Some of the more overlooked changes to the laws affecting condominium and homeowners’ associations that were enacted by the 2010 legislature were the new privacy rights given to members and employees of associations.
For condominium associations, the following information about unit owners in the possession of the association are not accessible to unit owners: “Medical records of unit owners, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, emergency contact information, any addresses of a unit owner other than as provided to fulfill the association’s notice requirements, and other personal identifying information of any person, excluding the person’s name, unit designation, mailing address, and property address.”
Similarly, for homeowners’ associations, the following information about its members or parcel owners in the possession of the association are not accessible to unit owners: “Medical records of parcel owners or community residents, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, electronic mailing addresses, telephone numbers, emergency contact information, any addresses for a parcel owner other than as provided for association notice requirements, and other personal identifying information of any person, excluding the person’s name, parcel designation, mailing address, and property address.”
These new information accessibility exclusions are important to most associations because those who have regularly published to its members a directory of the members probably has information about the members in the directory that would now be considered private and not to be available to the other members. Examples would be northern addresses and phone numbers, and e-mail addresses.
Because the directories published in the past were allowed to contain such information as the information was not considered inaccessible to the members, that information is already “out there.”
However, when it comes time now to publish a new directory of the members, we suggest that you first send a notice or letter to all members asking them to let the association know if they don’t want any of the information contained in the last directory put in the new directory, or if they have any changes to their information for the new directory.
This way, they will have consented to the information being published in the directory that would now be considered inaccessible under the new laws. It would kind of hard for someone to challenge the distribution of information about them for which they have consented to.
Many associations have member directories and their members find them very helpful so that they can stay in contact with them durning the summer or when they are on vacation.
For employees of both condominium and homeowners’ associations, the following information is not accessible to unit owners: “Personnel records of association employees, including, but not limited to, disciplinary, payroll, health and insurance records.”
It is important that these employee records are inaccessible to members or unit owners so that board of directors can hire and fire and compensate their employees in a professional and businesslike manner.
Before they became inaccessible, some dissidents in some associations would get these records and try to use them to get employees they did not personally like, fired or politically try to go after the board, alleging the board is paying someone too much or not enough. They would try to undermine the board with the information by disclosing it to other members or the employees themselves which many times created havoc, hard feelings, and unnecessary expense with the board trying to take care of association business in a businesslike manner.
With the ability of people’s personal information to be traded and distributed on the Internet at lightning speed these days, and many, who want to use the information for less than upstanding purposes, it is good there are now laws that can allow a parcel or unit owner and an employee and employer to keep private what information about themselves they want to keep private.
Rob Samouce, a principal attorney in the Naples law firm of Samouce, Murrell, & Gal, P.A., concentrates his practice in the areas of community associations including representing condominium, cooperative and homeowners’ associations in all their legal needs including the procedural governance of their associations, covenant enforcement, assessment collections, contract negotiations and contract litigation, real estate transactions, general business law, construction defect litigation and other general civil litigation matters. This column is not based on specific legal advice to anyone and is based on principles subject to change from time to time. If you have any questions about the column, Rob can be reached at www.smglawfirm.com. Those persons interested in specific legal advice on topics discussed in this column should consult competent legal counsel.