Emails as Association Official Records

Whether you live in a condominium, cooperative or homeowner association, the Statute governing your community defines the term “official records.” In defining official records, each Statute has a catch-all provision.

All other written records of the association not specifically included in the foregoing which are related to the operation of the Association.

Sections 718.111(12), 719.104(2), and 720.303(4), Florida Statutes.

Questions abound, however, as to whether emails are official records. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (“Division”) has ruled that emails to an association can be considered official records, and are therefore subject to inspection and copying by owners or their representatives. But are all emails “to an association?” Are personal emails between board members official records? What about an owner’s email to a board member’s email address and the board member’s response to that owner – is that considered an official record subject to another owner’s inspection and copying?

Division rulings have held that e-mails to an individual director or to all directors as a group, addressed only to their personal computers, are not written communication to the association and therefore not considered an official record. This is because there is no obligation for a director to turn on a personal computer with any regularity, or to open and read e-mails before deleting them.  Irizarry v. Laguna Point Condominium Association, Inc., Arbitration Case No. 08-05-2791 (April 10, 2009/Final Order). This point was further clarified in the arbitration case of Humphrey v. Carriage Park Condominium Association, Inc., Case No. 08-04-0230 (March 30, 2009/Final Order/Campbell), where the arbitrator stated that “any e-mails received by, stored upon, or otherwise contained upon or within the personal computing devices (e.g., computers, laptops, cell phones, tablets, etc.) of Directors shall be considered the personal property of the Director upon whose device said e-mail exists.”  In other words, the email does not belong to the association.

However, the arbitrator in Humphrey went on to state “[t]he conclusion may be different if the association owns a computer on which management conducts business including e-mails (analogous to government public records); or if e-mails are printed up and passed around for discussion at a board meeting.”  In other words, emails to an association’s email address, the manager’s email address or any other email identified as an association email (“@condoname.com”) are considered official records.

It is important to have a clear understanding of and policy in place related to emails such that those that are official records are properly kept and those that are not are properly deleted. There are also exceptions for things such as litigation holds, which must be considered when creating and implementing an email policy.  It is therefore strongly recommended that all associations involve their attorney when formulating their policy.

 

Written by Howard J. Perl and originally posted to FL Condo HOA Law Blog

Website Law Likely to Change

Q:        I have heard that there is a new law requiring condominium associations to have a website. Is that true? (J.L. via e-mail)

A:        Yes, although the law has somewhat limited application. First, it is worthwhile to note that the 2018 Florida Legislature passed a Bill on March 9 that would change the 2017 website law. As of this time, the Bill has not been signed by the Governor, but it is not expected that he will veto the legislation. Once the Governor has acted on the Bill, I will present my annual legislative update.

The 2017 law created a new requirement for any condominium having 150 or more units in total to have a website up and running by July 1, 2018. The new law will change this requirement in several important ways.

For associations which are obligated to comply with the law, the required implementation date will be pushed back to January 1, 2019. Perhaps more significantly, the scope of the law has been narrowed as to which associations it applies to. For example, a multi-condominium association that operates 10 condominiums with 50 units each would have had to comply with the website requirement under the 2017 version of the law. Under the 2018 changes, a multi-condominium association that operates 150 or more units does not need to comply with the mandatory website requirement unless at least one of the condominiums operated by the association contains 150 or more units.

The 2018 amendments also tweaked some of the posting requirements from the original law, allowing posting of summaries of certain documents rather than the documents themselves.

 

Written by Joe Adams is an attorney with Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., Fort Myers Originally appeared on the FL Condo HOA Law Blog

Smoothing Transitions with Technology

Acquisitions are a common practice in the apartment industry, but they can still stir up plenty of stress for owners and residents. There is new data to collect and transfer, new processes to implement, and disruption to the residents’ habits. How can a company that acquires new properties organize and effectively manage the process from a technology standpoint?

NAA spoke with Kristin Runyan, SVP of Operations at PayLease, and Lisa Williams, Senior Vice President of Strategic Business Solutions at Bozzuto Management Company about their take-over experience and advice. They will both be speaking on the NAA Education Conference panel, “Tech Takes Over: Strategies for Onboarding New Communities” taking place on Thursday, June 16th at 10:15. Joining them on the panel will be Jean Merenda, Compliance Coordinator at Madison Apartment Group, and Casey Van Zandt, owner of Casey Van Zandt consulting.

Q: What are the biggest tech hurdles to a smooth transition?

Runyan: A lot of problems stem from transferring information from the previous owner and integrating it into the new systems. Timing really comes into play here. Sometimes these deals happen really quickly, and with people constantly moving in and out, you have to be in tight communication. Make sure to move as quickly as possible and to communicate the most relevant information.

Williams:  The timing of the data transfer. When the outgoing management company is shutting down their books and we’re coming in, we have to move quickly to make sure we have all the right data.  If only all transitions could happen in the middle of the month!

Q: What’s the number one thing a company can do to onboard efficiently?

Williams: Change is difficult for everyone so we try to over communicate, especially with the residents. We want to make sure they know who to go to if something is broken and where they should pay their rent.

Q: Do you think the apartment industry has lagged behind in tech utilization?

Runyan: The property management space has been slower to adopt new technology than other industries. There’s definitely a lack of technology utilization that could make a resident’s life easier. Companies like PayLease try to fill the gap. I don’t think anyone is particularly anti-tech, they just have different issues that they’re trying to solve.  But Millennials are changing that. And now property management companies are seeing the advantages.

Williams: The multifamily industry has lagged behind. We’ve made up a lot of ground in the past five years, thanks to NAA pushing things through. Yet, there are still a lot of residents who will pay their VISA online, but not their rent. Maybe it’s comfort or maybe we don’t promote it well enough. Our demographic, throughout our portfolio is all over the place. I will say that writing checks is going by the wayside. The younger Millennials don’t even have checkbooks.

Q: How does tech help with marketing strategies?

Runyan: There are a lot of opportunities to get in front of residents: email, text, flyers and more. We recommend all of them. You never know how you’re going to reach each resident. Maybe their email is overloaded so a door hanger works best. PayLease also lets property managers add custom messages to their residents’ bills because you know they’re going to read that.

Williams: Once we’re able to capture all of the data from the outgoing company, we do a lot of email blasts. We also blast from our resident portal, but email is the key.

Q: What do you do if you have residents who are reluctant to use new technology?

Runyan: We try a bunch of different measures. We as the vendor, will do all of the marketing for free – print mailing programs, email blasts, etc. We try to reach them any way we can so they know online payments are available. For folks who may not like using technology, we also offer a call center where residents can speak to a live representative and make a payment over the phone. At PayLease, we try to offer multiple ways to pay so we can reach everyone.

Williams: We never want to say “no” to a resident. If someone prefers to write a personal check, we still allow them to pay rent by check in the office. But, we make sure to train and educate the residents on the new technology. If their reluctance is that they’re not tech-savvy, we’re more than happy to have them come in to our business center and we’ll help them get set up.

To learn more about the session, “Tech Takes Over: Strategies for Onboarding New Communities,” or to submit questions to the panelists, click here.

Originally posted on Pay Lease Blog