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Subject: Confidentiality of complaints
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Author Messages
GailG2
(Tennessee)

Posts:6


08/10/2010 9:33 PM  
Our HOA (residential gated community) allows homeowners to file complaints 'verbally' to board members with the expectation their name will not be released.

Example: It is now being discussed and rumored within the community that a homeowner demands all American Flags/any flag be removed from any residence.

Many feel this type of demand should be in writing, signed and to the attention of the board. The board is considering complying to this one complaint in fear of a potential lawsuit. pleaseeeeeeeeeee I know what your thinking

Your thoughts please or how you may have handled. Thanks
SusanW1
(Michigan)

Posts:5202


08/11/2010 5:48 AM  
Any "idea" needs to go thru the system: proposal, discussion, motion, vote, etc. Any person or a board member can bring an idea to the attention of the board and get it on the agenda.

So let it go thru . . .

The presiding officer can choose to not entertain the discussion if it is disruptive, dilatory, illegal or just plain stupid.

I'd say that you were violating a person's civil rights by banning the display of tghe American flag. HOWEVER, the board could put size & placement restrictions on the display.


JohnO6
(Georgia)

Posts:424


08/11/2010 7:34 AM  
Please note:

The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 prohibits a
condominium, cooperative, or real estate management association from adopting or
enforcing any policy or agreement that would restrict or prevent a member of the
association from displaying the flag in accordance with the Federal Flag Code on
residential property to which the member has a separate ownership interest.
DonnaS
(Tennessee)

Posts:5671


08/11/2010 8:07 AM  

Gail,
Your Board has an easy out on this one as it is against the Federal law to prohibit the flying of an American flag. Too bad for this guy who is demanding????. Demand away Mr. My HOA DEMANDS that all complaints be in written form and mailed or presented to the Board for review. Once a complaint is reviewed by the Board, it then becomes part of the official records of the association and can be requested for viewing by any homeowner. Again, this must be in writting as well. I certainly would not publish his name if you decide to post the complaint for the members to see. Remove his name otherwise you might be facing a lynch mob to deal with.
DonnaS
(Tennessee)

Posts:5671


08/11/2010 8:12 AM  

Gail,

Is he one of those ***** guys who wants Tennessee to secede from the union? Gotta wonder.
GailG2
(Tennessee)

Posts:6


08/11/2010 9:48 AM  
Thanks for your responses. I agree all complaints should be in writing and signed before being entertained by the Board however our HOA allows calls and protect their identity ????
Homeowners 'think' they know the name of the complainer however the board member who took the call refuses to 'expose' the name of the caller...the issue is not really the caller but the fact the Board would entertain a complaint of this nature and protect the caller...the principle of having 'one person' demand this be addressed yet not have the guts to do so in writing and sign his/her name.

So does a homeowner just need to request the Board change their policy of complaints by requiring only written/signed complaint be addressed to the board ? and will it have to be voted on in the annual meeting ??? Thanks
DanielH1
(California)

Posts:481


08/11/2010 10:13 AM  
There's a difference between a "request" and a complaint/violation. This sounds like a request. (I agree with others that the actual request is probably illegal.)

A Board Member can accept requests regarding proposed rules, action items, etc., if he chooses, and bring them up with the Board. That's well within his rights and it is up to the Board Member if he wants to reveal who or how the request came about. The Board Member can make a motion and, if he gets the votes, it gets done. It doesn't matter who had the idea first or what source the idea came from. And, unless you have some crazy Bylaws, paperwork shouldn't be required.

Also, a homeowner can stand up in an open forum and suggest the Board take some action, too.

However, if it is a complaint/violation, then the accused has a right to know their accuser. For example, if you have an existing rule against flying the flag and Bob complains that Joe violated the rule and Joe takes down his flag before anybody else noticed or witnessed it, then the Board can't fine Joe unless Joe gets a hearing in which he can know that Bob reported him and "cross-examine" Bob. Bob would also very likely have to file a formal complaint. If it is an ongoing violation, many HOAs will have a Board Member go out and witness the violation so the Board Member can become the official complainer and not have to involve/reveal the homeowner that brought the issue to the Board's attention.

This has all been covered in other posts before.
DonnaS
(Tennessee)

Posts:5671


08/11/2010 10:28 AM  

Gail,
Yes, the Board should have this in rules-that any complaint or request be in writting. This is a Board action and they can add that at any time at a Board meeting. The members should be informed of it thru whatever communications methods they would normally use.

What you are telling us about their current method is sort of like highschoolers who don't want to rat out someone. Make a policy and stick to it. In my opinion, if you make a request such as this, be man or woman enough to take the heat and do not put the Board in a position where they now are trying to cover up your identity. This is childish behavior. I know that if I were on this Board, I would not let this type of request go further than a Thank you, I will look into it. Tell this guy that there is a law and the Board will follow it.
GailG2
(Tennessee)

Posts:6


08/11/2010 10:57 AM  
Perfect Donna !!!my thoughts exactly,we are on the same page. We are new to this area and new to HOA's...so glad to have found this websight.
MaryA1


Posts:0


08/11/2010 2:45 PM  
Gail,

I see no need to require that complaints be made in writing. The reason is because a board member or member of the architectural control committee should check out the complaint before sending a violation letter. A violation notice should NEVER be sent just because a member made a complaint. Unless it's written in the CCRs or is a state law that a member has the right to know who made the complaint, there is no reason why a complaint cannot be anonymous. Complaints of city/co code violations are always anonymous so why can't an HOA operate in the same manner?
BrianB
(California)

Posts:2803


08/11/2010 4:05 PM  
I would like to toss out that the word "anonymous" can be viewed in two ways:

A caller can complain anonymously
a caller's complaint can remain anonymous.

Many agencies, government and private, allow completely anonymous 'calls' and complaints. However, the effectiveness of those complaints is generally poor, for a variety of legitimate reasons.

Most agencies will protect the anonymity of their complainers, if asked. however, they get the names of the person, contact information, reply information, etc.. they just don't pass it on.


MaryA1


Posts:0


08/11/2010 4:13 PM  
Brian,

Point taken. When I've called code compliance they always ask for your name and phone number, but I know the info is kept confidential. rankly, I don't know why an HOA cannot operate the same way.

However I do not believe the BOD should require complaints to be made in writing. If a member calls a board member or the PM they can give their name and it can remain anonymous. What is important for the BOD to remember is that all complaints, whether in writing or not should be checked out b/4 a letter is sent. I know there are some assn's that rely on the members to let them know of CCR violations because the BOD does not do inspections and that is why they request that complaints be made in writing. Frankly, I do not think this is proper. IMO, that is the BOD's responsibility -- or the A/C Comm. If there is a PM then it's usually their job to do this.
DonnaS
(Tennessee)

Posts:5671


08/11/2010 4:58 PM  

Mary,

I cannot understand why documentation is not a very important part of any complaint, suggestion or suggestion in order to protect the Board for any possible litigation down the road. The Board has the responsibility to insure that they have in fact dealt with any communication coming from a member. Put it in writting. It is not that big a deal to ask for validation of anything coming to the Board.
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1089


08/11/2010 5:35 PM  
Verbal complaints have no standing unless a board member takes the complaint and converts it into a policy proposal as a meeting agenda item, in my opinion. At that point, the anonymous complaintant is removed from debate and the board member is on the hook as a primary sponsor.

Anonymous verbal complaints are weasly and show the complaintant as obviously not "angry" enough to represent his interests and stand behind his assertions, whether it's flags or anything else. Anonymous verbal complaints seem to come from the same board members, in my experience. The aggreived party never seems to show up yet "complaints" roll in, attracted to this single board member like moths are attracted to flames.
DonnaS
(Tennessee)

Posts:5671


08/11/2010 6:00 PM  

Kelly,
Amen!
GailG2
(Tennessee)

Posts:6


08/11/2010 7:56 PM  
On the other side , I think requiring issues/complaints be made in writing and signed protects homeowners from ultra liberal board members who may push their own agenda under the guise of an unsupportive verbal complaint made in secret.
If all board members are provided the 'name of the complainer' and the issue is handled therefore by the full board that appears to be fine however if a board member protects the name of a complainer to even their board (which is what happened in our case regarding the flag issue) then that is another issue.
MaryA1


Posts:0


08/12/2010 5:27 AM  
Gail,

If it is the BOD's resp to enforce the covenants they don't need a written complaint from a member to justify their actions. If the board acted on a "supposed" violation solely because a member sent in a written complaint would not let them off the hook if they ended up in court over it. In other words just because a member tells the board to do something doesn't let them off the hook if what they do is wrong!

The main point is that any complaint should be verified by the BOD. And the board shouldn't need a written complaint for them to enforce the covenants. I don't know why a board wouldn't accept a complaint no matter how it was given -- verbal or written. But, if the BOD is bent on requiring a written complaint then they should let the members know that the source will be kept confidential, unless the CCRs and/or state law requires otherwise.
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1089


08/12/2010 5:29 AM  
Your board has received an allegation of a complaint given this flag issue and not an actual complaint.

If a complaintant exists, then he/she knows the embarrassment an open complaint would bring by complaining about flying a US flag off the deck or whatever. So, the board should "do its job" and the complaint so this resident doesn't have to support any rationale. It's typical, really.
MaryA1


Posts:0


08/12/2010 5:37 AM  
Donna,

The only documentation that should be required should be from a board member noticing the violation. In other words, any complaint received should be verified by a board member b/4 a violation notice is sent out. So it doesn't matter if the BOD was given a complaint by a member verbally, in writing or not at all. And, how does a written complaint protect the board if litigation were to happen "down the road"? Do you think a judge would rule that the BOD had no authority to enforce the CCRs because they didn't receive the complaint in writing? And, where in your CCRs does it say that the BOD has a responsibility to deal with all communications from a member? I know this isn't stated in mine. I agree it's not a big deal to require all complaints to be made in writing, I just don't think it's necessary. The city doesn't require complaints of code violations to be made in writing. If there was some legal reason for requiring this I'm sure the City Attorney would demand they change their procedure of taking verbal complaints.

Bottom line: if a board wants to require complaints to be made in writing, so be it. I just don't think it's necessary unless that is the only way they will notice violations and they are not going to verify that the complaint is valid. I also think that if that is their modus operandi they better hope they are never taken to court over a violation notice that turns out to be bogus!
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1089


08/12/2010 5:48 AM  
Mary,

Asking for the complaintant to step forward is a simple way refusing to absorb another person's asinine demands or complaints. If you're an HOA board member who likes "solve problems," you'll take the banner (until it's banned by the HOA) and carry it. If a resident feels strongly about a matter, they'll put it in writing or officially address the board.

There is nothing official about anonymous verbal complaining.

I can't imagine anyone coming to my board to ask for a ban of flags. Regulating the size so people don't cover their front yards with a tarp, maybe. Banning flags? Cue the laugh track.

That's why this person won't step forward. That's why the person won't sue. Their name goes on the dotted line and they get to tell their local reporter why they hate the US flag. This is the perfect setup for a negative media account of HOA work.
MaryA1


Posts:0


08/12/2010 6:10 AM  
Kelly,

I thought the subject of the thread was written complaints for CCR violations. Complaining to the BOD is another story. I agree any complaint to the BOD, other than a complaint of a CCR violation, should be made in writing or should be made in person to the BOD at a board meeting. As a board member I would just ignore any verbal complaints made to me and not even mention them at a board meeting.
DonnaS
(Tennessee)

Posts:5671


08/12/2010 6:58 AM  

Mary,

The original post was in regards to a verbal complaint, nothing to do with a CC&R violation. Should the verbal complainor's name be made public is the jist of the post and I see where you would just ignore the verbal. That is exactly what we now have a concensus of. No courage to sign a written complaint means no action by the Board other than to tell the guy----"PUT IT IN WRITTING"
GailG2
(Tennessee)

Posts:6


08/12/2010 8:06 AM  
Thank you , you are correct Donna..
I appreciate all your views
and strongly support that all
complaints not already posted
in the rules or bylaws should
be made in writing and signed.
MaryA1


Posts:0


08/12/2010 2:55 PM  
Donna,

I guess I misread the original posting. Sorry for the confusion.

A agree complaints, other than complaints of CCR violations, should be made in writing. Having said that, I see nothing wrong with voicing a complaint at a board meeting. In fact, that is why many boards have an open forum for members' to speak, either at the beginning or the end of the board meeting.
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Forums > Homeowner Association > HOA Discussions > Confidentiality of complaints



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