By Bob Gourley
Using your condominium newsletter to discuss CIOA with members of your community association can be a vital component to a sound overall communication program. Interestingly, CIOA laws are designed for the protection of individual homeowners. Yet, unless an individual homeowner is aware of the changes to the law or hires an attorney to bring suit against the association, the reality is that most residents are unaware of CIOA or how it impacts them. My advice to clients is to get ahead of the story and make sure your communication efforts are CIOA-compliant.
Before I begin, I need to point out that I am not an attorney. I make no representation as to the legal soundness of the advice in this article. I am an experienced HOA Board President and an expert in community association newsletters and communication products. You should always seek the advice and counsel of an experienced community association attorney when legal questions arise. My personal experience is with the CIOA laws here in Connecticut but there are similar laws in every state to protect the rights of homeowners and to assure that sound governance principals are followed within community associations.
A great deal of emphasis on open communication is stressed over and over in the CIOA laws. Meeting notes, financial data, vendor transactions are all subject to new levels of scrutiny from individual homeowners. It may make sense to get ahead of some of these inquiries and actually publish some highlights in your newsletter. I have always advocated full budget disclosures to homeowners. After all, it is their money and they should know where it is going and how it is being spent.
With all of this openness comes a new level of opportunity. If homeowners had previously felt shut out or sheltered from the activity of the Board, this is a great time to bring some fresh faces and ideas to the Board. We all know that informed residents become involved residents. Someone who takes an interest in the meeting notes may be a future candidate for Board Secretary. Someone who takes an interest in the association’s finances may be a potential Board Treasurer. Seize the day and don’t miss an opportunity to turn an inquiring mind into a productive volunteer.
Of course, CIOA laws bring challenges with them as well. In many instances, the communication requirements of the act will force communities to spend more on record-keeping and distribution. Fortunately, the act in Connecticut does allow for more electronic communications so it is a good time to look into email and website communications. Again, there are legal provisions that guide these activities so please be sure you understand the ramifications of going paperless with your communication efforts.
I wholeheartedly suggest you embrace the spirit of CIOA in your community’s communication efforts. I have included a link to the CAI CIOA reference page (http://caict.org/LAC_CIOAChanges.html) in the last several issues of my own community newsletter. I want my community members to know that their BOD is CIOA-compliant and that we are aware of the law. I can report that “so far, so good”. I’ll bet you get the same result.