, the HOATalk post made it clear that this is not a discussion of an opinion of right and wrong; only duty of the Board to the association. The Buyer's right to know is defined by the law and the post said the Board must obey those laws. The reverse is that the current owner's have the right to be protected from degradation of home values by a misinterpretation of random (and maybe not 100% accurate or up to date) postings on a public website. Keep in mind that many HOA websites are not kept up to date and are not subject to strict review process. This means they are not the official word of the current state of the association. The 'official' documents of the Association are what should be provided to Buyers so the Buyer knows they are correct and the current Owners do as well.

HOATalk.com, A free service of Community123.com
Provider of Upscale Community Websites
CLICK HERE to get a FREE trial community website
*See legal notice below (end of page) or go to www.hoatalk.com/legal
Please login to post a reply (click Member Login on the menu).



General Legal Notice:  The content of forum messages are from the posting member and have not been reviewed nor endorsed by HOATalk.com.  Messages posted by HOATalk or other members are for informational purposes only, are not legal or professional advice and do not constitute an attorney-client relationship.  Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.  HOATalk is not a licensed attorney, CPA, tax advisor, financial advisor or any other licensed professional.  HOATalk accepts ads from sponsors but does not verify sponsor qualifications nor endorse/guarantee any sponsor's product or service.
HindmanSanchez Legal Notice:  (For messages posted by HindmanSanchez) This message has been prepared by HindmanSanchez for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Members of HOATalk.com should not act on this information without seeking professional counsel. Please do not send us confidential information unless you speak with one of our attorneys and get authorization to send that information to us. If you wish to initiate possible representation, please contact an attorney in our firm. Our attorneys are licensed to practice law in the state of Colorado only.

Legal Notice For Messages Posted by Sponsoring Attorneys: This message has been prepared by the sponsoring attorney for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Readers of HOATalk.com should not act on this information without seeking professional counsel. Please do not send any sponsoring attorney confidential information unless you speak with the sponsoring attorney or an attorney from the sponsoring attorney’s firm and get authorization to send that information to them. If you wish to initiate possible representation, please contact an attorney in the firm of the sponsoring attorney. Sponsoring attorneys that post messages here are licensed to practice law in a specific state or states as indicated in their message signature or sponsor’s profile page. (NOTE: A ‘sponsoring attorney’ is an attorney that is a HOATalk.com official sponsor and is identified as such in the posted message or on our sponsor page.)

Only members have access to all features.
Click here to join HOATalk for Free! Members click here to login and access all features.
Copyright HOA Talk.com, A Service of Community123 LLC ( Homeowners Association Discussions )   Terms Of Use  Privacy Statement