August 21, 2009

Electronic Media and Association Business

Electronic media like email, Facebook, and Twitter are becoming the primary way for condominium and homeowners association board members to communicate with one another. Board members should be careful when using those types of media to discuss association business. Electronic messages may eventually be considered association records subject to review by the owners.

According to the Washington Condominium Act, association records must be made reasonably available to owners for examination and copying. This law applies to older condominiums as well. According to the Washington Homeowners’ Associations Act, all records of the association, including the names and addresses of owners and other occupants of the lots, must be made available to owners for examination at the office of the association or its manager. Homeowners associations are prohibited from releasing the unlisted telephone number of any owner in response to a request to review association records. Those associations may impose a reasonable charge for copies and costs incurred in providing access to association records.

Washington courts have not yet decided if electronic communications between community association board members about official business are records of the association, and the relevant state statutes are also silent regarding this issue. It is a good practice for board members to assume that electronic messages are potentially subject to review by the owners and strive to communicate about sensitive matters over the phone or in person. This will reduce the odds that a rash message from a board member will come back to haunt the association in future litigation.