Condominium Association Official Records and Written Inquiries
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Condominium associations in Florida often receive requests from unit owners to examine the “official records” of the association, as well as written inquiries seeking information from the association’s board. See Section 728.111(12) and 718.112(2)(a)2. of the Florida Statutes. The Florida Condominium Act empowers condominium unit owners to request such information, however, the scope of such requests inquiries is limited.
Condominium associations must take care to ensure its official records are accessible to requesting unit owners, while, at the same time, ensuring that protected/privileged documents are not accessible. Associations must also take care to adhere to the timing requirements for allowing access to its official records and in responding to written inquiries.
A review of what is and what is not an “official record” of Florida condominium associations is in order.
Official Records That Are Accessible:
1. copies of plans, permits, warranties, and other items provided by the developer;
2. a copy of the recorded declaration of condominium of each condominium operated by the association and each amendment to each declaration;
3. a copy of the recorded bylaws of the association and each amendment to the bylaws;
4. a certified copy of the articles of incorporation of the association, or other documents creating the association, and each amendment thereto;
5. a copy of the current rules of the association;
6. a book or books that contain the minutes of all meetings of the association, the board of administration, and the unit owners, which minutes must be retained for at least 7 years;
7. a current roster of all unit owners and their mailing addresses, unit identifications, voting certifications, and, if known, telephone numbers;
8. all current insurance policies of the association and condominiums operated by the association;
9. a current copy of any management agreement, lease, or other contract to which the association is a party or under which the association or the unit owners have an obligation or responsibility;
10. bills of sale or transfer for all property owned by the association;
11. accounting records for the association and separate accounting records for each condominium that the association operates, which include, but are not limited to:
a. accurate, itemized, and detailed records of all receipts and expenditures;
b. current account and a monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly statement of the account for each unit designating the name of the unit owner, the due date and amount of each assessment, the amount paid on the account, and the balance due;
c. all audits, reviews, accounting statements, and financial reports of the association or condominium;
d. all contracts for work to be performed (bids for work to be performed are also considered official records and must be maintained by the association);
12. ballots, sign-in sheets, voting proxies, and all other papers relating to voting by unit owners;
13. all rental records if the association is acting as agent for the rental of condominium units;
14. a copy of the current question and answer sheet as described in s. 718.504 of the Florida Statutes;
15. all other records of the association not specifically included in the foregoing which are related to the operation of the association;
16. copy of the inspection report as described in s. 718.301(4)(p) of the Florida Statutes.
A Florida condominium association must make the above-referenced official records available within ten (10) working days after receipt of the written request. The association’s failure to provide access may result in damages for the requesting party (a minimum of $50/day), as well as liability for attorneys’ fees and costs in an enforcement action to obtain the records.
Not Official Records and Not Accessible:
- documents protected by the lawyer-client privilege and the work-product privilege;
- information obtained by an association in connection with the approval of the lease, sale, or other transfer of a unit;
- personnel records of association or management company employees;
- medical records of unit owners;
- social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, facsimile numbers, emergency contact information, addresses of a unit owner other than as provided to fulfill the association’s notice requirements, and other personal identifying information of any person;
- electronic security measures that are used by the association to safeguard data, including passwords;
- software and operating systems used by the association which allow the manipulation of data, even if the owner owns a copy of the same software used by the association. However, the data is part of the official records of the association.
Written Inquiries by Unit Owners
Section 718.112(2)(a) of the Florida Statutes allows unit owners to file a written inquiry by certified mail with the association’s board. Thereafter, and subject to some exceptions, the board is required to respond to the inquiry within thirty (30) days of receipt of the inquiry. The statute is silent on the scope of such inquiries but, like the statute pertaining to official records, the association’s board may adopt reasonable rules and regulations regarding the frequency of such inquiries. The board’s failure to provide a substantive response to the written inquiry precludes the board from recovering attorneys’ fees and costs in any subsequent litigation arising out of the inquiry.
Handling Requests for Access to Official Records and Written Inquiries
A prudent Florida condominium association should have a property manager that handles requests for access to official records and tracks written inquiries from unit owners. The property manager should have the association’s official records organized, either in hard copy files or on a website, so they are quickly accessible upon written request. The association and its property manager must make sure that documents that are not official records and exempt from access are not intermingled with official records. Therefore, proper filing of documents and a periodic review of what is in the “official records” files of the association are essential.
The condominium association should also have a property manager that monitors written inquiries from unit owners. Once these requests are received, the deadlines to respond should be calendared. Thereafter, the property manager and the association board should work together to understand the scope of the request and consult with counsel if necessary. Thereafter, a representative of the board or its counsel should follow up with a timely written response on the written inquiry.
Finally, the condominium association’s board should adopt rules governing accessibility to official records and responding to written inquiries. These rules could limit the frequency and manner of such requests. If the association creates reasonable restrictions, as authorized by the Florida statutes, as to owners’ rights to access records and to make written inquiries then such requests in excess of those restrictions can be documented and responded to on that basis. This process should result in conserving the time and resources of the association.