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Do Away With Community Directory

As society has changed, Ohio’s community associations have also been forced to change. One previously positive act of the association, which unfortunately has now become a negative, is the publishing of a community directory.

In the good old days now gone by, many communities would publish a directory listing the names, addresses and phone numbers of all residents within the association. Some associations went so far as to even list the names, and sometimes the ages, of children residing in the community. The directory was used to get to know ones neighbors and facilitated “over the fence” neighbor to neighbor discussion.

In recent times community association directories have switched from a positive impact to a negative impact. Criminals have used directories to determine who lives alone and/or which residences are occupied only by a female resident. Instead of calling neighbors, some residents have taken to calling all association members for solicitation of sales of items such as cosmetics, tools, baskets, and candles. Instead of mailing holiday cards, some residents have taken to mailing all association members for solicitation of charitable donations or to obtain real estate listings. Email addresses have been grouped and used to make anonymous disparaging comments about management and/or the board. One member of a 260 home complex even duplicated and attempted to sell the directory to local contractors even though the directory advertised itself as “not being available to anyone outside the community.”
A well-intentioned board does not want to learn that its directory was tied to a break-in or worse type of crime. Boards should recognize the potential liability and/or the potential for a significant negative impact of publishing a directory. At a minimum, provide an “op-out” provision permitting residents to choose whether or not to be included in a directory. A community association board has many duties. It does NOT have a duty to publish a community association directory. A wise board would STOP.