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.