Are HOA Members Entitled to Review HOA Documents?
The short answer? Absolutely!
As a member of any Florida HOA—from the smallest complex to grand-scale planned developments—you are guaranteed both legal rights and access to information with regard to your individual property, as well as the expectation of consistency in treatment and enforcement of regulations by the homeowner’s association with regard to your property and its function within the greater community.
Review of official documentation can be vital to HOA members, as under Florida law the definition of “official records” is comprehensive, encompassing a variety of common homeowner’s concerns. While certain HOA documents are not included under this act (such as attorney-client communications, personnel records and medical records), the act does encompass many other HOA member issues of interest, such as:
- Applications or approvals for expansions or other structural changes to HOA properties
- Architectural control covenants
- HOA member obligations
- Prohibited clauses
- Required disclosures prior to sale of residential property
- Lien claims and enforcement
- Treatment and handling of HOA common areas
- Creation of and governing documents for Florida homeowner’s associations
- Homeowner rights to assembly
- Plat records for real properties and land parcels
- Covenant revitalization
- Timely notice with regard to disciplinary action on the part of the homeowner’s association
- Assessment fees, amenity fees, and the calculation of additional fees or property liens
The association must make official documents available within 10 business days after receiving a written request
Florida Statue 720.303 (5) states that official records must be maintained within the state for at least 7 years and be made available to parcel owners for inspection or photocopying within 45 miles of the community or within the county in which the association is located within 10 business days after receipt by the board or its designee of a written request.
While the association may adopt reasonable written rules regarding the frequency, time, location, notice, records to be inspected and manner of inspections, they may not require a parcel owner to demonstrate any proper purpose for the inspection, state a specific reason for the inspection or limit a parcel owner’s right to inspect records to less than one 8-hour business day per month.
Records may be made available in the community or online in electronic format
The association is in compliance with this statue if they have a copy of the official records available for inspection or copying in the community or, at the option of the association, by making the records available to a parcel owner electronically via the internet or by allowing records to be viewed in electronic format on a computer screen and printed upon request.
Rules for photocopying
The association may impose fees to cover the cost of copying and the costs required for personnel to retrieve and copy the records if the time spent retrieving and copying the records exceeds one half-hour and if the personnel costs do not exceed $20 per hour.
If the association has a photocopy machine available where the records are maintained, it must provide parcel owners with copies on request during the inspection if the entire request is limited to no more than 25 pages.
Personnel costs may not be charged for records requests that require a copy of less than 25 pages. The association may, however, charge up to 25 cents per page for copies made on the association’s photocopier in excess of 25 pages.
If the association does not have a copy machine available where the records are kept, or if the request exceeds 25 pages, the association may have copies made by an outside duplicating service and may charge the actual cost of copying when supported by a vendor invoice. The association must maintain an adequate number of copies of the recorded governing documents to ensure that they are available to members and prospective members.
Members and authorized representatives can use smartphones and other technology to make copies and cannot be charged
Associations must allow members (or their authorized representative) to use a portable device including a smartphone, tablet, portable scanner or any other technology capable of scanning or taking photographs, to make an electronic copy of the official records in lieu of the association’s providing the member with a copy of the records. The association may not charge a fee to a member or an authorized representative for the use of a portable device.
What happens when your association fails to comply
An association’s failure to provide access to the records within 10 business days after receipt of a written request submitted by certified mail, return receipt requested, creates a rebuttable presumption that the association willfully failed to comply.
A member who is denied access to official records is entitled to the actual or minimum damages for the association’s willful failure to comply. Minimum damages are $50 per calendar day up to 10 days beginning on the 11th business day after receipt of the written request.
Whether you need to file an official request for HOA documents or simply need an experienced professional to help you understand the terms of your transaction, PeytonBolin can help you make sense of your legal rights as an HOA member. So if you’re tired of feeling alone and confused by the language of real estate law, contact our experienced team today.