While laws vary state by state, there is a general rule that an HOA can set restrictions on who may or may not serve as a board member. As long as the restrictions do not discriminate by race, class, gender, etc. and are applied equally to all candidates and members, it is perfectly within an HOA’s rights to formally adopt its own set of rules preventing certain people from being able to serve on the board.
One of the most common restrictions is to ban people with criminal records from being elected to the board. This is a common sense policy—electing someone with a history of criminal activity to a position of authority is likely asking for trouble. But how can a community be sure that candidates are telling the truth about their criminal backgrounds? Should HOAs perform background checks on potential board members?
The Benefits and Pitfalls of Background Checks
Performing background checks has an obvious benefit—it verifies whether or not candidates for the board are ineligible due to a criminal record. If someone who wants to be on the board was previously convicted of fraud, it’s unlikely that they will disclose that information. Running a background check on them, if done correctly, would reveal their lie.
However, there are several sticking points with running background checks. The first has to do with personal privacy. Background checks can reveal a lot of information about someone, and accessing that info without their permission can feel like a massive invasion of privacy. In addition to that, personal information that doesn’t exclude a candidate but could be embarrassing to them could be revealed through the background check to a rival on the board. Less scrupulous board members could use uncomfortable information in a person’s background against them.
How to Handle Background Checks
The most important thing for an HOA that runs background checks on board candidates to do is to have a uniform policy in place. All candidates for the board should be asked to sign a release allowing a background check to be run on them, and the association’s lawyer should perform the background checks. This will make sure that the safety of the community and board candidates’ rights to privacy and fair treatment can be secured at the same time.
With AssociationVoice you can post your background check policy on your website! For information, click here.