A client emailed me yesterday about a problem her community is having with overzealous Census Takers. The client reported that the association office has been harassed during the past couple days by Census bureau workers and supervisors asking for information on the residents of the buildings. Apparently the Census Taker wanted this board to match names and telephone numbers, as well as state the occupancy status of the units in the building.
When the manager declined to provide this information, she received a threatening phone call from a supervisor citing Federal law and telling them that they would show up with a letter stating they will have the right to review the association files in the association office in order to collect the necessary information.
First a little background on the 2010 Census is in order. Every 10 years, the U.S. Census determines how many people live in the United States. More importantly, it determines how the federal government will allocate money to improve schools, roads, hospitals and other institutions.
A Census Taker is a person from your community who is hired by the Census Bureau to make sure that your neighborhood gets represented as accurately as possible. The Census Taker’s primary responsibility is to collect census information from residences. So far, 72% of households have mailed back their census forms which is the same rate that was achieved during the 2000 Census.
• The Census Bureau provides the Census Taker with a binder containing all of the addresses that didn’t send back a filled out census form.
• The Census Taker then visits all of those addresses and records the answers to the questions on the form.
• If no one answers at a particular residence, a census taker will visit a home up to three times and attempt to reach the household by phone three times. The census worker will leave a double-sided (English and Spanish) NOTICE of VISIT in the doorway that includes a phone number for the resident to schedule an appointment.
The census taker will ONLY ask the questions that appear on the census form.
Individual participation in the 2010 Census is required by Section 221, of Title 13 of the U.S. Code. However, rather than rely on criminal charges, the Census Bureau usually elicits participation by explaining the importance of the questions we ask and how the information benefits our communities. The question for community associations is how far must the board and/or manager go in assisting a Census Taker in obtaining information not being provided by individual owners and/or in allowing entry in guard-gated communities. Some communities are not permitting Census Workers to go door to door inside the building and others are not assisting in compiling the information on behalf of recalcitrant owners. Further exacerbating the problem is the fact that many condominium units are vacant right now.
In terms of access, I would treat a Census Taker no differently than a process server and allow entry. The stickier question becomes whether or not the Census Taker can inspect association books and records to obtain the information they need. Certainly with a subpoena they can but prior to that time some communities are assisting and others are not. Most Census Workers are leaving a box of forms in either the association office or in the lobby of condominiums and cooperatives.
Certainly there is benefit to be gained in having your community’s and city’s needs accurately reflected in terms of federal funding. If privacy is a concern, you should know that the Census Taker who collects your information is sworn for life to protect your data under Federal Law Title 13. Those who violate the oath face criminal penalties: Under federal law, the penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both.
So how many of your communities have run into problems or questions as a result of the 2010 Census?