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Cautionary Tales: Know Your Association Website Information and Protect It By: Andrew Meinert, Esq.

As more community associations enter the digital age and establish their own websites, boards enter a new world that may be unfamiliar.  Association websites are a great tool for providing owners with the community’s governing documents, handbooks, and other relevant information, such as when the pool will open and close.  Many owners have stated that communication through an association website is their preferred method of correspondence from the board.

One concern with an association website is access. As owners understand the information on the website to be official, boards must take extra precautions to ensure only authorized individuals have the ability to modify the website content and post information.  If every owner has the ability to comment on the association’s website, a disgruntled owner may seek to make life difficult for the board by posting inaccurate or even false information. The board should determine who has authority to maintain the website and ensure security settings are in place.

In addition to limiting who administers the association’s website, the board must also make sure incoming boards receive access information. Establishing a policy on distributing information when a new board or officer is elected helps create an official transfer method for maintaining continuity that will benefit the board and the association.

In one instance, a board had no official method for transferring the association’s website access information, and the information was never provided to the new board members. The company serving as the website host would not voluntarily provide the information to the current board members for security reasons.  Instead, the website company required the association to file a lawsuit and obtain a subpoena before they would produce the access information.  Rather than spend several thousands of dollars and wait months in court for a resolution, the board decided to create a new website and start from scratch.  While less expensive than a lawsuit, this also required the association to incur unexpected costs.  This example illustrates the importance of knowing how to access your association’s website and making sure future boards also receive that information.