Minimize Risk with 6 Best Practices for HOA Email Communications

Email is a necessary form of communication for most individuals. So, it’s only natural that HOA board members would want to enjoy the ease of using email to correspond with homeowners, other board members, their management company, and business partners.

However, using email for HOA communications creates substantial liability risks. Several laws have emerged in recent years to address possible habits HOA board members may have when communicating via email. This post will review the best practices of using email as a Homeowner’s Association Board member and offer practical advice on mitigating risk.

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1. Prioritize Confidentiality

Recent legislation, such as the Open Meetings Act and the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act, aims to keep HOA business decisions where they belong—at in-person meetings. Keeping that intention in mind, avoid discussing the following via email:

  • Passwords and login information or homeowner personal information
  • Sensitive information or business decisions
  • Legal matters or pending litigation

Additionally, it’s imperative to refrain from garnering consensus on HOA matters between board members on a potential decision, especially in California.

Do not write anything in an email that could end up as evidence in a lawsuit.

That may seem like paranoia at first glance, yet HOA board members do not enjoy privileged communications. All emails, texts, phone calls, social media posts, and letters sent on behalf of the HOA are discoverable during litigation.

Also read: Homeowners Association Lawsuits: What to Do When Your HOA is Sued

2. Keep a professional tone

HOA boards are often composed of members from a close-knit community of neighbors. It’s not uncommon to answer questions from close friends or family. However, maintaining a professional tone in all HOA communications, especially email, is vital.

That doesn’t mean speaking like a robot. However, avoid personal topics and unprofessional language or humor. Everyone has a different sense of humor, and it’s easy for a joke to be misconstrued in writing. Staying professional is doubly important when communicating about tense situations or homeowner complaints. Board members should not “react” to or criticize a unit owner’s issue or complaint.

The prevalence of text messaging is often a bad influence on emails, with speed taking priority over clarity. Boards exist to solve issues that are necessary to protect the HOA’s assets—tangible or otherwise. Email communication can undermine that function—particularly is board members engage is isolated conversations or misinterpret either other’s tone.

To prevent HOA emails from drifting into informality, keep the following points in mind:

  • Keep subject lines clear and to the point.
  • Use a professional greeting.
  • Avoid long, rambling emails. When long emails are necessary, use bullet points to ease reading comprehension.
  • Avoid jokes and humor.
  • Avoid formatting such as ALL CAPS, bold, or exclamation marks! These format choices can be interpreted as yelling or overly emotional.
  • Don’t use casual, text message-style abbreviations like LOL, ROFL, or OMG.
  • Don’t send memes or GIFs.
  • Confirm that the recipient’s name is spelled right.
  • Proofread an email before sending it. Spelling and grammar check tools within the email program can help with this, and add-on programs like Grammarly have the added benefit of double-checking tone. When in doubt, read your email out loud to confirm it is ready to send.
  • Have someone else review an email before you hit “send.”

3. Do not use your personal or work email

While no law currently requires HOA board members to keep a separate HOA-specific email address, sending HOA-related communications from a personal or work email is a tremendously bad idea. As previously mentioned, in litigation, all related emails can be subpoenaed. So, if you send HOA messages from your private email, lawyers can comb through thousands of your personal messages in litigation. Not to mention, you may inadvertently involve your employer in an email subpoena, and your employer would discover you have been using a corporate email address for personal matters.

Keeping personal and HOA emails separate is a good business practice. You can search a less cluttered inbox for specific information, such as a contractor’s contact info. From a records perspective, keeping HOA emails separate is much cleaner.

Keep email account names specific. For example, don’t create the address “” Instead, make it particular to the person: “” Keeping these personal accounts specific and separate will help close old accounts when a new officer or member term begins. Moreover, it is a good practice not to send an email before it is authorized by the entire board.

4. Use a secure email server

The email system your HOA uses should only include board members and HOA employees. You must also follow password best practices, and it’s a good idea to copy all board members on every email—even those sent from one member to another. This practice generates transparency and avoids the appearance of making decisions or swaying board members via email.

Read more: Managing Cyber Liability and Data Security in Community Associations

5. Be Conscientious of Liability

We’ve already touched on liability several times in this post, but it bears reiterating the key points:

  • Do not make decisions over email.
  • Do not try to sway board members or have a third party, such as a building manager, try to influence other board members on a decision.
  • Do not divulge sensitive information over email, including but not limited to personally identifiable information.
  • Keep emails informational. Save discussions for the in-person board and homeowners meetings. Default answers to emails should be “Yes,” “No,” and “We will address this issue at the next HOA meeting.”

Remember that there is no such thing as HOA board member privilege. All emails are subject to discovery. One claim we had a few years ago involved seven board members who generated over 125,000 emails over an issue that became the subject of litigation. The carrier had to pay $300,000 for attorneys to review the emails. The policy was not renewed.

6. Establish a clear email communications policy for your HOA

Despite everything discussed in this post, we don’t recommend cutting out email entirely. It may be impossible in today’s modern world. By following these best practices, your HOA won’t need to do so.

Training is an integral part of getting new HOA board members up to speed on the dos and don’ts of email. The best way to train new members is to create an official email policy outlining how your HOA uses email to communicate with homeowners, vendors, building management, and other board members.

McGowan Program Administrators (MPA) features many insurance products for HOAs and community associations, including umbrella insurance, single-family HOA insurance, crime insurance, and cyber liability policies. For over 50 years, MPA has provided innovative and specialized insurance products for real estate, restaurants, entertainment, and more. Get in touch today for answers to your HOA liability questions.

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