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Dealing With E-Mails from Members to Individual Directors

Dealing With E-Mails from Members to Individual Directors

By Helsing Admin

Individual Directors often receive questions or comments regarding various aspects of their association's operations from members by e-mail, and they wonder how, and even whether, they should respond to those e-mails. 

          Individual Directors are cautioned to not provide any substantive responses to such e-mails and to not attempt to answer any questions posed in such e-mails.  It is important to note that individual Directors are under no legal obligation to answer questions posed by members via e-mail that are sent directly to the individual Directors, and individual Directors should not answer such questions, either by e-mail or otherwise.  While this approach may appear to be a little harsh, it is, in the author's opinion, necessary. 

          It has been the author's experience that member questions or comments are often based on incomplete facts or an incorrect premise(s), and thus responding to the questions or comments as posed could unintentionally lead to inaccurate or ambiguous responses.  Also, many questions, even when posed by e-mail to a single Director, ask for "the board's" or "the association's" position on or response to the question.  When individual Directors answer such questions on their own, it is not fair to other Directors who might have a different opinion or answer.  And it certainly would not be appropriate for the answering Director to be suggesting that his or her answer is "the board's" or "the association's" answer, when the board has not had the opportunity to meet and discuss and debate the issue and reach a conclusion that is supported by a majority of the Directors. 

          The Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act[1] does not directly address the issue of e-mail communications from members to individual Directors.  Commencing January 1, 2014, it will address the issue of members sending "official communications" to the association, in two places. 

          First, "new" Civil Code Section 5310(a)(1) will require the "Annual Policy Statement" to include "the name and address of the person designated to receive official communications to the association, pursuant to [Civil Code] Section 4035".

          Second, "new" Civil Code Section 4035 will provide in relevant part as follows: 

                   (a)      If a provision of this act requires that a document be delivered to an association, the document shall be delivered to the person designated in the annual policy statement, prepared pursuant to Section 5310, to receive documents on behalf of the association.  If no person has been designated to receive documents, the document shall be delivered to the president or secretary of the association. 

                   (b)      A document delivered pursuant to this section may be delivered by any of the following methods: 

                   (1)      By e-mail, facsimile, or other electronic means, if the association has assented to that method of delivery. 

          Together, these two sections will allow an association to identify a person and an address that members must use when sending "official communications" to the association. 

          Unfortunately, the Legislature did not directly define the term "official communications".  Based on context, that term seems to be limited to documents that the Davis-Stirling Act requires members to send to an association.  Clearly, the Davis-Stirling Act does not require members to send questions to associations.  So there is nothing in the Act that directly prohibits a member from sending questions to individual Directors by e-mail.  Nor is there anything in the Act that requires members to send association-related questions to the person and address listed in the "Annual Policy Statement". 

          That being said, if an individual Director receives an e-mail from a member, regarding association business, the author recommends responding in substantially the following manner:

 

Dear Mr./Mrs. [member's name],

 

This e-mail acknowledges receipt of your [date/time] e-mail to me in my capacity as a member of the [name of association]'s Board of Directors.  Please note, however, that I have not been authorized by the Board to accept Association-related e-mail communications from members at my personal e-mail address, nor have I been authorized to forward any such e-mails to the Association or the Board.  Please send your e-mail (and all future e-mails to the Association) directly to the Board at [e-mail address].

 

Thank you in advance for your understanding of the Association's policy in this regard.

 

Sincerely,

 

          The recommended response to should be sent to the member as soon as possible following receipt of the member's e-mail. 

          It is the author's opinion that a prompt, polite and non-substantive response to members' e-mailed questions and comments is the most appropriate way for individual Directors to respond to Association-related e-mails sent directly to the individual Directors.


 

[1]Currently, California Civil Code Sections 1350 through 1378, inclusive; as of January 1, 2014, California Civil Code Section 4000 et seq.

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