That's Criminal! How Can Communities Deal with Sensative Situations?

 Serving on a condo board has its challenges—mostly of a relatively mundane, everyday sort, like how to pay for new carpet in  the clubhouse, or what kind of flowers to put in the new beds out front.  Occasionally however, a much more sensitive issue comes along, involving  potentially volatile legal or security situations, like residents with  restraining orders or serious criminal histories. How such issues are handled  is of crucial importance, and can impact not just a community's administration,  but its morale, cohesion, and ultimate value.  

 The first inclination of many board members is to share the news with the  residents of the building or association, but that’s often not allowed. The fiduciary responsibility of board members must be taken seriously; what they say can make a condo liable for  court action. Experts agree that whenever sensitive topics arise, the board  should proceed with great caution.  

 Attorney Charles Perkins, senior partner with the law firm of Perkins & Anctil in Westford, Massachusetts, says that when sensitive topics come up, the  board should take a cautiously limited role.  

 “The board members have to consider the duties they have under the documents and  the law, but they also have to be aware that certain well-intentioned conduct  could expose the association to considerable liability,” he says. “There are a number of statutory and common law issues in Massachusetts that an  unwary board could run afoul of.”  

 For example, there are privacy rights (under both statutory and common law) that  a board may violate by disseminating certain information. With respect to sex  offenders, there are a number of sections under M.G.L. (Massachusetts General  Laws) c. 6 that a board should consider before contacting owners.  

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