Privacy and Your HOA
If you’re like most people in America, you don’t want your private information disseminated without your approval. If you’re on an HOA board, you have a responsibility to make sure that this does not happen to other people.
While your specific privacy responsibilities will vary based on your state and local laws, there are a few things you should know no matter what those are.
What is the Board’s Responsibility When it Comes to Privacy?
According to the United States Supreme Court, homeowners in an association have a “reasonable expectation of privacy”. If people think that something is private and don’t personally publicize it, it should remain private.
There is some room for interpretation here, but most HOAs stand to benefit by playing it safe. Unless someone needs to know private information about someone else, don’t share it.
Who Should Have Access to Personal Information?
Even if the association keeps personal information on file, that doesn’t mean that everyone on the board should have access to that information.
Keep personal data on a “need to know” basis. For instance, your treasurer needs to have access to financial information that your secretary will never use. However, the secretary may regularly need access to data about who lives at which property.
Physical Privacy and the HOA
Most people don’t love getting visited by the HOA, especially when the visit isn’t scheduled or comes as a surprise.
In many states, including Florida, the HOA can enter a unit for essential maintenance duties or in order to prevent damage to common properties. Thus, you can usually enter a home to stop a massive plumbing leak while the homeowner is gone or to access and repair pipes that are the HOA’s responsibility.
Privacy During Debt Collection Procedures
Different states have different laws surrounding the privacy a homeowner is owed when the association is pursuing debt collection against them. In general, the wisest plan is to share as little as possible with as few entities as possible, while still effectively going after the money you are owed.
For instance, you can share member data with lawyers or debt collection agencies who are working with you. However, it is unwise to share anything about debt collection with anyone else.
How to Protect Your HOA and Your Members’ Data
There are a few things that an HOA can do to protect itself and to protect its members’ data.
First of all, put robust locks on any doors that protect physical data or computers and/or hard drives that might contain such data. For online data, make sure you use encryption for any data that you store and that you have a computer security professional review your practices regularly.
Finally, make sure your insurance covers your association in case of a data breach. This will allow your association to continue functioning no matter what happens.
If you need more advice about privacy or help protecting member data, contact our security professionals at AMI today!
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