The migration away from paper products is a hot trend these days. The benefits of such a move for a homeowners association are clear – not only does it save trees, it also saves money (less paper, postage, and storage costs). In short, being green saves green. But can an Association truly become paperless? Not yet, but as computer technology and the use of the internet become more and more advanced, the answer is closer to becoming yes. Below are some steps your Association can take to start freeing itself from the paper weight:
1. Use E-mail for Correspondence – One of the easiest steps you can take toward going paperless is to start using e-mail for most of your Association’s communication. You can use e-mail for distributing a community newsletter or homeowner directory, as well as communicating information on news and events taking place in the community. Depending on what your covenants and bylaws state, you may also use e-mail to distribute the annual budget or notify owners of covenant violations and overdue assessments. Unfortunately, Colorado law still specifically requires that your notice of annual meeting be either hand delivered or sent via U.S. mail.
2. Maintain an Association Website – As almost all of an Association’s documents can be made accessible on-line, this is probably the biggest step you can take toward going paperless. An effective website should contain viewable and downloadable copies of all of the Association’s material records, such as its governing documents, meeting minutes, financial statements, and annual budget. It should also contain forms, such as ACC requests or community room reservations, which an owner can fill-out and submit to the Board electronically. A website may also contain copies of the Association’s newsletter, a homeowner directory, an event calendar, or even a community bulletin board. All of these features significantly reduce the need for paper, as well as increase an owner’s ability to become involved in the community.
3. Request Electronic Invoices from Vendors – You can request that your vendors bill you directly via e-mail. Many are now able and happy to do this, as it cuts down on their paper use as well. Electronic invoices can also be stored in a secure section of your Association’s website, making them available for inspection by the Board.
4. Utilize Internet Voting – Although the technology is still somewhat new, there are services available that allow your Association to conduct its member voting on-line. If your governing documents allow this type of vote, all you need to do is supply the servicing company with ownership information, the ballot issue(s) to be decided, and the start and end dates of the vote. Owners are supplied with a secure log-in and can vote from the comfort of their home. The company will forward the results to the Board when the vote is complete. No more need for costly mailings and mail-in ballots.
5. Store the Association’s Records on Disk – Storage of the Association’s records can be both a space and money drain. Its not easy finding a place to store meeting minutes, bank records, and correspondence that goes back years and years. An easy solution is to store these documents in electronic form. Although we recommend that you retain original copies of some documents, it’s likely that the entire history of your Association can fit onto one simple disk. Just make sure to keep multiple copies, in case of damage or destruction.
6. Use Recycled Paper – OK, technically this is not paperless. However, there are still some situations that require paper documents. As mentioned above, the notice of your Association’s annual meeting must be either personally delivered or sent via U.S. mail. Further, there may be some owners in your community that refuse to obtain an e-mail address. In these instances, the best we can suggest is to utilize recycled paper. It typically costs no more than “fresh” paper, and you can rest easy knowing that you are doing your part to save the planet.