Community Association Members’ Right to Information
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The right of a community association member to information differs slightly depending on whether the person is a member of a homeowners’ association or a condominium association. However, in analyzing a person’s right to information, it is important to understand that the relevant statutes are meant to balance the member’s access to information while protecting the association from a member whose requests are harassing (intentional or not).
The association’s obligation to maintain records and produce documents is codified in Fla. Stat. 720.303(4)-(5). The records that are required to be maintained are listed in Fla. Stat. 720.303(4)(a)-(k), and the list includes but is not limited to the declaration of covenants and restrictions, the bylaws, the articles of incorporation, meeting minutes, insurance policies, contracts to which the association is a party and financial records. Fla. Stat. 720.303(4). Additionally, the association is required to maintain “all other written records of the association not specifically included in the foregoing, which are related to the operation of the association.” Fla. Stat. 720.303(4)(l). The written records required by Fla. Stat. 720.303(4) must be maintained for a minimum of seven (7) years.
A member of the association is entitled to inspect or photocopy the records within ten (10) business days from making a request. The documents can be made available for inspection or copying at the community, within 45 miles of the community, within the county in which the community is located or by making the documents available on the internet. Fla. Stat. 720.303(5). If a photocopy machine is available where the records are maintained or produced, the association must provide copies if the request is no more than 25 pages. Additionally, the association must allow the use of a portable copier or scanner—there are per diem penalties for failure to comply. Fla. Stat. 720.303(5)(b). Furthermore, the association may charge up to $0.25 per page for requests over 25 copies and may charge personnel costs, not exceeding $20 per hour, for requests that take more than one-half hour in retrieval time. The association may adopt reasonable rules to limit inspection, but such rules must allow a parcel owner a minimum of one 8-hour business day a month to inspect records. Fla. Stat. 720.303(5)(c). Upon request, the association must provide a prospective purchaser with the official records; however, the association may charge the prospective purchaser a fee of up to $150.00, in addition to photocopying costs and the attorney fees incurred by the association in connection with the response. Fla. Stat. 720.303(5)(d).
The obligation of a condominium association to keep and make records available is found in Fla. Stat. 718.111(12). For the most part, the documents required to be maintained by a condominium association are the same as those required to be maintained by a homeowners’ association, however there are some differences, such as the maintenance of the turnover inspection report described in Fla. Stat. 718.301(4)(p). The condominium association must maintain such records for seven (7) years and must make the records available for inspection in the same or similar manner as identified above, but a member of a condominium association may also make a written inquiry upon the board by certified mail. Fla. Stat. 718.112(2)(a)(2).
If such an inquiry is made, the board must respond within thirty (30) days after receipt, and either, 1) provide a substantive response, 2) notify the member that an attorney opinion was requested, or 3) notify the member that the board had requested advice from the division. If a legal opinion was requested, a substantive response must be given to the member within sixty (60) days of receipt of the written inquiry. If advice was sought from the division, then a substantive response must be given within ten (10) days after receipt of the division’s advice. The failure of the association to provide a timely, substantive response to the written inquiry precludes the association from recovering attorney’s fees and costs in any subsequent legal proceedings against the requesting member that may arise out of the inquiry. However, like requests for documents, the association is protected from harassing requests. The association is only obligated to respond to one written inquiry per unit in any given thirty (30) day period.