If you’ve managed or sat on a board of an association long enough, you will no doubt run into that one owner who believes more is less. This is the owner who emails the community manager and board members at least five times per day about the same things! This owner also believes that leaving 20 voicemails per day will get him quicker responses. Sound familiar? So what do you do with these types of owners? Do you keep responding to the same questions and requests, or can you tell them to stop contacting you? At the risk of sounding like an attorney, the answer is “it depends.”
What does it depend on? It depends on what the owner is asking or requesting, whether the questions have already been answered, or whether items he seeks should be produced. Below are a few examples and discussions about popular and recurring themes when it comes to continuous and overextended communications.
Requests for Ledgers
Some requests for documents are more time sensitive than others. If an owner provides the association with a written request for a ledger or a balance due statement on their account and the owner delivers the request either personally, or through certified mail, the association must provide the owner with the ledger or statement within 14 days of the request. If the association fails to comply within the above time frame, the association may lose the ability to place an assessment lien on a portion of the owner’s debt. Due to this risk, it is important to always provide a ledger or statement to an owner within 14 days regardless how many times the owner makes the request.
Requests for Documents
If the owner provides the association with a records request seeking to inspect or get copies of any of the records which are deemed association records pursuant to Colorado law, then the association must make these documents available to the owner. The association should have a record inspection policy, and this policy should be followed by the board. The record inspection policy will lay out the requirements for any such request from the owner and provide timelines for when those requests will be met.
What if an owner is bombarding the association with emails and voicemails about other topics? For example, perhaps the owner is upset about a special assessment and is demanding an explanation as to why the special assessment was imposed. Or perhaps an owner is unhappy with the landscaping contractor and wants to know the exact process the board went through to pick this contractor. Still sounding familiar?
As a general rule, associations should respond (through their boards or management companies) to inquiries and questions from owners. However, there is no legal requirement for associations to respond to the same question multiple times. Therefore, if an owner asks the same question over and over again, and the association has provided an answer, it can let the owner know it will not engage in further communications on that particular question. However, if the owner sends communications and questions with respect to other issues, the association must respond if it has not yet answered the new questions.
Sometimes owners send such large volumes of emails that it is physically impossible to respond to all of them, or if it were possible, the association would get no other work done because it would literally be spending all its time responding to these owners. Unfortunately, there are also owners who believe it is appropriate to communicate with their boards and/or community managers in an abusive and hostile manner. This is never acceptable and should not be tolerated.
In such cases, don’t be afraid to get the association’s legal counsel involved. Oftentimes, legal counsel can respond and direct all future communications to go through its office, which will free up the community manager and board to conduct association business. Other times, if the facts warrant it, a cease and desist letter may be sent to the owner.
When it comes to owner communications and the persistent and unhappy owners, there is no “one size fits all” answer. Each situation is unique, so it is important to think through the situation and appropriate responses to the owner in question before hitting “send.” It is also oftentimes a good idea to consult with legal counsel to come up with the best way to address the particular situation.
If you have any questions concerning dealing with persistent owners, please contact a Altitude Community Law attorney at 303.432.9999.