By Bob Gourley
I have had the opportunity to moderate numerous discussions between community association attorneys and concerned members of Boards of Directors from condominium associations about the impact of the revised Common Interest Ownership Act, commonly known as CIOA (pronounced like the state of “Iowa” with a hard “K” in front of it). In the state of Connecticut, it will impact nearly every common interest community in one way or another.
My primary business is producing newsletters and communication products for community associations. While CIOA does not specifically address newsletters and websites, it is clear to me that the spirit and intention of the law is to shed light on the business proceedings of the governance of condominium and community associations. Many of the provisions of the bill are designed to give homeowners access to records that are kept by the association, and, in particular those records kept by the Board of Directors, their appointed committees, and the firms that manage their properties or act on behalf of the association’s members.
I have long held to the position that a well-informed association is a content association. I have also openly declared the need for communities to have regularly scheduled newsletters, notices, website updates, and other methods of communication. It is clear to me that this new legislation also supports these ideals. It is not enough to serve in earnest on the Board of Directors. Top-notch recordkeeping and timely dissemination of important information to all association members is no longer a favor to offer. It is a legal requirement that could bring dire consequences if ignored.
To that extent, I encourage all HOA and condominium Board Presidents and Members to strongly embrace the idea of openness. Not just as a requirement of law but as a best practice in governing. You volunteered to govern your community. You were elected to serve in the best interest of all residents. You should have no problem with having the “light of day” shine brightly on your governance. In fact, I would encourage you to embrace it and understand that communicating with your fellow condominium association members is an excellent way to gain consensus on projects, open yourself to new possibilities, and even foster an environment where new volunteers come forth to serve.
I acknowledge that new laws can be challenging. At 58 pages and counting, fully comprehending the new CIOA legislation is a daunting task and may best be left to your community association attorney. However, you can embrace the spirit of the law and give yourself an advantage in governing at the same time. If you don’t already have a community newsletter, there has never been a better reason to start one. If you do already have a community newsletter, there has never been a better time to give a good looking over and make sure that it is as CIOA-friendly as it should be.
You should evaluate your distribution channels as well. Newsletters and notices that are mailed to members are CIOA compliant. Website postings and emails can be CIOA compliant but open you up to the possibility of lawsuit if not received by your intended recipient. For me, that means I will continue to use email and website postings for general information disclosure but my newsletter and meeting minutes will be mailed as well. I would rather communicate too much than risk having a member sue my association for not properly disclosing information.