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Why Your HOA Cannot Restrict Access to the 2020 Census

2020 is Census year and if you live in a gated or secured community, it's important that census takers must be given unrestricted access to your community.
Annette Byrd, CMCA®, PCAM® | Apr 2, 2020 | 4 min read

Many HOA and Condo associations implement restricted access measures to help ensure the safety and security of their homeowners and community property. These measures, such as gated entries, closed-circuit cameras, and even security officers, are all in place to prohibit unwanted solicitors or intruders from disturbing your community's residents. It's important to know however, that the 2020 Census is currently underway and although your members may feel that they would rather not be bothered by Census representatives, denying entry to these representatives is actually illegal and can put your community at a disadvantage.

Why Is It Important for Homeowners to Participate in the 2020 Census?

Although many homeowners may feel that the census is intrusive and unnecessary, it is actually required by law and critical to the future of your city, town, and even your community association. Every individual living in the United States and any of its territories is required by law to be counted as part of the 2020 Census. Answers to the Census are protected by law and no personal information will be disclosed to anyone as a result of their answers. 

While many believe the census is simply used to count the general population, it is also used to create important and up to date statistics about communities and neighborhoods. These statistics are used by various agencies to ensure that communities continue to receive the allocation of funds that they need for services; such as education, medical and emergency services, road-related services, and various other federal and state resources. In addition to funding community programs, the census is also used to determine the number of seats that will be set aside for each state in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as to draw lines for legislative districts for congress and state representation.

You can proactively take the Census survey online which can reduce the need for canvassing in your neighborhood. These questions usually take no longer than five minutes to complete and only require basic information on your residence and occupants.

What Happens If Our HOA Refuses Entry to Census Takers?

For the reasons above it is crucial that census takers have access to all private communities to conduct their duties and ensure that all households are counted for the census. If your HOA refuses entry to a census taker to canvass your neighborhood for any reason, the HOA can be fined $500 according to federal statute. This statute also requires that if asked by a Census representative, the HOA must answer and provide the names of the occupants in the community; any refusal to provide the names, restrict access, or even limit access of the representative will also result in a $500 fine. This also means that you cannot set a specific time for Census takers to arrive or leave, they must be allowed to conduct their canvas at their own pace and in their own time.

How Can Census Takers Be Properly Accommodated?

A legitimate census taker will identify themselves as such and provide census identification. Board Members should alert your guardhouses and community security officers to allow these individuals access to the community once they have provided this information. Census Representatives will canvass the neighborhood by going door to door to ask homeowners to participate in the census. It is not uncommon for census takers to return a few different times to your community to conduct Census business; they may not be able to complete all households in one day or homeowners may not be home at the times they initially visit your community. 

Do Not Provide Information Over the Phone

If your HOA is contacted by phone by a supposed census representative do not provide any personal information over the telephone for the safety and security of your residents. Census takers must appear in person to your property's HOA office and provide identification in order to receive answers to any questions they require. Similar to how some IRS phone scams are run, some people may try to take advantage of the situation and call to get identifying information. Census takers will have identification and their questions will only ask basic information like age, race and number of occupants - They will not ask for things like your social security number or any income questions.

Alert Your Members to the Upcoming Census

If your community association board would like to be proactive in order to reduce the complaints from members that may not be aware of the upcoming census, send your residents a message letting them know that it is currently Census season and of the federal law requirements that the HOA allows the individuals to conduct the government's census related business on the community's property.

Financial Management Guide for Community Associations

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