Legal Compliance for Community Associations
Articles on the topic of Legal Compliance for Community Associations and CA Management Companies.
Legal problems for associations have evolved along with technology that while helpful, can also hurt board members and managers. With the help of technology, you might be able to conduct business more efficiently, but you also need to understand that a lawsuit will potentially require handing over electronically stored information (ESI)—such as email, documents, voice messages, and digital images.
Managing an association can be challenging enough when members are the only parties who can engage in community business like voting, or exercise rights, such as inspecting books and records. Requests for architectural changes to units or homes can get sticky, and so can disputes between members. So imagine dealing with a nonmember who suddenly has a legal right to be involved in the association. You may ask how an outside person or entity can do this; after all, isn’t the point of the association that the community is private—operated and enjoyed by the board and members?
For many homeowners who buy in a planned community, the rules and requirements in the association’s CC&Rs and bylaws keep the neighborhood clean, well maintained, and aesthetically pleasing, so worrying about a neighbor’s unsightly modifications to his home shouldn’t even be on the radar. And that’s one of the main draws of association life: living in a beautiful community.
Preparing community association meeting minutes may seem like it’s just a matter of “taking notes.” But don’t be fooled into thinking that minutes are merely a record of what has happened at meetings. Meeting minutes are not only a way to refer back to decisions that affect the way you manage the community now, they could also have serious legal significance for the association later.
Technological advancements have made it easier than ever for association boards to get messages quickly and effectively to members, and for members to communicate with each other. Email and even an association blog or online newsletter could help you as a manager to keep your community operating efficiently and remind members that you’re actively involved and ready to help. But some forms of this communication involve obtaining and using members’ personal information.
Home businesses are being operated more often than ever before, as a cost-saving measure or because it’s more convenient for the business owner to stay at home. But some associations restrict the kinds of businesses members can operate in their homes or prohibit home businesses altogether.
Fair housing claims often stem from adverse actions taken against members for violating community policies or rules. In some cases, it's a claim of “disparate treatment—that is, that the rules are being selectively enforced because of a member's race or other characteristic protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Less commonly, it's a claim of “disparate impact,” where seemingly neutral rules have a disproportionate effect on racial minorities or other protected groups. In some cases, both claims are raised.