Communicating with Your HOA – How Do You Do It? Is Email Required?

 I received this email from a reader. It is not easy being an out of state owner, and it is not easy for the Board dealing with an out of state owner. Here is the email that triggered this blog:

 

“Good morning, as an out of state owner of a California condo, I am unable to attend Board meetings.  The Association property is self-managed.  I have requested a list of my Board members and their email addresses so that I may communicate with the Board if I have any concerns to be addressed at a meeting.  I have been told that I may have these provided that they are included in the community directory. I take this to mean that if the contact information is not published in the directory, I cannot have it. Don’t elected Board members have to provide their contact information to the Association members?”

 

Board members are entitled to some privacy so they do not have to give out their email addresses if they do not want to. In a managed association owners usually have access to the manager either by phone, mail, or email, or any or all of the above. But in a self-managed association, providing owners with contact information can be more challenging. Many people don’t want to be contacted at home and sometimes there is no common address in the association. The bottom line is that the association has to provide contact information so owners can reach the board. If a board does not make it reasonably easy for members, it can be a problem.  That is what happened in the 2013 Worldmark vs. Wyndham case. The Board of the association would not release the email list that was used to contact the owners to an owner who wanted to communicate with members about a bylaws amendment.

 

One can argue over whether the facts of the case require release of email addresses.

 

In the case the court defined the term “address” as used in Corporations Code Section 8330 to be sufficiently broad enough to include email addresses. The judges reasoned (through definitions and a case) that before the advent of the internet and electronic mail, the term “address” was defined as: “[t]he location at which a particular organization or person may be found or reached,” and that email qualifies as an “address” under that definition. On the other hand, HOAs are not vacation clubs and they don’t have 260,000 members so the cost of communicating by mail would not be so high. In the Davis Stirling Act, a member has the right to “opt-out” of the membership list. The Davis Stirling Act has another provision which allows access to the membership list but it specifically refers to “mailing address” instead of “address”, and the more specific law usually “trumps” the less specific.

 

If an association does not use an email list, the answer is easy, board members do not have to provide their email addresses. If there is a list, one could spend a lot of money fighting over whether or not an owner is entitled to the email list in a small association like this one. So sorry, I cannot give a definitive answer in this case other than if the HOA offers some reasonable way for an owner to reach the HOA with questions, concerns or comments, and other members if they so desire, it may not have to provide email addresses.  

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