Associations Must Take Care with Communications
Monday, April 9th, 2012
The Associated Press reported today that the family of Trayvon Martin may be able to sue the homeowners association of The Retreat at Twin Lakes. While this is a small consequence of a great tragedy, it’s a reminder to associations of why messages and social media must be handled with care.
According to the AP, the document that makes The Retreat vulnerable is a newsletter sent to association residents in February, which “said Zimmerman was the go-to person for residents who had been the victims of a crime.” The newsletter referred to Zimmerman as the “Captain” of the Neighborhood Watch and seems to endorse him as an official. According to homeowners association attorneys, this exposes the association to legal action.
Obviously, this is an extreme situation, and any lawsuit is at the moment hypothetical. But with today’s communications preserved forever online, associations and event professionals should keep an eye on what they’re saying and how it may expose them to liability.
3 Ways To Keep Your Communications Safe
Here are three common-sense things you can do to protect yourself and your organization:
- Make sure your insurance and legal resources are in order.
You can’t protect yourself if you don’t assign resources to do it, or if you don’t know what to protect yourself against. Make sure your insurance policies are broad enough to meet your needs, and consult a legal professional to find out what issues may arise from the actions of your staff and volunteers.
- Maintain good records of communications.
Keep copies of tweets, Facebook postings, newsletters, and any other communications your association issues. If they’re accessible and well-organized, you’ll be able to quickly and easily review them if an issue springs up.
- Be careful whom you invest authority in.
Make sure you know what responsibilities volunteers have, and where your liability for their actions begins and ends. Clarify those responsibilities in writing, and make sure your communications don’t create the wrong impression of those responsibilities and liabilities.
Most of us will never encounter a nightmare scenario involving an event or an association. But that’s no reason not to be prepared in case the worst does happen.