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Subject: HR-style data retention? (self-managed HOA)
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MichaelH34
(North Carolina)

Posts:36


09/24/2021 2:41 PM  
For those of you who are part of self-managed HOAs how do you handle records retention for things that would be handled by HR if this were a larger corporation?

I'm on the BOD for a young 22 unit community that already has a few owners that require that for anyone in a position of authority who communicates with them needs to make sure the communication is in writing and saved. Some of it definitely needs to be shared with the rest of the BOD and seems like it needs to be saved for future board members.

I know this subject is full of pitfalls and can be dependent on state, local and HOA rules and wanted to get input here before we start throwing money at lawyers.
HenryS7
(Arizona)

Posts:14


09/24/2021 4:02 PM  
We rarely get requests for records, however, I have everything of interest saved to my personal OneDrive. Then it's accessible to me wherever I go, like traveling, at work via my phone, or any comptuer at home. Plus it's completely saved in the cloud so no worries about hard drive failure.

For e-mails, best to setup separate e-mail account for HOA stuff on Gmail and then that gets saved forever in the cloud as well.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:4221


09/24/2021 4:19 PM  
I think you should start with considering what type records you're starting to accumulate and what will be saved forever (e.g records of approved exterior change requests or tax returns) vs. Those you might keep for a few years (e.g. canceled checks from the association's checking account.) Then talk to your association master insurance carrier to see what they recommend, as your coverage may depend on keeping those records readily available.

It's not a good idea to keep records in someone's house, obviously. There may be businesses in your area that offer record retention and destruction services you can use and some may already have HOA clients similar to your community. since everything is electronic, you'll definitely need to consider the pros and cons of storing things in the cloud. Once again, this isn't the type of thing You leave to one person on his/her personal computer.

You will need to speak to an attorney sooner or later, so you may as well get this out of the way now. He or she can help you draft a document retention/destruction policy that can address all sorts of issues, such as establishing a destruction schedule and how that's done, retaining emails, taxes and other electronic communications, handling homeowner requests for association records, etc. This policy will play a large role in setting up your system.

Between the insurance, the attorney and a document retention company, you should be able to develop one that works for yoy. Your community isn't that big, so it may not take very long to set up your system - you may be able to do some of it using software like Access or Excel. just remember to take your time in developing something that serves your community

The CAI website has all sorts of educational materials on HOA issues, and some are aimed at self manager communities. I'm sure they have resources on document retention systems and policies you can adapt
MichaelS56
(Minnesota)

Posts:275


09/24/2021 4:56 PM  
What do your state laws say about record retention? What do your governing documents say about record retention? What record retention plan does your developer use?
BenA2
(Texas)

Posts:1026


09/24/2021 4:59 PM  
It's important to understand what is meant by records. It may be different depending on specific state laws but generally anything in writing (on paper or electronic) and video/audio recordings, are records.

I believe that if it is an important communication, put it in writing. If I have a conversation with someone that I want to make a record of, I will usually put it in an email to the primary POA email address "for the record."

There are so many different number of years for required retention (depending on the document) that we decided to make it simple and keep all records for the maximum required years for any document, 11 (required for certain tax records).
HenryS7
(Arizona)

Posts:14


09/24/2021 5:00 PM  
Posted By MichaelS56 on 09/24/2021 4:56 PM
What do your state laws say about record retention? What do your governing documents say about record retention? What record retention plan does your developer use?




From what I can tell, in most states the only records that are supposed to be kept forever are meeting minutes. Everything else generally has a finite life.

I doubt that most HOAs actually keep meeting minutes forever, especially self-managed. We are of course volunteers and you can only expect so much from a very small organization that is run by volunteers.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:17766


09/24/2021 10:15 PM  
For archival storage (anything past 3 years), we scan and burn it to a data CD/DVD (by years) as well as saving to a flash drive.

We keep paper copies for 3 years.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:10523


09/25/2021 7:05 AM  
Our records were kept in a box in the clubhouse closet. Over 25 years and it was still just a small box in a closet. May have extended it to 2 boxes when I re-organized it. So many people have visions of the size and type of HOA records that exist. Most of the time they really aren't kept or even exist.

Financials are usually kept electronically by whomever is doing the bills. Those are collection and expenditure reports. Meeting notes should be kept as official records of the HOA. The CC&R's and Articles of Incorporation are kept at the local Records department of your county. The HOA should have a copy of the by-laws. The by-laws are not "public" like the other 2 documents are considered.

We also kept the occasional award for best entrance. Otherwise most documents like email, letters of request, notices, and other business can be kept electronically. Good idea to keep contracts on hand. That has come in handy for us.

Sometimes you do get the "witchhunters" whom demand ALL the records. You give them the appropriate records but in their paranoia demand more or say hiding something. I would make a list of what the HOA documents for viewing are so it is understood what records you get on your request. Otherwise your going to deal with pitch forks waving in the air.

Former HOA President
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2466


09/25/2021 7:06 AM  
I just spotted this after talking about record retention in your other thread, and good for you for thinking about it.

First rule of data retention: any format can be destroyed, so backups are needed.

I suggest looking into cloud storage in addition to physical media such as thumb drives/DVDs, and the like.

Second rule of data retention: technology changes.

I suggest sticking to the tried-and-true formats for your digital records: MS Office or free alternatives such as Google's offerings. In addition, plan to revisit your storage options every five years or so, and move your records to newer platforms as needed.

(Something to think about for folks who live in older communities with paper records:

Consider scanning your old stuff that needs to be preserved indefinitely. Yes, it's a big project and it will cost you money to have a company do this for you. You need to weigh tise cost against the possible cost of legal liability if you are unable to produce these records when needed.)





CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2466


09/25/2021 7:14 AM  
Posted By CathyA3 on 09/25/2021 7:06 AM
... snip ....

First rule of data retention: any format can be destroyed, so backups are needed.

I suggest looking into cloud storage in addition to physical media such as thumb drives/DVDs, and the like.

... snip ...




Forgot to mention, backups need to be stored in a different physical location from the originals. Otherwise, a fire or flood can destroy everything - which is why cloud storage can be useful.

You also need to consider security on these outside platforms since data breaches are a fact of life these days.

(Did I mention there was a learning curve for board members?) :-)
MichaelH34
(North Carolina)

Posts:36


09/26/2021 5:02 AM  
Thank you for all the replies.

I think I wasn't clear enough though.

I'm not referring to straight-up data retention and protection, though I do appreciate the input.

I was trying to obliquely (should have been more direct) ask how should we handle, for want of a better term, "problem children"

Put another way, in any company you've always got people that get written up for not doing their jobs, being disruptive for things as bad as sexual harassment.

That kind of member. The one that every board member needs to be aware of and one where if you aren't "keeping the receipts" in any interaction with them, you always come to regret it.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:10523


09/26/2021 5:33 AM  
A "slam book"? Why? It's pretty obvious who those people are. I simply required everyone to either write in or come to a meeting if they want to complain/request anything. If they wrote in then they must agree the board makes the decision for them. Plus it is read out loud/shared with everyone. It is an open meeting after all. If you attend the meeting then they can see in front of them the decision making process. The result is still the same. The board makes the decision for them UNLESS they come up with a solution. I don't care what the solution is. Just had to have one to suggest. Otherwise you live with other's solutions...

Witch hunters will always be that way. Don't fall for them. Threatening a lawsuit has no power. My response is "I will wait for the paperwork thank you. Moving on to a solution now". No need to panic and spend tons of money/worry over someone playing that game.

I also strongly suggest bringing the HOA's document to each and every meeting. ALWAYS reference the rules in notices. If don't have the answer right away, then say will get back to you upon record/document review. Then make sure to reference the source so they can see it too.

Former HOA President
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2466


09/26/2021 6:27 AM  
Our attorney often refers to the problem children as "vocational dissidents" - they thrive on conflict and controversy, and every community has them. There may be others with mental health issues - these two groups tend to overlap - and these can be trickier because mental health conditions are often considered disabilities for Fair Housing purposes. So...

* Talk to your attorney for guidelines before you have to deal with any of these folks, but particularly when you get a whiff of potential Fair Housing issues. These laws are pretty unforgiving, and violating them can be costly if a homeowner sues the HOA. There are also resources on the web since this sort of problem is common in any community.

(When we had a potential Fair Housing issue in my community, we notified our attorney and let him handle verification from the person's healthcare provider. He would then tell us whether or not this was a bona fide disability that needed an accommodation or if the homeowner was playing games, and forwarded the paperwork to us. This gave us a written audit trail and proof that the HOA was dealing appropriately with the issue.)

* My main suggestion is that you should deal with these folks in writing only (aside from "hey, how are you, gotta go".) Putting things in writing allows you to consider what you're saying first, and it creates documentation that the HOA is complying with whatever laws. Written records are your proof of what was said in case you need reliable witnesses. And it stops the folks who want to pick a fight, because written stuff is bland and boring and won't respond to name-calling.

* This goes for interactions with any homeowner but it's more important when dealing with the problem folks: avoid discussing association business one-on-one with owners outside of official communication channels (eg, the parking lot chat). There are two reasons for this. First, a single director does not speak for the board as a whole, but I guarantee that any remarks will be taken as "the board says" especially if you're the president. Second, casual remarks can and will be taken out of context or misinterpreted, leading to bad information circulating in the community. So beef up the official channels: website, newsletter, email blasts, written letters in response to questions/complaints/etc. And if someone grabs you for a chat: 1. direct them to the website, etc. for answers to most of their questions; 2. encourage them to put their concerns in writing so that the board can address them in a meeting; 3. other routine questions can be handled by the PM.

* This touches on enforcement actions for violations as well since our problem children tend to violate the CC&Rs too. Always do everything in writing and include other proof such as photos or video. People are more likely to sue over this stuff, so you want documentation that the board took the proper steps in the proper order and didn't overstep in dealing with whatever the problem was.

* Of course these written communications are confidential - other homeowners aren't entitled to see what was sent to Joe down the street. (There may be exceptions in some states. I think I've seen comments from some other regular posters that homeowners were entitled to see communications related to violations of the CC&Rs, but not other routine stuff directed to individual homeowners.)

* As for identifying the problem folks for future boards, in my experience they develop reputations among the neighbors pretty quickly. Having excellent communication channels with the entire community will allow the troublemakers to discredit themselves when they try to bad-mouth the board. Their nonsense may get traction with some like-minded individuals, but others will realize that the troublemaker's comments just aren't true.

(As an aside to the previous comments, avoid social media like the plague, and think very carefully before allowing online posting by homeowners on HOA websites. The board is legally responsible for anything that is published on official sites, and free-for-all posting tends to result in misinformation, false accusations and other defamatory comments, flame wars, copyright violations, photos of minors posted without parental consent, and other stuff that can disrupt the community and/or get the HOA sued. Your vocational dissidents LOVE this stuff because it gives them a platform for spewing. They can spew on their own dime - any official HOA websites should be informational only unless you have very good reasons to do something different.)


SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:4221


09/26/2021 7:06 AM  
You can also try to give these people something to do besides bitch and moan about everything. For example, if they're griping about landscaping and want another contractor, they can assist the board with researching potential replacements - AFTER they identify systemic issues. Put all the complainers on an advisory committee and specify exactly what the board wants done, and how, and let's see if they'll actually do the work. Things like: polling homeowners to see what they think, researching different contractors (meaning they'll check the BBB and whoever for previous complaints and how they were handled, check if they're licensed and bonded, if appropriate, etc.)

After all that, they can come to the board with their recommendations, as Melissa noted. There may actually be something useful the board can consider, so keep an open mind. That doesn't mean you have to accept the recommendations, but when they see that they'll be accountable for their findings, they may calm down and actually think through the issues - or back off, because it's easier to complain than to actually do something.
MichaelH34
(North Carolina)

Posts:36


10/04/2021 10:09 AM  
Sorry for the delay in replying, dealing with problem children and other "real life" emergencies.

Not so much a "slam book" as "When person X starts lying about event Y, here's the proof." Also, a way to let people know without it being hearsay that when person X says someone else did or said something, take it with a giant grain of salt and get verification before acting on that hearsay. Anyone who's spent any amount of time in an HR department dealing with problem employees will know what I mean.

But yeah, eventually people in the neighborhood will come to know them for who they are. It's just going to be painful in the interim because in a few cases these were people I thought were friends. Before they started plunging daggers into my back.

At least now I've had a strong lesson that anything remotely HOA related must come to the board/committees in writing and go back out in writing. Unless the issue has a predefined answer, nothing happens verbally.

"Vocational Dissidents" We've totally adopted that term.
PatJ1
(North Carolina)

Posts:249


10/04/2021 11:12 AM  
***But yeah, eventually people in the neighborhood will come to know them for who they are. It's just going to be painful in the interim because in a few cases these were people I thought were friends. Before they started plunging daggers into my back.***

Went through this recently with my best friend of over 5 years. Former board member before my time, indispensable volunteer of our Grant Committee, ears on the ground. She ground me down one day insisting that we fine everyone $100 for throwing boxes in the dumpsters. After explaining the proper procedure for violations, and that it wasn't even listed a a violation, she set out on social media damming the entire board. She burnt every bridge between NC and CA with me. Didn't need an owner screaming at resident's and calling out obscenities over garbage to reflect on the board because everyone knew we were friends.

Recently had 2 incidences where owner's attempted to involve me in insurance fraud. I documented all communication with our PM by email. I left out all personal opinions. I didn't call it fraud, just stated the facts. What they said, what I saw and heard.

There are over 7,000 emails in my gmail account for my 9 years on the board. Sometimes I type in an address to look something up and find something from the past, and say to myself, "oh, yeah, I remember them".

When you are on the board you can't have friends in the community. They will try to take advantage of you and it will bit you in the butt every time.

I only have "weather" conversations in the parking lot. I refer to it as "The Telephone Game" Everything is now in writing. Haven't heard a "but you said", or "you told so and so" in quite a while.

Get it in writing and respond in writing while being noncommittal.

Board members are volunteers. Many have no idea what they're doing. Educate them. Don't beat them up.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:10523


10/04/2021 11:19 AM  
Let me tell you a little story... I moved into my HOA/first house after a major break up in my life. 1st week moving in met the President of the HOA. Must say he was a sight for sore eyes. Really thought "Wow it is true you do find the "one" after breaking up". We hit it off great and kind of "dated" for about a month. Kept it on the downlow as I was new person. You don't want to meet your neighbors/members and say "Hey I am dating the President". Especially since never met the guy before the week I moved in. Jus

Well I started meeting more and more people. Attended even a board meeting. This guy/President had been running the "show" for many years. He was ready to hang up his Presidency to someone else. Just wanted to be become a board member. Just to be near by to assist the new person. Many people seemed to have had respect for the guy. Trusted him. He also did ha...ndyman work for many of them.

It was not long till he was "grooming" me to become the next President. Which I was happy about. Election time was coming up and I started throwing my name into the hat to run. All seemed happy. Was falling in love. Met a guy who cared about his community. Plus had some really great community members. What could go wrong?

Glad you ask... The "Master Manipulator" as he would love to be called in his own head soon revealed himself to be the snake in the grass everyone warns you about. The more I got to know the neighbors the more found out about how he manipulated people. How much he was a true liar. He got revealed to be practicing without a business license by a member to the city. He then mounted a slam campaign against that man. Convinced everyone the guy was "crazy" and was bad person. The guy was a sweet heart and a wonderful person. This was "El Presidente's" process. You cross him he would slam you.

Luckily I figured this out quickly. So one one hand had to convince him he was still "grooming" me to become President. On the other hand, I was on the resident's side who saw through everything. They were the ones that got me elected. As soon as I got elected, I fired his pot selling lawncare person. Cut off his HOA money supply. Plus kept a strict eye on him. He was still my Vice-President and had access to bank account.

For 3 years I had to constantly battle with this person. I had to "protect" the honest people from him and his group. It took a huge toll on me. It was really stressful. No one would believe me when told them of what he did. They would look at me with blank eyes and call me "crazy/jealous". Words that came out of his mouth of course.

It became routine to have people come up to me apologizing for years after dealing with that Jerk. The lies he told were just amazing and sometimes illegal. No matter how much I may have thrown a flag up to warn people. They never listened.

So my best advice is NOT to wave flags. Those flags are usually already waving over this person's head. You don't have to point them out. Just step back and do what is right. Keeping to the right keeps the wrong at bay.

Former HOA President
MaxB4


Posts:1351


10/04/2021 11:28 AM  
Posted By MelissaP1 on 10/04/2021 11:19 AM
Let me tell you a little story... I moved into my HOA/first house after a major break up in my life. 1st week moving in met the President of the HOA. Must say he was a sight for sore eyes. Really thought "Wow it is true you do find the "one" after breaking up". We hit it off great and kind of "dated" for about a month. Kept it on the downlow as I was new person. You don't want to meet your neighbors/members and say "Hey I am dating the President". Especially since never met the guy before the week I moved in. Jus

Well I started meeting more and more people. Attended even a board meeting. This guy/President had been running the "show" for many years. He was ready to hang up his Presidency to someone else. Just wanted to be become a board member. Just to be near by to assist the new person. Many people seemed to have had respect for the guy. Trusted him. He also did ha...ndyman work for many of them.

It was not long till he was "grooming" me to become the next President. Which I was happy about. Election time was coming up and I started throwing my name into the hat to run. All seemed happy. Was falling in love. Met a guy who cared about his community. Plus had some really great community members. What could go wrong?

Glad you ask... The "Master Manipulator" as he would love to be called in his own head soon revealed himself to be the snake in the grass everyone warns you about. The more I got to know the neighbors the more found out about how he manipulated people. How much he was a true liar. He got revealed to be practicing without a business license by a member to the city. He then mounted a slam campaign against that man. Convinced everyone the guy was "crazy" and was bad person. The guy was a sweet heart and a wonderful person. This was "El Presidente's" process. You cross him he would slam you.

Luckily I figured this out quickly. So one one hand had to convince him he was still "grooming" me to become President. On the other hand, I was on the resident's side who saw through everything. They were the ones that got me elected. As soon as I got elected, I fired his pot selling lawncare person. Cut off his HOA money supply. Plus kept a strict eye on him. He was still my Vice-President and had access to bank account.

For 3 years I had to constantly battle with this person. I had to "protect" the honest people from him and his group. It took a huge toll on me. It was really stressful. No one would believe me when told them of what he did. They would look at me with blank eyes and call me "crazy/jealous". Words that came out of his mouth of course.

It became routine to have people come up to me apologizing for years after dealing with that Jerk. The lies he told were just amazing and sometimes illegal. No matter how much I may have thrown a flag up to warn people. They never listened.

So my best advice is NOT to wave flags. Those flags are usually already waving over this person's head. You don't have to point them out. Just step back and do what is right. Keeping to the right keeps the wrong at bay.



And this solves the data retention issue, how?
MichaelH34
(North Carolina)

Posts:36


10/04/2021 1:30 PM  
Posted By MaxB4 on 10/04/2021 11:28 AM
And this solves the data retention issue, how?




Scroll back to my response from the 4th.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:10523


10/04/2021 2:19 PM  
Max I was referring to how he would like to keep a kind of a record of "bad behavior". That way people are aware of those whom have a history of bad or questionable behavior.

My recommendation is not to do it as people have to learn for themselves. You keep doing the right thing and concentrate on that. All the other stuff will show eventually by the people whom have those traits of untrustworthiness/liars. It's just very very hard NOT to fall into that trap. Those type of people use that against you. It's like giving them the ammo to fire back at you.

I had to just learn to suck it up and let it roll off my back when dealing with people whom know are only into things for themselves. Everyone knows the type. Sooner or later someone smacks their hand and tells them to learn to play with others.

When I finally walked away from my HOA after basically rescuing it from the Ex-President grips, I had to be happy with what I and others achieved. What came after was the work off our backs. There will always be a "bigger fish" just make sure to fee that fish knowledge not garbage.

BTW: Funny story when I left. Had announced was quitting as President. Still going to be a board member but had moved to neighborhood next door. My HOA house was rental. Everyone basically knew I was quitting. Did not keep it a secret. The Ex-President still manage to try to throw a coup to throw me out. He made sure his people were put onto the board. I just had to laugh and walk away. It wasn't 6 months later that entire board was at my door at various times apologizing to me about some lie he had told about me.

So the moral of the story is that eventually when you do the right things, it will come back to you in time. It's just not the timeline you want. Others will show their true colors as they will be peacocks. Doesn't mean to put your colors on mute just use your feathers to gather fans than covering their eyes.

Former HOA President
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