Condo column: Does condominium association president have rights to residents’ email addresses?

Editor’s note: Attorneys at Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC., respond to questions about Florida community association law. The firm represents community associations throughout Florida and focuses on condominium and homeowner association law, real estate law, litigation, estate planning and business law.

Richard D. DeBoest II, Esq., is a co-owner and shareholder of the law Firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Q: Does the president of a condominium association have the rights to the email addresses of all its residents for emailing information to the residents? We do not have a community newsletter and the only one who I was told has the rights to all email addresses is the property manager, who is a paid employee of the larger board.

— J. D., Indian River Shores

A: An association cannot mandate that owners provide email addresses to it. However, many owners do voluntarily provide email addresses. 

Once provided, the email address become official records of the association. However, again, unless an owner has provided their email address to the association and expressly indicated that it is to be used for official communication, the email address is not available to owners who request to obtain it. 

So, in most cases, owner email addresses kept by the association are used for what is commonly called “casual communication,” such as newsletters and updates. Traditional mail is used for official communication, such as meeting notices, ballots and proxies.

Who can utilize the email addresses and for what purpose is a decision of the board, not the president, or any single director. So, unless the board has authorized the president to send communication to the owners , he or she does not have any right to do so using email addresses that were given to the association.

Q: My local HOA Board of Directors adopted a rule that states a Board of Director meeting can be recorded only if the person recording announces that they are going to record it, and the videos cannot be published or uploaded to social media websites after recording.  Is this legal to prohibit uploading of the video to a social media website, like YouTube or Nextdoor, and under what authority can this be enforced?

— D.H., Stuart

A:  Owners have the right to video and tape record board meetings and members meetings. However, the board can adopt reasonable rules regarding how this can be done. 

 A rule that requires a person to announce they are recording before they start is reasonable and enforceable. Whether or not the board can enforce a rule prohibiting the uploading of the video to social media is much less clear. 

This is a cutting-edge issue in this day and age and pits free speech rights against a person’s right to privacy. There is no law that presently prohibits what a person can do with such a recording. So, at this point absent a court decision or statutory change, I do not believe the board can enforce such a rule.

Q: Our board is attending a pre-suit mediation with a homeowner who is threatening to sue the association. We have asked if as owners we can attend the mediation. The board said we cannot attend the mediation. Is this true?

A.  Yes. The only people legally allowed to attend a formal pre-suit mediation are the parties of the mediation. In this case that would be the board of directors on behalf of the association and the homeowners bringing the action. 

Legal counsel for both parties and the association manager would also be allowed to attend, but other non-party homeowners would not be allowed to attend. However, if case is settled, the written settlement agreement would be an official record of the association and all owners would be allowed to obtain a copy of it.

Richard D. DeBoest II, Esq., is co-founder and shareholder of the Law firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC.  our website .gadclawm, or to ask questions about your issues for future columns, kindly send your inquiry to: questiongadclawm.  The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC or any of our attorneys.  Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.

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