Does HOA board member have right to employee handbook? Are we required to provide information to be published in our neighborhood directory?

Q: I am a recently-elected member of our HOA board of directors. Our community has about 1,500 homes and a staff of approximately 50 full-time and seasonal employees. I recently requested a copy of the HOA’s employee handbook so that I might be conversant with its contents, but I was rebuffed by the general manager who stated that the handbook was not given to board members as a routine matter. I found this most unusual. I would appreciate your opinion on his response.

A: The answer to your question depends on whether the staff is actually employed by the HOA or by the HOA’s management company. If they are employees of the HOA, then you should absolutely be entitled to review the handbook. The handbook is the property of the HOA, not the management company, and the manager has no right to keep a board member from seeing the HOA’s own documentation.

If the staff members are employees of the management company, then I would have to agree with the manager. There may be proprietary information in their employee handbook that they rightfully may not want to disclose, and they are under no legal duty to share the handbook’s contents with you. If you have specific concerns with the behavior of employees or the management company’s employee policies, then you should address those directly with your general manager.

Q: Legally, can my HOA ask homeowners for the names and ages of their children to list in the community directory? Can the HOA ask homeowners for the number of people in their household?

A: We covered the issue of owners’ rosters from a different perspective in a previous column. See previous columns at http://www.charlotteobserver.com/914/

Publishing neighborhood directories is a little different. Because of privacy and security concerns, and the possible misuse of the directory for unauthorized business purposes by unscrupulous homeowners, I would proceed with caution. If your HOA is insistent on publishing a directory, my recommendation is that all homeowners be given the option of whether their names and addresses (or names and ages of children, or the number of residents in the home) are published in a neighborhood directory.

Directly addressing your question: The HOA is free to ask for the names and ages of children or the number of people in the household. However, you are no obligation to provide that information.

Originally published in the Charlotte Observer on November 28, 2013.

 

7 thoughts on “Does HOA board member have right to employee handbook? Are we required to provide information to be published in our neighborhood directory?

  1. Request for Employee Handbook. It makes me wonder why the HOA board did not explain the reason. A simple explanation would have been more suitable if the employees belonged to the management company rather than to the HOA. HOA’s should be more accountable to all members by providing explanations rather than fostering suspicions. Now, the person has got to ask again “whose employees are they– the HOA’s or management company? WIth that many employees, a review of the HOA budget and expenditure line items should provide a clue.

    • From my interpretation of the reader’s question, it wasn’t the HOA board that refused to provide the employee handbook – it was the property manager refusing to provide it to an HOA board member. The crux of the issue is whether the manager and other employees are employed by the HOA, or the management company.

  2. I certainly agree with you on the crux of the issue. There seems to be a bigger issue here rather than providing a handbook. From my past experience, if a handbook was not provided, it was because it didn’t exist. In this case, maybe the management company just ignored the request.
    I wondered if the HOA is paying the expenses and bearing the risk factors, while the management company’s function is hiring, directing, paying workers, and making sure all state/federal laws are followed. Question to me is STILL: Who SHOULD be considered the employer? Could that determination be clarified in the contract between the HOA and the managment company? Would that be sufficient evidence to assign responsibility since it appears that most HOA’s are not big “players” in the process?

    • Some HOAs prefer that the staff remain employees of the management company – this saves the HOA from having to handle the employment tax filings, benefits, legal compliance and other issues. In those cases, the total employment cost (salary, withholding, benefits, etc.) is usually passed directly on to the HOA. Other HOAs (typically large ones) prefer to have the staff remain employees of the HOA. This gives them more control over hiring, training, policies and procedures. Whichever route they choose, the details should be spelled out in the management contract.

  3. In the case where the employees belong to the management company: For clarification: You meant these employment costs (salaries, withholding, etc) are passed on as part of the total bill, but not recorded to the HOA’s financial records as individual account items. Whereas, in the case where the employees belong to the HOA, you would see these type of account captions –salaries, withholding, UI taxes, etc. as part of the HOA’s financial statement disclosures. Is that correct?

    • If the staff member is employed by the management company, that cost is most likely going to be passed along to the HOA as part of the management fee. How it appears on the HOA’s income statement depends on how it’s accountant treats and reports it – but it’s not truly a “salary” paid by the HOA, since the salary is actually paid by the management company.

      • OK, but just from my prospective if I were to look at the HOA’s financial statements, I may get the wrong impression if the accountant recorded information in a way that made it appear that the workers were the responsibility of the HOA. it seems that a better account classification for the HOA would be “contracted services”. As a HOA FS reader, presentation of information is important in order for anyone to get the best understanding of the HOA’s financial operations.

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