Whether or not it is an issue near and dear to your heart, one cannot deny that this “Green Revolution” has taken its hold of every aspect of our daily life, modifying the behavior and attitudes of the many, including common interest community association members. As a forward thinking, proactive property manager you may be thinking of ways that you can reduce the carbon footprint of the Association and the common elements you manage while considering the legal implications of your actions.
The attitude of your members and your association’s own governing documents will impact how proactive you can be. However, it is important to note that both the Pennsylvania Condominium Act (“PCA”) and the Uniform Planned Community Act (“UPCA”) (collectively, the “Acts”) can reasonably be interpreted to allow for the type of change the Green Revolution demands.
For instance, diminishing the amount of paper is something even the most modest reformer can accomplish. Associations should replace routine paper mailings with email communications and/or website designations for such things as notice of meetings, meeting minutes, copies of budgets and financials, work orders, and even payment coupons. Providing the homeowners with a means to access such relevant information via a website and/or an email blast is both beneficial to the environment and cost-effective, saving the Association hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There are only two relevant sections of the Acts that specifically require the Association to provide certain documentation to the homeowners. Section 3303 of the PCA and Section 5303 of the UPCA specify that the executive board shall deliver to all unit owners, copies of the budget and any notice of a capital expenditure. “Deliver” is defined as “turnover to the intended recipient”. Thus, delivery of such documentation via email and/or website would not offend the Acts. Section 3308 of the PCA and 5308 of the UPCA provide that Notice of Meetings shall be hand delivered or sent prepaid by United States mail to the mailing address of each unit or any other mailing address designated in writing by the unit owner. Certainly, in 2008, it is reasonable that the phrase “other mailing address” referenced in the Acts could very well be an email address.
The Acts are void of any further provisions requiring delivery of documentation, thus allowing the Association flexibility in communicating with homeowners and providing information in a paperless community.
Moreover, in the past storing/retaining documents in compliance with the Acts, specifically Section 3316 and 5316, meant documents would be printed, placed in binders and stored on shelves or in filing cabinets, in the event that a unit owner requested an examination of such documentation. The days of printing hard copies for storage are long gone. The law only requires that Association business records be retained and made reasonably available. All business records, whether they are financials or meeting minutes, should be stored within the Association’s hard drive and if copies are necessary, same should be made available on discs and/or flash drives for distribution purposes.
Reducing paper is probably the most easily implemented and effective change that you can make as a property manager. However, you are also empowered to influence decisions with regard to the common elements and lead the way by example of how members can modify their own property to be more eco-friendly. Elicit bids from only green service providers, encourage the practice of xeroscaping, enforce your Association’s recycling policy, install florescent or led lights, use motion sensory lights in common elements, clubhouses, management offices and recreation courts and perhaps even set aside an area of common ground for composting.