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Subject: Does your HOA have a general online community, group or forum?
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NicoleO5
(California)

Posts:34


12/28/2019 10:53 AM  
Hi all,

For many years we used the yahoo groups forum. It was moderated and only allowed certain posts. It held a plethora of information, rules, documents etc.

In December the yahoo group changed and rendered it useless for our needs. I was using the email still to communicate with members.

I was personally attacked ( via email) by two owners coincidentally about the time the forum was changing. The two members who essentially declared me incompetent never have been to meetings and have previously attacked board members verbally, in email and at meetings. While this is not allowed per our CCR's I put them both on notice, removed them from the group and then closed it down after discussion with the board.

I am curious as most owners loved this method of communication as it was directly from the board only and usually in real time. It was not used for complaints of reporting of issues in the complex.

Does you HOA have a forum or do you just let the management handle it all?
PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:579


12/28/2019 10:59 AM  
For the HOAs that I’ve been involved with:

2 have unmoderated email groups. I don’t see much contentiousness on them; people who fight get called out.

1 apparently has a Facebook group.

1 has nothing.
MarkW18
(Florida)

Posts:382


12/28/2019 11:07 AM  
I personally would not have a forum for owners or the board to vent. Have an issue, show up at a meeting, face to face. Don't dare to hide behind a computer screen.
NicoleO5
(California)

Posts:34


12/28/2019 11:10 AM  
This precious forum did not allow for free posting. Our board never did 'VENT" on it . While owners could email posts in , I moderated it. Owners who wanted to post nasty things and get abusive were removed. It never was allowed to carry on as you stated.
NicoleO5
(California)

Posts:34


12/28/2019 11:13 AM  
I am thinking with the most bizarre issues that have some up that maybe it's best to steer away from a forum at this time. We have had so much going for things this year it was a huge help but things seemed to have changed on it and owners emailing nasty emails is not ok.
AugustinD


Posts:2411


12/28/2019 11:26 AM  
Posted By MarkW18 on 12/28/2019 11:07 AM
I personally would not have a forum for owners or the board to vent. Have an issue, show up at a meeting, face to face. Don't dare to hide behind a computer screen.


I support 'hiding behind a computer screen' when a board seeks revenge against any person who constructively criticizes the board. Boards do not have much accountability (unlike say City Councils or the U. S. Congress). When a Board goes rogue, sometimes bringing people together for constructive discussion online is the only way to get new people elected to a board. A well-qualified moderator is essential of course. HOA members should not even think of having an unmoderated forum.
NicoleO5
(California)

Posts:34


12/28/2019 11:32 AM  
I totally understand. But when I do get to read the emails that come in, not all would be posted as it wasn't a free for all. The biggest complainers are the ones who do not attend meetings nor engage on any level regarding volunteering and there for are left to draw their own inflated accusations and ideas.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9053


12/28/2019 11:37 AM  
We do not have a forum for the exact reason you cited, personal attacks. I would ever want one for this reason. It can soon become a bytching place.

We have an Email address at Gmail and when an Email gets sent, it gets distributed to all BOD Members. We on the BOD decide how to handle it.

My suggestion is a website controlled by the BOD for information posting, copies of all docs, etc. Not interactive. Read only.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:667


12/28/2019 11:39 AM  
The main problem with open forums is that they allow misinformation to be spread and can quickly degenerate into name-calling and worse (see social media). They are favorite soapboxes for the "vocational dissidents" among you, and they can quickly poison the atmosphere of a community.

They are also not the appropriate place for association business. Our attorney tells board members to avoid posting on such forums. First, a single board member does not speak for the board as a whole. Second, it's too easy for a board member's personal opinion to be viewed as the official board position, no matter how often the board members states that it's his/her opinion only. And third, if a board member does respond to some owners' posts and not others, it will be viewed as favoritism even though no such thing was intended.

The other issue our attorney pointed out is that board members are held legally accountable for information that is posted on official community sites. This means that the forum would need to be moderated, a time-consuming task for someone who probably doesn't have the time to spare.

At the same time, the attorney also said that if the HOA does not have a web presence, someone in the community may create a site of their own and try to pass it off as official. He recommended that the HOA do have its own web site that is informational only, along with dedicated board and PM email addresses that will allow owners to communicate issues without having to wait for board meetings. (My community has done this.)

Open forums like these can be fine for sharing non-association business, like lost pet notices or requests for babysitter info. If our owners are interested in such, they can join the local NextDoor or other site that is clearly not affiliated with the HOA. Board members can join these as well, but again should avoid posting themselves.
PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:579


12/28/2019 11:52 AM  
Posted By AugustinD on 12/28/2019 11:26 AM
Posted By MarkW18 on 12/28/2019 11:07 AM
I personally would not have a forum for owners or the board to vent. Have an issue, show up at a meeting, face to face. Don't dare to hide behind a computer screen.


I support 'hiding behind a computer screen' when a board seeks revenge against any person who constructively criticizes the board. Boards do not have much accountability (unlike say City Councils or the U. S. Congress). When a Board goes rogue, sometimes bringing people together for constructive discussion online is the only way to get new people elected to a board. A well-qualified moderator is essential of course. HOA members should not even think of having an unmoderated forum.




Agreed.

One halfway point is to do as one HOA did (where I owned a property): the email group was unmoderated, but each member of the email group had his or her unit number listed along with his or her name whenever the person emailed anything. For example, the From line would state, "From Susan Smith (Unit 203)".

That allows a free exchange of ideas yet ensures that people aren't hiding, so they may behave.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9053


12/28/2019 11:54 AM  
Posted By CathyA3 on 12/28/2019 11:39 AM
The main problem with open forums is that they allow misinformation to be spread and can quickly degenerate into name-calling and worse (see social media). They are favorite soapboxes for the "vocational dissidents" among you, and they can quickly poison the atmosphere of a community.

They are also not the appropriate place for association business. Our attorney tells board members to avoid posting on such forums. First, a single board member does not speak for the board as a whole. Second, it's too easy for a board member's personal opinion to be viewed as the official board position, no matter how often the board members states that it's his/her opinion only. And third, if a board member does respond to some owners' posts and not others, it will be viewed as favoritism even though no such thing was intended.

The other issue our attorney pointed out is that board members are held legally accountable for information that is posted on official community sites. This means that the forum would need to be moderated, a time-consuming task for someone who probably doesn't have the time to spare.

At the same time, the attorney also said that if the HOA does not have a web presence, someone in the community may create a site of their own and try to pass it off as official. He recommended that the HOA do have its own web site that is informational only, along with dedicated board and PM email addresses that will allow owners to communicate issues without having to wait for board meetings. (My community has done this.)

Open forums like these can be fine for sharing non-association business, like lost pet notices or requests for babysitter info. If our owners are interested in such, they can join the local NextDoor or other site that is clearly not affiliated with the HOA. Board members can join these as well, but again should avoid posting themselves.




Well said.

JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9053


12/28/2019 11:55 AM  
Posted By PaulJ6 on 12/28/2019 11:52 AM
Posted By AugustinD on 12/28/2019 11:26 AM
Posted By MarkW18 on 12/28/2019 11:07 AM
I personally would not have a forum for owners or the board to vent. Have an issue, show up at a meeting, face to face. Don't dare to hide behind a computer screen.


I support 'hiding behind a computer screen' when a board seeks revenge against any person who constructively criticizes the board. Boards do not have much accountability (unlike say City Councils or the U. S. Congress). When a Board goes rogue, sometimes bringing people together for constructive discussion online is the only way to get new people elected to a board. A well-qualified moderator is essential of course. HOA members should not even think of having an unmoderated forum.




Agreed.

One halfway point is to do as one HOA did (where I owned a property): the email group was unmoderated, but each member of the email group had his or her unit number listed along with his or her name whenever the person emailed anything. For example, the From line would state, "From Susan Smith (Unit 203)".

That allows a free exchange of ideas yet ensures that people aren't hiding, so they may behave.




I can assure you, not all will behave and therein lies the problem.
PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:579


12/28/2019 12:17 PM  
Posted By JohnC46 on 12/28/2019 11:55 AM

I can assure you, not all will behave and therein lies the problem.



Then there should be a policy of warning and cutting people out of the group if they continue to misbehave.

I don't think that moderated emails suffice because (1) people could be afraid of raising issues, in fear of retaliation, and (2) even if people aren't afraid, the board could cut off valid discussions.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16627


12/28/2019 12:19 PM  
We have a forum on our website.
It's not really used by the community.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:667


12/28/2019 12:59 PM  
Posted By TimB4 on 12/28/2019 12:19 PM
We have a forum on our website.
It's not really used by the community.




You probably should check it occasionally just in case.

My association's attorney said that forums can collect defamatory posts, copyrighted material, photos of minors posted without the parents' permission, and the like.

The association could be sued over these things.

Having official Posting Rules won't stop it, you'll have to have a moderator who either releases approved posts only or deletes problem posts after the fact.
PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:579


12/28/2019 1:04 PM  
Posted By TimB4 on 12/28/2019 12:19 PM
We have a forum on our website.
It's not really used by the community.




An IP lawyer can give you some disclaimers to add to it, as well as guidance in setting up an email address that people can contact to get stuff taken down from it. That will help you avoid trouble.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1877


12/28/2019 3:05 PM  
IMO, Boards should not be involved with social media, or anything where it is unknown who the other person is.

Websites used by Boards are there to communicate with owners, and to have an easy way for owners to formally communicate with the Board.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6817


12/28/2019 4:59 PM  
Our MC manages our website and it's strictly informational.

Owners interact with the board at Open Forums at th beginning and end of each monthly board meeting. We also have a suggestion box in each mailroom.

Cathy's approach makes sense to me.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9053


12/29/2019 12:22 PM  
Posted By KerryL1 on 12/28/2019 4:59 PM
Our MC manages our website and it's strictly informational.

Owners interact with the board at Open Forums at th beginning and end of each monthly board meeting. We also have a suggestion box in each mailroom.

Cathy's approach makes sense to me.




We have an Gmail Email address and when one sends an Email, it automatically gets sent to each BOD Member. We all know what people are telling/saying to us.
SheilaJ1
(South Carolina)

Posts:150


12/29/2019 2:51 PM  
Posted By NicoleO5 on 12/28/2019 10:53 AM
Hi all,

For many years we used the yahoo groups forum. It was moderated and only allowed certain posts. It held a plethora of information, rules, documents etc.

In December the yahoo group changed and rendered it useless for our needs. I was using the email still to communicate with members.

I was personally attacked ( via email) by two owners coincidentally about the time the forum was changing. The two members who essentially declared me incompetent never have been to meetings and have previously attacked board members verbally, in email and at meetings. While this is not allowed per our CCR's I put them both on notice, removed them from the group and then closed it down after discussion with the board.

I am curious as most owners loved this method of communication as it was directly from the board only and usually in real time. It was not used for complaints of reporting of issues in the complex.

Does you HOA have a forum or do you just let the management handle it all?



So you were personally attacked because someone expressed their opinion that you didn't agree with?

Paul is our local attorney, and he can tell you that your acting like a victim over a few opinions. So you took an opinion and turned it into them telling you are incompetent? and turned it into an attack? How? Paul kindly explain the difference between an opinion and a factual statement.

Nicole, please stop playing the victim. The action you have taken to close the forum is enough but yet you want another communication forum or idea that does the exact same thing? That makes no sense, its as if you want to be embroiled in the same drama. If members want to communicate, tell them to contact management or show up to meetings.

PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:579


12/29/2019 3:00 PM  
Posted By SheilaJ1 on 12/29/2019 2:51 PM
Paul is our local attorney, and he can tell you that your acting like a victim over a few opinions. So you took an opinion and turned it into them telling you are incompetent? and turned it into an attack? How? Paul kindly explain the difference between an opinion and a factual statement.




Me?
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:667


12/29/2019 3:00 PM  
Posted By SheilaJ1 on 12/29/2019 2:51 PM
Posted By NicoleO5 on 12/28/2019 10:53 AM
Hi all,

For many years we used the yahoo groups forum. It was moderated and only allowed certain posts. It held a plethora of information, rules, documents etc.

In December the yahoo group changed and rendered it useless for our needs. I was using the email still to communicate with members.

I was personally attacked ( via email) by two owners coincidentally about the time the forum was changing. The two members who essentially declared me incompetent never have been to meetings and have previously attacked board members verbally, in email and at meetings. While this is not allowed per our CCR's I put them both on notice, removed them from the group and then closed it down after discussion with the board.

I am curious as most owners loved this method of communication as it was directly from the board only and usually in real time. It was not used for complaints of reporting of issues in the complex.

Does you HOA have a forum or do you just let the management handle it all?



So you were personally attacked because someone expressed their opinion that you didn't agree with?

Paul is our local attorney, and he can tell you that your acting like a victim over a few opinions. So you took an opinion and turned it into them telling you are incompetent? and turned it into an attack? How? Paul kindly explain the difference between an opinion and a factual statement.

Nicole, please stop playing the victim. The action you have taken to close the forum is enough but yet you want another communication forum or idea that does the exact same thing? That makes no sense, its as if you want to be embroiled in the same drama. If members want to communicate, tell them to contact management or show up to meetings.





I suspect that Nicole is experiencing the shock felt by many first time HOA board members when their neighbors, with whom they'd had cordial relations up til now, basically turn on them. It's an eye-opener, and it does take some getting used to.

TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16627


12/30/2019 4:06 AM  
Posted By JohnC46 on 12/29/2019 12:22 PM


We have an Gmail Email address and when one sends an Email, it automatically gets sent to each BOD Member. We all know what people are telling/saying to us.




Does it go to one's personal email account or an HOA account?


MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:8922


12/30/2019 5:29 AM  
I think social media including the email options is unhealthy for a HOA. It should be a back to basics. Which for us was to send your complaint/issue in with your dues. We read it at the meeting. Your choice was to attend a meeting to express yourself or write a letter in. If you wrote a letter, then understand it was READ and discussed in the OPEN meeting. Plus whatever decision we made by that letter and no attendance is what you get.

We didn't "hide" anything. My policy is if you can't stand up and say it then it wasn't that important. Also told everyone that you can NOT complain unless submitting a SOLUTION. I don't care what the solution is, just have one. Otherwise, you asking a group of people to come up for one for you...

Also agree that this is one of those eye-opening experiences one goes through when getting involved in their HOA. Not pretty but must toughen the skin. Still have to smile and carry on professionally even when your dragging around an ankle biter...

Former HOA President
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9053


12/30/2019 9:22 AM  
Posted By TimB4 on 12/30/2019 4:06 AM
Posted By JohnC46 on 12/29/2019 12:22 PM


We have an Gmail Email address and when one sends an Email, it automatically gets sent to each BOD Member. We all know what people are telling/saying to us.




Does it go to one's personal email account or an HOA account?






It goes to the HOA account on Gmail and to the individual Email address of those (each BOD Member and our MC) delegated on the account. Some delegates have set up an Email address only for HOA business others use their personal Email account. I think I am right using the word delegate. Gmail may call it something else.

There has to be one designated person holding the HOA Email account/address and that person designates who the delegates are. Over the years we have changed the designated person and delegates.

Hope this answer is clear.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6817


12/30/2019 9:52 AM  
This may sound odd, but I'm curious about the reason(s) Owners (tenants, too?) can email all directors, John. Wouldn't, for example, maintenance requests go to the PM?

CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:667


12/30/2019 10:00 AM  
Posted By KerryL1 on 12/30/2019 9:52 AM
This may sound odd, but I'm curious about the reason(s) Owners (tenants, too?) can email all directors, John. Wouldn't, for example, maintenance requests go to the PM?





Not John, but my board's email address is auto-forwarded to each board member, the PM, and the PM's general admin address (in case the the PM is out of the office and the email is urgent).

Our attorney also recommends that each board member have a dedicated email address for association stuff. It makes things easier to find. And if our emails would ever be subpoenaed, it will keep our personal stuff from being disclosed along with everything else.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:3495


12/30/2019 12:19 PM  
Posted By CathyA3 on 12/30/2019 10:00 AM
Our attorney also recommends that each board member have a dedicated email address for association stuff. It makes things easier to find. And if our emails would ever be subpoenaed, it will keep our personal stuff from being disclosed along with everything else.

I'm curious, do your directors have bring-your-own email addresses to be used for association stuff? Or do you actually have purchased email services for a certain number of accounts and assign those to people who need them?
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9053


12/30/2019 12:26 PM  
Posted By KerryL1 on 12/30/2019 9:52 AM
This may sound odd, but I'm curious about the reason(s) Owners (tenants, too?) can email all directors, John. Wouldn't, for example, maintenance requests go to the PM?




Our PM is more our bookkeeper than most anything else. They also play the heavy in collecting late dues and violation letters/fines. They are not what I would call a hands on MC. We felt we did not need nor wanted to pay for a hands on MC. Our owners have no need to deal with the MC and when they do, the MC forwards everything to us.

Our association runs smooth. Overall our owners are quite happy and prefer to be left alone.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9053


12/30/2019 12:28 PM  
Posted By CathyA3 on 12/30/2019 10:00 AM
Posted By KerryL1 on 12/30/2019 9:52 AM
This may sound odd, but I'm curious about the reason(s) Owners (tenants, too?) can email all directors, John. Wouldn't, for example, maintenance requests go to the PM?





Not John, but my board's email address is auto-forwarded to each board member, the PM, and the PM's general admin address (in case the the PM is out of the office and the email is urgent).

Our attorney also recommends that each board member have a dedicated email address for association stuff. It makes things easier to find. And if our emails would ever be subpoenaed, it will keep our personal stuff from being disclosed along with everything else.




Good idea.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:667


12/30/2019 12:52 PM  
Posted By GenoS on 12/30/2019 12:19 PM
Posted By CathyA3 on 12/30/2019 10:00 AM
Our attorney also recommends that each board member have a dedicated email address for association stuff. It makes things easier to find. And if our emails would ever be subpoenaed, it will keep our personal stuff from being disclosed along with everything else.

I'm curious, do your directors have bring-your-own email addresses to be used for association stuff? Or do you actually have purchased email services for a certain number of accounts and assign those to people who need them?




Right now we're bring-your-own. Many web hosting services offer a number of free email addresses as part of the package, and this is on my "wish list" if we decide to move our web site to another host.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:3495


12/30/2019 1:55 PM  
Posted By CathyA3 on 12/30/2019 12:52 PM
Right now we're bring-your-own. Many web hosting services offer a number of free email addresses as part of the package, and this is on my "wish list" if we decide to move our web site to another host.

Gotcha, thanks. We looked into getting a TLD for the association, which is a Top Level Domain in internet-speak. The cost for that is relatively "cheap". Then we could buy dedicated email accounts from a provider and have email addresses like "[email protected]", etc. We thought about 10 email addresses should do it between the directors, our bookkeeper, etc. No management company to deal with, although they would certainly get at least one.

Web hosting services do offer email addresses as well, but you don't necessarily need web hosting if you don't have a website. Email-only offerings abound and I don't mean the free ones. The thing is, they run about $5 per user per month which adds up. In an anti-tech community that cost is a non-starter.
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