Board members often ask if they can expose these delinquent owners by publishing their names in a newsletter or by adding such information to the minutes of a board meeting. Although such “shame lists” can sometimes motivate owners to bring their accounts current, the risks far outweigh the rewards. The most compelling reason is that such publication is contrary to the Florida Statutes and the State’s constitutional right to privacy. Specifically, the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act prohibits the publication of “deadbeat lists.” The federal Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (“FDCPA”) also prohibits releasing such information to third parties.
Another reason is that doing so may subject the association, directors, and managers to risks of claims either for defamation or for violating their fiduciary duty to act in good faith on behalf of the community. Furthermore, such lists can create anger and division in the community, whether between neighbors, or towards board members for how they decide to pursue such delinquencies. More importantly, such lists can make it even more difficult to facilitate settlement negotiations between the association and owners, who would otherwise attempt to resolve their debt.
While the association cannot legally publish a shame list, there is an alternative. Florida Statutes require associations to make such accounting records available for inspection—regardless of the fact that such records may reveal the names of delinquent owners. Although the association should not volunteer such information, members are free to make an official records request to view records such as the accounts receivable, delinquency reports, or other accounting records maintained with the official records of the association. Thus, if an owner inquires as to why the association has increased assessments or has spent a good deal of money on attorneys’ fees, the board can respond by explaining that the association has had issues with the timely payment of assessments, and that the owner may request to view the official records if they would like to do so. Such a tactical response ensures that the board complies with the law, while at the same time providing members with the information necessary to ascertain who would be on the ” shame list” if one was published.