Did you know that the average office employee receives about 120 emails every business day? The average board member may get twice as many emails as that (if not more). Though it may be a bit overwhelming, this high number demonstrates how important electronic communication is. The alternative is much worse. Can you imagine a board member trying to sift through and respond to 200 handwritten letters or notes each day? It would simply be too much work and time.
In order to ensure email correspondence remains productive and useful, condominiums and HOAs should have an email or electronic communications policy in place.
Table of contents
- The purpose of an email policy
- What does an email policy cover?
- Create an email consent form
- Don’t mix personal and business emails
- Emails between board members and property managers
- Emails between board members
The purpose of an email policy
An email policy explains why a corporation or association uses email as a method of communication, and how community email accounts should be used. Policies address usage for both board members and owners/residents.
The ultimate goal of an email policy is to minimize legal risks and ensure security. However, by clearly spelling out expectations and requirements, communities also minimize misunderstands and conflict.
Without an updated policy, a board member might send association-related material using their personal email address, not knowing that they’ve done something wrong. However, all HOA-related communications should be sent through the official board of directors’ email addresses.
What does an email policy cover?
While not extensive, below are some key points that community email policies should address:
- Who can send emails on behalf of the board
- What email addresses should be used
- Which topics can and cannot be addressed via email
- When and how to seek legal advice for an email
- The proper way for residents to send emails to board members
- Password security
Residents must be able to access the email policy with ease. If and when the policy is amended, a new copy must also be distributed to each member.
Create an email consent form
An email consent form is a document that collects residents’ consent to receive notices from the board via email.
Consent forms offer multiple benefits. They allow boards to collect resident email addresses and add them to the community directory if that task was never completed. Second, boards avoid complaints from residents. If owners start receiving emails without prior notice, they might feel like the condo or HOA is infringing on their privacy. Most importantly, when notices and documents can be sent electronically, the community saves time and money. It is much easier and cost-effective to click send and instantly share a message with the community as opposed to printing out hundreds of letters and paying for postage or delivering them by hand.
Condo Control has a popular e-consent feature that makes it even easier to obtain consent from owners and residents. Our e-consent solution also enables admins to check if residents opened a form or letter, making it easy to verify which residents you need to follow up with. Residents also have the ability to withdraw consent at any time if they change their minds.
Don’t use your personal email address for condo/HOA business
There is no legal requirement for board members to use business email accounts. However, there are numerous practical reasons for creating and maintaining an account solely dedicated to condo/HOA affairs.
If boards use personal email addresses, they may be more inclined to use informal or casual language when responding to residents. While board members should use a friendly tone, emails must also remain professional.
Another benefit to using an “official” association account is that confidential business is less likely to be viewed by a family member. Some couples share email accounts and see each others’ communications, which means they might see something that they shouldn’t see if the board member continues to use a personal account.
Finally, even though owners do not have an automatic right to inspect emails between directors, that does change when litigation is filed. As part of discovery, a director’s emails can be subpoenaed. When board members use personal accounts for association business, their personal accounts can end up on display for others to scrutinize.
Email accounts should not be too generic if each member cares for their own account. For example, do not use “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Instead, use the director’s name (email@example.com) so that there won’t be issues creating or terminating accounts once a term begins/ends.
Emails between board members and property managers
In most cases, the emails to and from a property manager are considered the property of the management company that the individual works for. That means, unless emails are required for legal purposes, they are not considered association records and owners cannot request to review them.
Emails between board members
There are certain situations where emails sent between board members would be classified as association records, but in most cases, owners do not have the right to view every email sent between board members.
By statute, boards cannot conduct association business by email. But, there are a few exceptions to this rule. In most places, directors are allowed to use their association account in the following ways:
- Conduct emergency meetings
- Send emails to management and vendors
- Send emails to legal counsel
- Send administrative emails to each other about meeting dates and times
Always check local laws and your governing documents to see what rules and processes you must follow when it comes to digital HOA/condo communications. Below are a couple of specific examples of how email issues/concerns may be handled.
The State of Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes ( or the Division), decided that board members who use personal email accounts to discuss official association business were not automatically required to share these emails with owners.
“Rather than expressly finding that board member emails from personal email accounts to another board member’s personal email account discussing association business are ‘official records,’ the Division found that there is no express exclusion under § 718.111(12), Fla. Stat. to exclude emails from private email accounts.”
This indirect ruling created ambiguity that may lead to future litigation over the issue.
Regardless of whether they can be used for official records or not, board members should not use personal email accounts when writing about matters that concern the association, and they should never make decisions about association business via email unless there is a valid reason for doing so (i.e. it is impossible for them to meet in person and a decision is needed right away).
A case in 2019 determined that emails exchanged between board members do not automatically become corporation records. An owner wanted to see copies of emails exchanged between directors that discussed the corporation’s renewal of a gas contract. Since the board minutes confirmed that the gas contract was “already approved by the Board via email,” the owner felt that the emails should have been available to all owners.
The corporation argued that these emails did not exist (despite their reference in the minutes). It also argued that any such emails, if they did exist, formed part of an informal discussion on the contract renewal, but the decision was made at the board meeting.
The Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) concluded that, “while section 55(1) of the Act imposes on corporations the obligation to keep board meeting minutes, it does not require a corporation to keep transcripts of the discussions having taken place (regardless of whether the discussions took place orally or by email).”
The fact that the minutes referred to the existence of the emails was not strong enough to make them official records of the corporation. The CAT suggested that the outcome may have been different if the emails had been attached to the minutes.
When it comes to keeping emails that could be considered official association records, boards are encouraged to archive messages for several years. They can be safely disposed of after seven years, but you may get rid of them sooner depending on what your governing documents say.
Email has transformed the way we communicate with each other. It is faster, more cost-efficient, and preferred by most people.
At the same time, because it’s so easy to send messages, the writer can become too casual with official association communications. HOAs and condos will need a detailed electronic communication policy to ensure board members and owners understand how they should communicate through condo/HOA email addresses.
Communities can also use a comprehensive communication solution like Condo Control for even simpler messaging options. Boards have an easier time keeping track of service requests, architectural change requests, etc., and residents can receive messages via email, text or automated voice messaging. The system is the perfect solution for condos and HOAs that are looking to engage the community without adding more work for busy boards and managers.