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Subject: Statute interpretation - Record Access timeframe
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BobB31
(Florida)

Posts:43


04/15/2019 6:34 AM  
I have suddenly become a resource for law questions from my neighbors for some reason, and I do my best to answer them while making clear that I am not a lawyer. So this has come up:

A homeowner has presented a written request for access to our financial records, which the board is willing to comply with. The sticking point is the amount of time being they are willing to make them available at one time. The statute says:

The association may adopt reasonable written rules governing the frequency, time, location, notice, records to be inspected, and manner of inspections, but may not require a parcel owner to demonstrate any proper purpose for the inspection, state any reason for the inspection, or limit a parcel owner’s right to inspect records to less than one 8-hour business day per month
.

The homeowner interprets this to mean that he must be allowed to spend 8 hours in a single day to peruse the records.
I told him I disagreed because that would seem to contradict the first clause in that sentence.

The Treasurer has offered to make the records available in her home to him in 4 2-hour sessions, due to her interpretation that the sentence is intended solely to establish the minimum number of hours that access needs to be granted. The homeowner has rejected this offer because it would require him to travel more than he is willing to do, and is insisting that she allows him to do what he needs to do in a single session. He has a meeting with an attorney this week in hopes that his interpretation will be confirmed, at which point he will consider further legal action.

The biggest problem is that written rules were never created, so the treasurer cannot simply point him at the rules.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:7990


04/15/2019 6:55 AM  
May I offer my interpretation... Your person wants it spoonfed to them... Just sayin. The HOA treasurer is willing to make the records available. There is no denial of letting this person review them. The problem really is they don't like that they don't get to do it on their terms.

The HOA isn't responsible for making special arrangements to view the documents just make them available. They also aren't responsible for making copies unless that person wants to pay for them. Which should be at the rate of the expense it takes to produce them. That may include labor, materials, and other document production expenses.

So I'd tell this person that they are not being denied seeing the documents. It's just not on their time schedule/convenience doesn't make it a denial.

BTW: Since your giving "legal" advice. Keep this in mind... Suing your HOA is suing yourself and your neighbors...Start out with that bit of advice. If the issue is strong enough, then the answer is "Okay I am willing to accept that consequence". IF the answer is "That's BS and going to sue anyways"... your most likely not dealing with someone who is looking for a solution.

Former HOA President
JaredC
(Texas)

Posts:174


04/15/2019 8:13 AM  
The trick is finding a good middle ground. I wouldn't want someone in my personal home to inspect records for 8 hours but I guess that is the reality of self management.

IMHO, have the board member gather all the information and then meet your friend at the closest local library next to the board members house. He can spend all day there while she goes back home. Heck he could even offer to drop off the materials when he is finished. Just my .02.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1179


04/15/2019 8:37 AM  
Access to records has long been an issue - and, will continue to be an issue - until all information is made available online.

Bob - is this an HOA or a COA? Do you have so many records or such sensitive records (the usual stuff) that you can't post them on line? New FL statute requires COAs with greater than 150 units to have a website. There is some inference this will extend soon to HOAs.

What kind of docs is your member so interested in reviewing?

BTW - they sound childish - if I was the treasurer or president and had the records - I would NOT allow them in my house for 8 hours. Switch the tables on them - ask them to invite the treasurer or president to their house for eight hours. If I was the president I would set up business in their house for the eight hours and take lots of phone calls, bring my own radio and/or tv and enjoy their hospitality.
BobB31
(Florida)

Posts:43


04/15/2019 8:57 AM  
1. Self-managed HOA, 48 units, so even if this is extended to HOAs, ours would still not be required to have a website.
2. We are allowed to post online in FL, but we don't have a website (yes, I know free ones are available). Additionally, there has been no attempt to even start digitizing our records. Yeah, we're still in the 20th century.
3. Financial records. Thus the involvement of the treasurer. This homeowner was treasurer last year and seems to be interested in determining if the new treasurer's accounting practices are up to snuff.

Good points, but as the former treasurer he made records available in his unit (he has a second home offsite) for up to 8 hours because that was how he interpreted the statute.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1179


04/15/2019 9:26 AM  
Hmmm ...

I'd say current offer for two hours at a shot is fair - tell your childish member to buck up and stop being a dick.

Then, I would stop being in the 20th century - it took me about eight hours to completely digitize and put a 20 year old 189 hour HOA online - do the work not and avoid this kind of argument inducing scenario in the future.
DouglasK1
(Florida)

Posts:1374


04/15/2019 9:26 AM  
Posted By JaredC on 04/15/2019 8:13 AM
The trick is finding a good middle ground. I wouldn't want someone in my personal home to inspect records for 8 hours but I guess that is the reality of self management.

IMHO, have the board member gather all the information and then meet your friend at the closest local library next to the board members house. He can spend all day there while she goes back home. Heck he could even offer to drop off the materials when he is finished. Just my .02.


I would not give unsupervised access to association records. This opens the possibility that documents could be removed or altered. There is also the case that records may be electronic (such as in an accounting program) and the access would be viewing a computer screen.


Escaped former treasurer and director of a self managed association.
BobB31
(Florida)

Posts:43


04/15/2019 9:28 AM  
Posted By DouglasK1 on 04/15/2019 9:26 AM
Posted By JaredC on 04/15/2019 8:13 AM
The trick is finding a good middle ground. I wouldn't want someone in my personal home to inspect records for 8 hours but I guess that is the reality of self management.

IMHO, have the board member gather all the information and then meet your friend at the closest local library next to the board members house. He can spend all day there while she goes back home. Heck he could even offer to drop off the materials when he is finished. Just my .02.


I would not give unsupervised access to association records. This opens the possibility that documents could be removed or altered. There is also the case that records may be electronic (such as in an accounting program) and the access would be viewing a computer screen.




This is why the homeowner is insisting on the presence of the current officer - he does not want to be accused of nefarious activity.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6308


04/15/2019 10:08 AM  
If this Owners was treasurer last year, why would it take much time at all to review current financial records given the size of your HOA??
BobB31
(Florida)

Posts:43


04/15/2019 10:12 AM  
Posted By KerryL1 on 04/15/2019 10:08 AM
If this Owners was treasurer last year, why would it take much time at all to review current financial records given the size of your HOA??



I have no idea.
JeffT2
(Iowa)

Posts:448


04/15/2019 10:33 AM  
Kerry is right. The old treasurer can inspect and make copies (with a smartphone camera) of all the records in less than two hours.

It sounds like the old treasurer wants everything to be exactly the way he did it: the treasurer's job, the 8 hour inspection, the presence of the officer at the inspection.

Further legal action? What is judge going to think of wasting the court's time because the old treasurer wouldn't take the time to drive there?

To answer your question: The access to records is reasonable. Let him start with two hours.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:2825


04/16/2019 7:45 PM  
I'd just digitize them and send the owner the PDF file. The homeowner has no right to an "officer witness" to observe the inspection. Where there's a room full of paper records, maybe. I wouldn't want to be accused of pilfering documents after the fact, but just give them electronic access to the digitized financials and be done with it.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3148


04/16/2019 11:05 PM  
Prior treasurer obviously knows what he's looking for. Doesn't have to give you a reason. Has every right to examine all non-privileged records.

Taking that one step further, if I'm a delinquent owner, and old treasurer wants to know if I caught up on my payments, don't think he has the right as a mere homeowner to look at info about me.

What I'm getting at is this:
- You can't just copy and send him everything;
- It's going to take some time to go through all your records and decide what's private information that shouldn't be disclosed to just anyone.

My suggestion is this:
1. Verify that you remain within the limits under state law for you to charge for the cost for someone to review, copy, and redact the records prior to making them available for inspection.
2. Decide who you want to do the inspection, copy, and redact activities - your HOA attorney or one of your members.
3. Decide on a reasonable hourly fee to charge. If you use the lawyer, you can get costs from the lawyer. If you use one of your board members, that's not a free service just because you are self-managed. (It's not an ordinary function of your board to do anything beyond providing income statements and balance sheets.)
4. Notify ex-treasurer what the preparation costs are, and ask for a 50% down-payment payment in advance (if allowed under state law).
5. See if ex-treasurer revises his request.

Just because you don't have rules now does not IMO that you can't develop some. It never came up before. Stuff happens and you have to deal with it. Just make sure that everything you do is "reasonable" under the circumstances.


Je publie un degagement de toutes responsabilite. Read all posts at your own risk.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3148


04/17/2019 12:24 AM  
Re original question -
I think you are spot on with your interpretation.
8 hours is the monthly time limit, not the daily time limit.
Doesn't matter what his attorney says. Yours is a reasonable interpretation.
Again, no restriction on your developing reasonable written rules now.

Je publie un degagement de toutes responsabilite. Read all posts at your own risk.
BillH10
(Texas)

Posts:334


04/17/2019 8:14 AM  
There is a sentence in the OP regarding the person requesting access to the records not being willing to travel twice to conduct the review. If the distance is 10 or 20 miles, sheesh, let's not be silly. If it is 300-400 miles, understandable.
BobB31
(Florida)

Posts:43


04/17/2019 8:40 AM  
Posted By BillH10 on 04/17/2019 8:14 AM
There is a sentence in the OP regarding the person requesting access to the records not being willing to travel twice to conduct the review. If the distance is 10 or 20 miles, sheesh, let's not be silly. If it is 300-400 miles, understandable.



Agreed.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:2825


04/17/2019 12:23 PM  
Posted By NpS on 04/16/2019 11:05 PM
Prior treasurer obviously knows what he's looking for. Doesn't have to give you a reason. Has every right to examine all non-privileged records.

Taking that one step further, if I'm a delinquent owner, and old treasurer wants to know if I caught up on my payments, don't think he has the right as a mere homeowner to look at info about me.

In Florida, he does. As does every other owner in the association.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3148


04/17/2019 2:14 PM  
Posted By GenoS on 04/17/2019 12:23 PM
Posted By NpS on 04/16/2019 11:05 PM
Prior treasurer obviously knows what he's looking for. Doesn't have to give you a reason. Has every right to examine all non-privileged records.

Taking that one step further, if I'm a delinquent owner, and old treasurer wants to know if I caught up on my payments, don't think he has the right as a mere homeowner to look at info about me.

In Florida, he does. As does every other owner in the association.



Fascinating. What about a prospective buyer?

Je publie un degagement de toutes responsabilite. Read all posts at your own risk.
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