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A Code of Ethics for Community Associations By Michelle Polly-Murphy, Esq.

In Ohio, community associations are organized as nonprofit corporations. Just as a board for a corporation must be accountable to its shareholders, a community association board must be accountable to its members who have elected them to be responsible for managing the association’s activities. One measure of accountability is for the board to operate ethically.

A Code of Ethics can help eliminate or reduce concerns or doubts owners might have regarding board members because it assures them that the board will act with good intentions, honesty, and in the association’s best interests. All board members should sign a Code of Ethics that sets standards to measure their actions and behaviors. While board decisions might not always be black and white, a Code of Ethics will help guide a board through any grey areas, keeping the focus on the main purposes of the association

A Code of Ethics should address the following areas

  1. Board members agree to abide by all association rules and be current in the payment of all association assessments;
  2. Board members agree not to accept gifts of any type worth $50.00 or more per year from any owner, resident, contractor, or supplier;
  3. Board members understand that differences of opinion will exist, and that they must be expressed in a clear and businesslike fashion. The board is a team. As such, confidentiality of other board member’s opinions will be respected and not criticized outside the confines of a board meeting, nor will one of its own be criticized outside of a board meeting;
  4. Board members will keep language at board meetings professional. Yelling, swearing and/or personal attacks against fellow board members, the property manager, contractors, owners, or residents is prohibited;
  5. Board members agree not to make promises or assurances to any owner, resident, contractor, subcontractor, supplier, or anyone else unless the promise or assurance was approved by the board as a whole; and
  6. Board members will use their best efforts at all times to operate and make decisions that are consistent with high ethical principles, and to protect the safety of the residents and enhance the value of the property.

A Code of Ethics can be an invaluable tool to help guide board members when it comes to grey areas and turn otherwise confusing situations into clear decisions. A sample Code of Ethics is available on ATLAS for boards to use. A good practice is to distribute the Code of Ethics to the association’s members after its adoption by the board. This will demonstrate that the board is accountable to each other as well as the association’s members, creating a transparency that will benefit the entire association.

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