In 2018, most people prefer to get their information from their computer, tablet, or mobile phone. While some homeowners associations (HOAs) still send out physical newsletters or share their news in person, most community members would be more likely to regularly check their email or local website for information instead of calling the association on the phone or looking for physical marketing materials.
If your association doesn’t already have a website, now’s the time to start thinking of one. If your board of directors doesn’t have a webmaster, don’t worry. Dozens of companies create websites for HOAs. Take your time comparing different services before you choose one. The cheapest is likely not the best solution as it may come with annoying pop-up ads, slow performance, and other drawbacks that deter members from using the site. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process, let us break it down for you here.
There are certain key features that would be great to have on your site.
Consider the following:
- Space for association news
- Photo galleries
- Discussion boards
- Email announcement capabilities
- Password-protected access control
- Space to post your governing documents
A free site is somewhat out of your control. A web provider could decide at any time to change the functionality or terms of a free service like a group account. Additionally, the “owner” of the group account is the individual who set up the account. If that person moves out of the community, it’s unlikely you will be able to transfer ownership easily, if at all. Use an email address that belongs to the HOA if you have one or avoid these problems all together a paid site.
There are some tasks an administrator might have to manage with a free “group” account, such as reviewing every request to join the group. Paid sites normally allow you to make a file with the details of the user accounts you would like to create. Be sure to inquire about how this will work and view a demonstration.
When you set up a website for your HOA, you will register a domain name and create email addresses with the domain. If you ever decide to change your website service, you can keep your domain as long as your agreement with the website company makes clear that you and not your web service owns the domain. Ask about fees for registering your domain if you don’t have one already, and how many email addresses you get with your service.
Some sites offer sections allowing anyone to participate and view, while others have limited access, such as a section for your board of directors or website administrators only. Determine exactly how you want the site to be used before deciding on a service.
Consider a site that allows you to create forms that residents can fill out online and have the content emailed to the appropriate person, such as the board, a committee, or your property manager. Deciding on a site is based on preference and type of association; however, a site where you can post photos and list your member directory and profiles is minimal.
Potential Trouble Spots
As with anything, make sure to be mindful that your association website does not create any additional liabilities for your association. Privacy is a big one: if your site keeps a record of any personal resident information, you will want to make sure to have security measures in place that prevent cyber-attackers from accessing your residents’ sensitive data. You will also want to ensure that your site does not inadvertently give away any personal resident information (such as where they live), or make any false promises.
There are many options to consider when determining what type of service makes the most sense for your association. Weighing the importance of each features helps find one that meets the association’s needs and budget.
About Scott Litman Insurance Agency
At Scott Litman Insurance Agency, we are dedicated to protecting HOA’s like yours. We have a unique understanding of the industry and the common risk exposures that you face in your daily operations. In fact, we find that 90% of the policies we review are missing coverages that violate the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R), exposing the board, HOA and management to lawsuits– which is why our comprehensive policies are tailored to meet your specific needs at competitive prices. For more information about our products, contact our experts today at (818) 879-5980 ext. 201, or fill out our online form.