If you run an HOA nowadays, having some sort of social media or community platform for members is becoming commonplace.
Unfortunately, so is some of the bad behavior we’ve all seen on social media.
Amid the posts about a garage sale here or a lost pet there, we’re increasingly seeing an exchange of hate-filled messages between neighbors.
It’s no surprise then that occasionally all of that bad blood leads to expensive lawsuits and lawyers.
In other words, while social media can transform how an HOA engages with its members, it also presents new liability risks.
Libel, slander, harassment and invasion of privacy. Each of these is a possibility when an HOA uses sites like Facebook, Twitter, Nextdoor.com or even a company blog.
Unfortunately, not only have few HOAs taken steps to formulate policies on how to deal with these risks, many may not even recognize the danger.
The good news is that, with the right enhancements, most business insurance policies can include personal and advertising injury provisions that cover all of the above, including defense and settlement costs.
Advertising, by the way, isn’t just something you see in a magazine or on a billboard. It’s any notice – including a post on social media – that is broadcast or published to the general public or specific market segment about your goods, products or services for the purpose of attracting customers.
The problem is that too often the limits on a policy are too low. That’s why an umbrella policy that kicks in when the limits are reached on your primary coverage is definitely well advised.
For HOAs with hundreds of members, a cyber liability policy also is a good option, helping associations deal with data breaches and other cyber security risks.
In terms of managing risk, it’s important to have a social media policy in place to help protect you from liability.
Your policy should include a definition of who has access to the sites, who is allowed to post information and prohibit negative or defamatory comments.
It also should spell out residents’ privacy rights regarding published information, establish the right of the board to remove user comments that violate standards, and perhaps even put in place a procedure for screening content prior to publication.
Social networking can help people feel like they are an active participant of an HOA and that their opinion matters. But HOAs setting up a community platform will need to make sure everyone understands that incivility carries consequences.
Finally, one additional word of caution: coverage assumes the policyholder didn’t knowingly publish information that was false. In those cases, no policy will cover you.
Pat Wilderotter is an Insurance Advisor at CCIG. Reach her at PatW@thinkccig.com or at 720-212-2065.Back to Resources