Can your residents easily access important community information such as vendor contracts or financial statements? Soon, condominium associations managing over 100 units in Wisconsin will be required to provide residents with a password-protected website. This new website requirement is part of the amendments to the Condominium Ownership Act (Wisconsin 703.20) which goes into effect on April 1, 2023, along with other rules on financial audits and keeping records of vital community data. Wisconsin follows other states such as Florida in passing similar laws that focus on improving communication and transparency between board members and residents.
Disclaimer: Note that this article does not constitute legal advice. The purpose of this article is to provide you with tips on how to prepare for the upcoming Wisconsin Condo Website Law Requirements (Wisconsin 703.20). It is important that you consult your association lawyer for any questions about the specific requirements of the law.
New Community Website Requirements
By April 1, 2023, all condominium associations managing more than 100 units will be required to have a password-protected website. The association will also need to provide residents and employees with a secure login to access community information. Through a password-protected website or web portal, the association will need to share the following documents with residents:
- Board meeting minutes and any actions that were taken without a meeting.
- All bylaws and CC&Rs of the association.
- All receipts and expenses related to common areas.
- Annual budgets
- Financial statements
- Bank statements
- Reserve accounts and statements
- Insurance policies
- Income and expense statements
- Association audits if conducted
- Contracts the association signed in the past 6 years and any bids obtained in the past 3 years.
- Invoices and expenses
The community can fully manage the website on its own. Or if the community has hired a management company, they can maintain the website on the association’s behalf.
In the next section, you’ll learn how to prepare for the new condo law and what steps you can take now.
How to Prepare for the New Condo Website Law
1) Identify your Community Website Needs
Before you begin implementing a solution, it’s important to take a step back and list what features your new website will need. At a minimum, the features you’ll need to have include:
- The ability for community management staff, board members, and residents to log into the website (password-protected website or web portal).
- Private pages for your board members and residents.
- Document management with good folder structure and viewing permissions.
- Built-in security features to keep your associations’ data safe.
While the new law has some specific requirements for what a website needs to do for your community, it’s a good idea to consider other goals such as increasing community engagement or reducing calls to the office. Here are some additional considerations when you’re searching for a new website solution:
Improve SEO with a mobile-friendly website
Google now prioritizes websites that are mobile-responsive rather than non-responsive in the search results. Considering that 60% of all online searches are done through a mobile device, having a mobile-friendly website is no longer a luxury but is expected. HOA website solutions such as Pilera’s provide you with many mobile-responsive templates to build a website that is easy for your residents to find what they’re looking for.
Ease of Use
Managing the day-to-day operations of a community can be hectic and overwhelming. That’s why when it comes to any technology, it’s important to consider a solution that saves you time rather than create more work. Consider choosing a website solution that is easy for you to build and maintain over time, preferably without needing to involve your development team. Pilera’s easy drag-and-drop functionality lets you easily format your website and add content. Many of our clients share that the website is so easy to build without needing any prior technical experience!
A website with resident self-service capabilities enables your residents to view important community information and make payments on their own time. A resident web portal, which is a password-protected website, offers additional capabilities for residents to update their information and request services. Through Pilera’s resident web portal, residents can self-manage their units, update their contact information, submit work order requests, view documents and events, communicate with other residents through a discussion board, and much more. Offering this capability to residents will increase satisfaction and reduce the workload for your staff.
Increased Community Engagement
A website is also a great way to build a sense of community. Choose a website solution that allows you to create pages and add your own content. Pilera makes it easy to add your own custom content to your website. Many of our clients have created a complete website experience by adding content, such as photos, videos, or amenity information, that shows everything their community has to offer!
2) Evaluating Website Options: Generic vs HOA-specific community websites
Now that you understand what features you want in a website, it’s time to identify potential website providers. There are two main categories of website providers:
- Generic providers – WordPress, Wix.com, and others. While these providers offer websites that are highly customizable, they aren’t specifically built for the community management industry. Additionally, you may require a website developer to manage the site over time.
- HOA-Specific Website Providers – HOA-Sites, Pilera, and others. These websites are built specifically for the HOA and Condo industry and offer features like resident logins, online payments, calendars, document sharing, and more. Website platforms such as Pilera empower you to create websites without needing to involve a website development team for any change you need to make, big or small.
Check out our comparison of generic websites versus HOA-specific websites to find out what solution is best for you.
3) Give yourself enough time to research and test software
Because there are only 3 months left before the law takes effect, now is the time to start searching for a website solution. Consider looking into website options that meet the basic requirements of the law and will give you additional features to meet the goals you’ve chosen in Step 1.
The best way to know what solution works best for you is to book a demo with the website provider and ask them to give you a free trial. Encourage other team members in your community or company to try out the platform too. Website solutions such as Pilera’s offer personalized demos and free trials. Our team also provides comprehensive onboarding and training so you can get set up for success right away.
Managing less than 100 units? Do I still need a website?
If you manage a condo association that has less than 100 units or a single-family homeowners association, a website isn’t required. However, a website can provide significant benefits for your community.
Improve resident satisfaction
Consumers are far more likely to search for a company on the web before contacting their support, and the same applies to residents of a community association. Having a community website can improve the resident experience because they can view information and submit requests on their own time.
Impress prospective buyers
Prospective buyers are very likely to research the community before buying a home and will turn to the web for answers. A community website can give prospective buyers an idea of what it is like to live in the community. For a public-facing website, consider sharing:
- How the community operates
- Monthly fees – what these fees go toward
Reduce inbound calls and emails
We mentioned earlier that a website is a valuable self-service tool for residents. When residents can find board meeting documents on their own or submit work orders online, that means more time to focus on other meaningful tasks.
With the deadline to provide your community with a password-protected website approaching, it’s important to prepare in advance. Here is a recap of the steps that you should take:
- Understand the full requirements of the new website law and consult your association lawyer with any specific questions you may have.
- Identify the list of features you need in a community website. Take this opportunity to consider other valuable features that can help you accomplish other goals like increased resident engagement and reduced inbound calls to the office.
- Start searching for website providers that will tick all the boxes for your website. Get a personalized demo, test out the software, and involve other members of your team in the process.
Pilera Software is the premier community management software that has helped thousands of community managers and back-office personnel improve customer service. Increase resident satisfaction and work efficiency with the best tools in the market – communications, client service ticketing, and community websites! Request a personalized demo so you can learn how Pilera’s community management solution can work for you.