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Subject: Interactive website?
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PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:993


12/19/2018 5:37 AM  
We do have a web site but the board does not allow members to post their views, questions or recommendations. Evidently, the board has decided that its use is only for ‘informational purposes’ and only a board member can post specific announcements. Is this an accepted practice in your HOA?
GreggT
(Florida)

Posts:77


12/19/2018 5:43 AM  
Yes, pretty much the norm. If you want an interactive site for your HOA start a FaceBook page for your owners.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:2464


12/19/2018 5:48 AM  
It may be your board is concerned about people posting things that really have nothing to do with the association, which I understand Not to mention people going in with name-calling and other bad behavior - unless your website has a section that's open to homeowners only, everyone else on the planet could take a look at your website (including potential homeowners). Then there's the fear that someone could post something really crazy and put the association at risk for a libel lawsuit.

Perhaps your board could consider adding a message board to the site where people could make comments on various matters - it's ok to have someone monitor the content for inappropriate language (NOT censorship of ideas!). That section could be limited to homeowners only. Put in that suggestion and see what they say
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:993


12/19/2018 6:50 AM  
Shelia,

excellent suggestion. Will do.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:243


12/19/2018 7:38 AM  
Adding to what others have said, the main reason that boards control the info appearing on the official web site is that they are legally accountable for that information. If others are allowed to post information, the board has to worry about: 1) inaccurate info; 2) defamatory or harrassing content; 3) plagiarism (eg., somebody posts lyrics of their favorite song or bootleg audio/video content); 4) privacy violations (eg., somebody posts photos from the latest party without getting written permission from people in the photos, especially a problem if minors are in the photos. In addition, board members are volunteers whose time is limited. Monitoring content that is being posted by others can be time consuming, and frankly board members have more urgent tasks on their plates.

There are social media companies that are targeted toward neighborhoods or communities, although they are not without their own problems. That may be something worth looking into. However, keep in mind that you can pretty much assume that, unless someone controls what is being posted, at some point "friendly neighborhood discussions" will likely devolve into finger-pointing and name-calling about dog poop.


JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8267


12/19/2018 8:45 AM  
Posted By CathyA3 on 12/19/2018 7:38 AM
Adding to what others have said, the main reason that boards control the info appearing on the official web site is that they are legally accountable for that information. If others are allowed to post information, the board has to worry about: 1) inaccurate info; 2) defamatory or harrassing content; 3) plagiarism (eg., somebody posts lyrics of their favorite song or bootleg audio/video content); 4) privacy violations (eg., somebody posts photos from the latest party without getting written permission from people in the photos, especially a problem if minors are in the photos. In addition, board members are volunteers whose time is limited. Monitoring content that is being posted by others can be time consuming, and frankly board members have more urgent tasks on their plates.

There are social media companies that are targeted toward neighborhoods or communities, although they are not without their own problems. That may be something worth looking into. However, keep in mind that you can pretty much assume that, unless someone controls what is being posted, at some point "friendly neighborhood discussions" will likely devolve into finger-pointing and name-calling about dog poop.






I agree. Do not make an association's website interactive. Keep it informational.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6350


12/19/2018 8:51 AM  
Ours, too, is only informational.
DouglasK1
(Florida)

Posts:1393


12/19/2018 9:18 AM  
Ours is also informational only. Most of our residents are on nextdoor, so if anyone wants to comment to fellow residents, they can do it that way.

If people want to communicate with the board, we publish an email address for that.

Escaped former treasurer and director of a self managed association.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:2892


12/19/2018 1:39 PM  
Posted By PetunkaM on 12/19/2018 5:37 AM
We do have a web site but the board does not allow members to post their views, questions or recommendations. Evidently, the board has decided that its use is only for ‘informational purposes’ and only a board member can post specific announcements. Is this an accepted practice in your HOA?

We don't have a website. But if we did and that's the way the board wanted to run it then that would be fine. There's nothing in the Florida Statutes that addresses how owners can contribute (or not) to an official association's website.
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:993


12/19/2018 2:33 PM  
Thank you ALL for you replies.

I could be wrong but do not want to believe the owners in our community would use inflammatory language or post inappropriate photos. We are too small, less than 50 units and most owners are either snow birds or investors. I just thought the ‘message board’ would/could/should improve communications which is almost non-existent (no board meetings this year, for instance). Questions on conflicting articles in our governing documents or, how we could save money, etc. could be clarified or proposed.

Perhaps a special committee could be appointed to monitor the responses so the board would not have to be burden with this task.

I may be naïve but think the membership should decide. But again, am not sure about the legal consequences– should they arise- as pointed out in this forum. I guess some kind of Disclaimer would probably not protect the Association? I surely do not want to put the Association at risk; on the contrary.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16291


12/19/2018 2:50 PM  
P,

Keep in mind that what is considered inflammatory is subjective.

Believe me, I know. I had board members take what I wrote on this site way out of context. They even had a secret, unannounced meeting about it.
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:993


12/19/2018 4:00 PM  

Tim,
Believe me I can imagine what you went thru. Our board makes all decisions – including financial decisions - behind the closed door - or by e-email. Please say Hi ! to Virginia lived there for many years and still miss it. Perhaps it has changed also.
I just wish I could find a HOA that is fair- -protects owners’ rights – and I’ll move there in a heartbeat. Wishful thinking?
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16291


12/19/2018 5:40 PM  
They are out there but you have to look.

I'm retiring into a development that has an HOA but zero common area, zero amenities and assessment amount is set in the CC&Rs.
The only thing the Association needs to maintain is an entrance monument.

Still unclear if the monuments are sitting on an easement or on private property.

JimC23
(Nevada)

Posts:13


12/19/2018 6:39 PM  
The BOD for our small HOA (60 homes) considered a website but then checked with our insurance agent for appropriate coverage --- and it was far too costly. At least in our state, we would be deemed a 'publisher' and it would have deemed prudent to purchase a policy covering defamation, copyright infringement etc etc even if the BOD controlled the content and posting of the content was accidental. We decided to just send out informational newsletters by email.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8267


12/19/2018 7:23 PM  
Pet

All you need is one or two cranky old people to complain/bytch and keep it up to ruin an interactive site. They will do more harm than good.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16291


12/19/2018 7:31 PM  
We have a forum section on our website (it helps the Association comply with State Statutes).

Very few have actually signed up for posting access (anyone can read).
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1208


12/19/2018 9:57 PM  
Smiling ... Petunka, opening the website to members would turn it into another polarizing component of the social media.

I’m the admin of ours - if the Board told me to open it up to members in a bb type forum, I would refuse.

Check out the nonsense on the nextdoor ...
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:993


12/20/2018 5:25 AM  
Based on your responses I have concluded that there is a real potential for message boards to unravel sooner or later. And, as Tim noted there is also a possibility of only a few members would sign up for posting access. While I realize serving on the board is a thankless job I am concerned about the owners’ rights not being protected. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1208


12/20/2018 6:05 AM  
I’m not convinced the rights of members are related to the business or even social notification purposes of an HOA website.

The website isn’t a common area, simply a tool the board has funded for a specific purpose.
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:993


12/20/2018 7:57 AM  
Oh George I wish I knew what the ‘specific purpose’ of our website really is. It is hopelessly outdated and incomplete.
Not all valid amendments are posted, last minutes posted 2 years ago, Chapter 720 was not posted since 2013, members' directory is chaotic, budgets/ financial reports questionable or missing, audit reports non-existent, no committees listed even though we have a couple, no forms such as Voting Certificates are posted and I can go on. But, it is also our fault because we let it go for too long or are incapable of doing anything about it. And, even when we tried - and we did on a couple of occasions - it did not produce any results.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:243


12/20/2018 9:15 AM  
Posted By PetunkaM on 12/20/2018 7:57 AM
Oh George I wish I knew what the ‘specific purpose’ of our website really is. It is hopelessly outdated and incomplete.
Not all valid amendments are posted, last minutes posted 2 years ago, Chapter 720 was not posted since 2013, members' directory is chaotic, budgets/ financial reports questionable or missing, audit reports non-existent, no committees listed even though we have a couple, no forms such as Voting Certificates are posted and I can go on. But, it is also our fault because we let it go for too long or are incapable of doing anything about it. And, even when we tried - and we did on a couple of occasions - it did not produce any results.




This sort of thing is common, and the real issue is that you don't have enough homeowners who are willing to do their fair share of running their communities. Websites are often created by boards who are committed to doing a good job and keeping all owners informed. But once the dedicated board members are no longer serving, you're left with others who may be apathetic, clueless, or downright destructive. It's the nature of community associations, unfortunately, and I have yet to figure out what to do about it other than remain permanently on the board.
ND
(PA)

Posts:283


12/20/2018 9:36 AM  
Posted By CathyA3 on 12/20/2018 9:15 AM
Posted By PetunkaM on 12/20/2018 7:57 AM
Oh George I wish I knew what the ‘specific purpose’ of our website really is. It is hopelessly outdated and incomplete.
Not all valid amendments are posted, last minutes posted 2 years ago, Chapter 720 was not posted since 2013, members' directory is chaotic, budgets/ financial reports questionable or missing, audit reports non-existent, no committees listed even though we have a couple, no forms such as Voting Certificates are posted and I can go on. But, it is also our fault because we let it go for too long or are incapable of doing anything about it. And, even when we tried - and we did on a couple of occasions - it did not produce any results.




This sort of thing is common, and the real issue is that you don't have enough homeowners who are willing to do their fair share of running their communities. Websites are often created by boards who are committed to doing a good job and keeping all owners informed. But once the dedicated board members are no longer serving, you're left with others who may be apathetic, clueless, or downright destructive. It's the nature of community associations, unfortunately, and I have yet to figure out what to do about it other than remain permanently on the board.



I've found that aside from remaining permanently on the Board to ensure things are done to your standards, the only other thing you can do is work even harder and spend even more time than you already do to seek out like-minded/abled/motivated people and get them to help or join the Board, or groom other folks (who have potential) to fill in for you when you depart. Again, it involves working harder, smarter, and longer than you currently do.

Petunka, if you'd like to see your website brought up to date and maintained that way, think about volunteering to do that for your Board/HOA. Perhaps a little help is all that's needed to make things better. Plenty of HOA members/neighbors have fantastic ideas on what (they think) needs to be done; however, the unwillingness to assist with actually accomplishing those ideas ensures that they rarely get done.

Further, I can attest, as other already have, that an interactive website, HOA forum, or facebook page is a bad idea unless there are strict controls in place (which equates to someone doing even more work to monitor and control what goes on).
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:993


12/20/2018 9:39 AM  
Kathy, yep, you hit the nail on the head.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:2892


12/20/2018 3:32 PM  
Posted By TimB4 on 12/19/2018 2:50 PM
Believe me, I know. I had board members take what I wrote on this site way out of context. They even had a secret, unannounced meeting about it.

I keep people in my HOA in the dark about this forum. If they find it it won't be because I told them about it.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8267


12/20/2018 6:33 PM  
Posted By GenoS on 12/20/2018 3:32 PM
Posted By TimB4 on 12/19/2018 2:50 PM
Believe me, I know. I had board members take what I wrote on this site way out of context. They even had a secret, unannounced meeting about it.

I keep people in my HOA in the dark about this forum. If they find it it won't be because I told them about it.




Same here.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16291


12/21/2018 1:37 AM  
Posted By JohnC46 on 12/20/2018 6:33 PM
Posted By GenoS on 12/20/2018 3:32 PM
Posted By TimB4 on 12/19/2018 2:50 PM
Believe me, I know. I had board members take what I wrote on this site way out of context. They even had a secret, unannounced meeting about it.

I keep people in my HOA in the dark about this forum. If they find it it won't be because I told them about it.




Same here.




I told the board members about it. Regardless their intention when using this site, the site is a very useful tool to all board members.
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:993


12/21/2018 2:58 PM  
Why in the world would any member - or any board member- would want to keep this site a secret?
DouglasK1
(Florida)

Posts:1393


12/21/2018 3:27 PM  
Posted By PetunkaM on 12/21/2018 2:58 PM
Why in the world would any member - or any board member- would want to keep this site a secret?


It is not unknown for some posters here to refer to other members of their board in a way that those other members might not feel is complimentary.

Escaped former treasurer and director of a self managed association.
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:993


12/21/2018 3:39 PM  
In which case we could infer where the problem lies.
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:993


12/21/2018 4:10 PM  
And, one more question, if I may. Is this website mostly controlled by the board members? And, if true, is this why I received the negative responses to making the website interactive, except one? No discussions of pros and cons. Amazing,
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:243


12/22/2018 5:18 AM  
Posted By PetunkaM on 12/21/2018 3:39 PM
In which case we could infer where the problem lies.




In which case you may well be wrong. Experienced board members are well aware that some of their fellow board members are sadly lacking in knowledge, skills, motivation and other qualities that make for an effective director. I consider that one of the major flaws of the community association structure, and given the number of complaints we hear from homeowners, they are well aware of this, too. Complaining about this sad state of affairs on an anonymous forum is totally appropriate.

On the other hand, experienced board members *will* know far more about the pros and cons of various ideas that pop up (such as interactive web sites) than any homeowner who hasn't served on an association board. We've seen it all, and often had it blow up in our faces. In my experience the board members on this site are well informed and balanced in their views - they wouldn't be here if they didn't want to share their knowledge and improve their skills. If an idea is greeted with a shortage of pros and a long list of cons, that's because the idea's risks far outweigh any benefit that it provides. Implying that this reflects any "us against them" bias shows how big the gap in knowledge is between board members and the typical homeowner.

Of course anyone is free to dismiss the opinions expressed here: good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from poor judgement. A painful lesson is often an effective teacher, and in general I'm all in favor of it, as long as one minimizes the casualties.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:8079


12/22/2018 5:44 AM  
The saying is "Garbage in Garbage out". You get out of a HOA the same amount of effort you put in. If you demand more, then do more to get that result. It's as simple as that unless you want to make excuses otherwise.

Most of us are board members or former board members but NOT all. We give answers based on our experiences and lessons we've learned over the course of being board members. If you have never been one, then your perspective is a bit different. Once you become one, your perspective does change. It's very rare to have such a forum of Board (current/ex) to give advice. Most HOA websites are more of the complaining type and NOT the educational encouraging type. Hence why we have advised that your board is doing right by NOT having an interactive website.

I will add that most of us have NOT taken the "easy" route to become board members. Most saw issues with their HOA and set forth to change them. The best way to do that is to step up and join your board or volunteer for a committee. Everyone in your HOA are VOLUNTEERS. Only qualification is for them to be an owner. So imagine you trying to address and perform up to snuff of everyone's expectations when you work full time jobs and/or have kids... HOA business may not be the top of your priority lists.

Former HOA President
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:2892


12/22/2018 12:54 PM  
Posted By PetunkaM on 12/21/2018 2:58 PM
Why in the world would any member - or any board member- would want to keep this site a secret?

I think that's self-evident. People can and will take things out of context and even the gentlest of criticism will be taken as a personal attack by some. Also, sarcasm doesn't come across well on a website forum posting, so for me personally, some of the things I've said here over the last 4 years about our boards, officers, reserves, maintenace and hiring practices would certainly make me Public Enemy #1 to some of the other homeowners here. My reputation here in my HOA is pretty good and I'd like to keep it that way. I've seen how a Search For The Guilty works and have no desire to be on the receiving end.

If anyone in my HOA stumbled upon HOATalk they probably wouldn't be able to identify me directly (I don't use my real name) but from time to time I've posted about things that others from my subdivision would instantly recognize. I don't need my name attached to any of that.

For instance, I think our HOA president is illiterate. Seriously. I've already said that in person to neighbors whom I trust. I wouldn't want any of my other neighbors to see that here while knowing it was me who posted it.

This site can absolutely be a useful resource to all board members willing to learn. It would not have been useful for anyone that's been on my HOA's board for the last 4 years, however. Spending several hours here on and off over the course of a month, or a year, represents an investment of time none of them would ever be willing to make.

I suppose if any of my HOA's board members found their way here I would continue to post, but I'd probably start a new account to do it.
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:993


12/23/2018 5:10 AM  
Geno,

your point is well taken.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8267


12/23/2018 9:03 AM  
Posted By GenoS on 12/22/2018 12:54 PM
Posted By PetunkaM on 12/21/2018 2:58 PM
Why in the world would any member - or any board member- would want to keep this site a secret?

I think that's self-evident. People can and will take things out of context and even the gentlest of criticism will be taken as a personal attack by some. Also, sarcasm doesn't come across well on a website forum posting, so for me personally, some of the things I've said here over the last 4 years about our boards, officers, reserves, maintenace and hiring practices would certainly make me Public Enemy #1 to some of the other homeowners here. My reputation here in my HOA is pretty good and I'd like to keep it that way. I've seen how a Search For The Guilty works and have no desire to be on the receiving end.

If anyone in my HOA stumbled upon HOATalk they probably wouldn't be able to identify me directly (I don't use my real name) but from time to time I've posted about things that others from my subdivision would instantly recognize. I don't need my name attached to any of that.

For instance, I think our HOA president is illiterate. Seriously. I've already said that in person to neighbors whom I trust. I wouldn't want any of my other neighbors to see that here while knowing it was me who posted it.

This site can absolutely be a useful resource to all board members willing to learn. It would not have been useful for anyone that's been on my HOA's board for the last 4 years, however. Spending several hours here on and off over the course of a month, or a year, represents an investment of time none of them would ever be willing to make.

I suppose if any of my HOA's board members found their way here I would continue to post, but I'd probably start a new account to do it.




I agree.
ArtL1
(Florida)

Posts:133


01/01/2019 7:24 PM  
Ours decided that with members already using Facebook and Nextdoor, there wasn't likely anything to be gained by opening the HOA web site up to member posts. How many different "social media" sites do you want to have to keep up with / monitor?
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:993


01/05/2019 2:45 PM  
Ours decided that with members already using Facebook and Nextdoor, there wasn't likely anything to be gained by opening the HOA web site up to member posts. How many different "social media" sites do you want to have to keep up with / monitor?

__

Art,
I may be naïve or, plain wrong, but I do NOT consider discussions-opened to HOA
Membership only - and dealing only with specific HOA issues a 'social media'.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:2892


01/05/2019 9:39 PM  
Posted By ArtL1 on 01/01/2019 7:24 PM
How many different "social media" sites do you want to have to keep up with / monitor?

Zero. Of any sort. I agree that restricted access to an online discussion area or forum is not "social media" in any way. But I'd personally not want to monitor or moderate any of those, either. If some members want to run off into the woods and play HOA House with nextdoor or some other gossip book, let them have at it, but make it abundantly clear that such venues are absolutely not representative of the HOA or its board.
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:993


01/06/2019 1:46 PM  
Geno,

We are a very small community (under 50 units) and supermajority are either snowbirds or investors. I can't tell you how many times people wanted to participate is some way but their offers -addressed to the board- died of natural loneliness. Also, our governing documents need a face lift cause they are either too ambiguous or in conflict with current laws and the owners' input could be invaluable.

Every Assn is different, but please do not assume anyone here wants to gossip or be otherwise unfriendly. Well, enough said.
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