Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Think twice before sending that email!

Email has become the biggest part of the day for most of us. Without dating myself too badly, I can remember the first law firm I clerked for and there was no email! We did everything by phone, regular mail and fax. Imagine that, a life without spam and incessant beeping whenever a new email hits our inboxes.

There is no turning back now with email but we can all learn how to harness email in a way that makes sense for our lives and jobs. This is especially true for volunteer board members who might not understand how quickly problems can arise when a formal email policy is not in place. What should be in your association’s email policy? The following are some suggestions to start your board thinking about how you wish to handle emails amongst each other, with your manager and with your members.

• Try to keep the number of emails your directors send to each other to a minimum; they should save these discussions for properly noticed and open meetings.

• Require board members to use an association email address that is separate and apart from their personal or business email address. Doing so underscores the fact that emails sent to and from association email accounts become part of the association’s official records.

• Board members and the association manager should not write emails that a reasonable person would consider offensive. There is no preventing the content of the emails sent to the board but the board can control how it chooses to respond.

• Speaking of responding to email, other than requests for document inspections or substantive questions, there is no statutory requirement that directors or managers respond to abusive emails that serve no useful purpose.

• Emails should be reviewed prior to sending. Typos, poor word choice and other errors in information send the wrong message to association members, fellow directors and vendors.

• If a discussion requires more than 2 emails back and forth, a phone call is a much better choice. If a topic is sensitive, a face to face meeting is a much better choice.

• Do not put anything in an email that you would not feel comfortable seeing blown up and sitting on an easel in front of a judge, jury or arbitrator.

• Directors and/or the association manager should not forward emails containing private or sensitive information without the board’s prior knowledge and approval.

• The Board’s official email policy should affirmatively state that the board does not conduct official business via email.

Eventually, our common interest ownership statutes in Florida will acknowledge the pervasive use of email today and seek to regulate same amongst board members but in the interim, every board should adopt a reasonable and comprehensive email policy.

This work by Donna DiMaggio Berger, Esq. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Generic License.


  1. You are so correct. It gets to where one does not want to open their mail because of the attacks and accusations that are sent about one member but sent to everyone on the board with no backup information just blank statements.

  2. Donna:
    What is the official, present, Florida State rule on dessemination of emails and telephone numbers?
    We are required to give postal addresses of Owner-Members to other Owner-Members, but what about email addresses and telephone numbers?
    And, as a second part of the same question, are Directors entitled to get the email addresses and telephone numbers? In other words, do Directors have special privledges not given to Members?
    As President I have used the Email list to write a "Presidents Report" describing the Condo's business. I have assiduously avoided the slightest "political" remark. Another Director insists on using the email list (just before an election.) I have refused to give out the list to anyone,whether Member or Director.

    Michael E Katz