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WEBSITES & CHAT ROOMS

Benefits. More associations are discovering the benefits of internet websites. They provide easy 24/7 access to the association's CC&Rs, bylaws, rules, architectural standards, minutes, financial statements, and newsletters.

Problems. Websites also expose associations to potential liability for defamation, theft of personal information, invasion of privacy, and "rights" organizations seeking litigation targets. To minimize such risks, associations should divide their websites into two sections: (i) one that is open to the public, and (ii) one that is members-only, password-protected.

Members Only. The public portion of the site can have a welcoming page with a description of the development and pictures of the project. The members-only section should contain the governing documents, financial statements, minutes, names of board and staff members, etc. Boards should be cautious about posting the names of delinquent owners, and should not post employee disciplinary actions, executive session minutes, or attorney-client privileged communications.

Chat Rooms. Association sponsored online forums, chat rooms and bulletin boards allow members to get to know each other and let off a little steam. Unfortunately, they are frequently taken over by small groups of disaffected owners who engage in personal attacks, gossip, obscenities, hostile diatribes, and defamation. Also, some owners have the mistaken belief that chat rooms serve as a means for communicating with the board and making demands. Directors who respond to such communications expose their association to potential risk.

Facebook. Facebook poses similar risks for associations if proper protocols are not established. If an association sets up a Facebook account, the admin settings should be set so only the board or management can post pictures. Individual members should not be allowed to post pictures or make comments on the site. Another precaution: the association should get written permission before posting pictures of members and their children.

Recommendation: Chat rooms and bulletin boards are lose-lose propositions for associations and should NOT be sponsored in any way by associations.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

Adams Stirling PLC