Q. Do associations have to provide a property owner with a copy of any and all records?
A. Property owners have a right to request that the association allow them to inspect and/or copy association records, however, there are limitations. The association does not have to provide access to or copies of documents subject to attorney-client privilege or communications that include information regarding pending litigation. The association does not have to provide access to or copies of documents that contain information regarding employees’ health, disciplinary, or personnel records, as well as property owners’ health records. The association does not have to provide access to or copies of any documents containing information concerning the sale, lease, or transfer of a parcel.
Q. How long does the association have to respond to a request for records?
A. The association must respond to any request to inspect or copy records within ten (10) business days of receipt of the written request. Failure to do so creates a rebuttable presumption that the association willfully failed to comply, and the association is liable to the requestor for a fine of $50 per day, starting on the 11th day, for a maximum of $500. All requests should be written by certified mail with a return receipt requested. This will provide the necessary evidence of when the request was received.
Q. Can the association charge me for copies or charge me for inspecting the records?
A. The association must make the records available at a reasonable time and place for inspection and/or copying. The association has the right to establish reasonable rules for inspection and/or copying, however, the association cannot limit inspections to less than one eight-hour business day per month. The association can charge fees to cover the actual cost of copying, but may not charge a fee for inspection of records. The association can charge up to 50 cents per page for copies made on the association’s copier. If the association does not have a copier or the request exceeds 25 pages in length, the association can send the records to a service to be copied and charge the actual cost of copying. The association cannot charge other fees for copies or inspection of records.
Q. Does the association have to provide copies of emails between board members of the association?
A. In my opinion, yes, but this has not been established as case law. Any record of the association that is not subject to attorney-client privilege or considered personal information (such as personnel records) is subject to disclosure. The personal information of homeowners is protected as well. Recently, the US Supreme Court has held that emails on corporate email servers are subject to discovery. An association is a corporation. I recommend to associations that I represent that they establish email addresses for board business only so that should a subpoena be served, they would not have to disclose their personal emails.
Q. My property contained only deed restrictions when I purchased it and now my neighbors are trying to form an association and charge dues. Is this legal?
A. Only if 100% of the homeowners agree to be members of the association AND the association files a joinder and consent on each property AND the association issues new deeds. Additionally, certain documents must be filed with the county to establish an association.
Q. My association claims records that records of wages and salaries are personnel records and not subject to disclosure. Do we have a right to see how much our association pays employees?
A. Yes, all records except those subject to attorney-client privilege are to be disclosed. The association can either print a transaction record from their accounting records or redact (blackout) certain information from payroll records that would disclose personal information such as a social security number, filing status, home address, etc.
Q. I have a dispute with my homeowners association and I heard that if I file a lawsuit against the association and lose, I have to reimburse the association their attorneys’ fees and court costs. Is this true?
A. Yes, it is true, but if you win, the association will have to reimburse you for your attorneys’ fees and court costs. Associations and their attorneys are confident you will not want to take this risk and will not sue them. That is how they behave so badly and get away with it. The Homeowners Association Act, Chapter 720, provides that a party to a dispute must submit an Offer of Presuit Mediation before filing a complaint in a court of law. If either party refuses to mediate, that party is not entitled to recover attorneys’ fees and court costs should they win.