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One of the biggest complaints expressed by association unit owners is the lack of transparency and/or access to information regarding the operations of the association. It seems that vital operative documents such as the Declaration, By-Laws, meeting minutes, contracts, and bank statements are a mystery to most owners. This mystery is actually a myth, as Associations are statutorily required to maintain official records and make them available to Unit Owners and/or their authorized representatives upon request.



Specifically, with regard to condominiums, section 718.111(12), Florida Statutes, requires the association to maintain the following official records:



1. A copy of the plans, permits, warranties, and other items provided by the developer.



2. A photocopy of the recorded declaration of each condominium operated by the association, by-laws, and articles of incorporation, or other documents created by the association, and each amendment thereto.



3. A copy of the current rules of the association.



4. A book or books that contain the minutes of all meetings of the association, the board of administration, and the unit owners.



5. A current roster of all unit owners and their mailing address, unit identifications, voting certifications, and if known, telephone numbers.



6. Email addresses and facsimile numbers of unit owners consenting to receive notice by electronic transmission.



7. All current insurance policies of the association and condominiums operated by the association.



8. 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.



9. Bills of sale or transfer for all property owned by the association.



10. Accounting records for the association and separate accounting records for each condominium that the association operates. The accounting records must include, but are not limited to: (a) accurate, itemized, and detailed records of all receipts and expenditures; (b) a 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, financial reports for the association or condominium; and (d) all contracts for work to be performed, including bids for work to be performed.



11. Ballots, sign-in sheets, voting proxies, and all other papers and electronic records relating to voting by unit owners, which must be maintained for one year from the date of the election, vote or meeting to which the document relates.



12. All rental records if the association is acting as agent for the rental of condominium units.



13. A copy of the current question and answer sheet.



14. All other written records of the association related to the operation of the association.



15. A copy of the inspection report.



16. Bids for materials, equipment or services.



An association is statutorily required to permanently maintain certain of the above-referenced official records from the inception of the association. All other official records must be maintained for at least seven (7) years.



An association has the statutory obligation to make the records available for inspection to a unit owner within ten (10) working days after receipt of a written request by the Board or its designee (i.e., manager or bookkeeper). The association may keep a physical copy of the official records available for inspection or copying on the condominium or association property, or may offer the option of making the records available electronically via the internet, or allowing the records to be viewed in electronic format on a computer screen and printed upon request.
The official records of the association are open to inspection by any association member or authorized representative at all reasonable times. The right to inspect includes the right to make or obtain copies, at the reasonable expense, if any, of the member or authorized representative of such member. Renters also have the right to inspect and copy the association’s by-laws and rules.



If an association fails and/or refuses to provide access to the aforementioned records within ten (10) working days after receipt of a written request, the association may be liable for actual damages or minimum damages for the association’s willful failure to comply. Pursuant to statute, minimum damages are $50 per calendar day for up to 10 days, beginning on the 11th working day after receipt of the written request. Additionally, a person who is denied access to the association’s official records may be entitled to attorney fees in any action brought forth to enforce the statutory right to access and inspection of official records.



Statutes governing condominiums, homeowner associations and cooperative associations have specific statutes governing official records, with similar requirements. Indeed, for homeowner associations, the statute allows for the association to demand certain costs associated with the access and inspection of official records under limited circumstances.
Knowledge and understanding of your statutory rights to access and inspect association records is the key to debunking the mystery behind the operations of a community association. Of course, there are several exceptions to this statutory right to access and inspect records, and an association may impose reasonable rules and regulations regarding the frequency, time, location, notice and manner of records inspection and copying. Moreover, as of January 1, 2019, associations with 150 or more units are statutorily required to maintain a website and post many of the official records outlined above.



Particular attention should be given to ensure that all members are given the opportunity to access and inspect the association’s official records, not only in compliance with the statutory requirements, but to demystify the operations of the association and provide transparency to all members. It is important to consult with legal counsel to ensure that your association is compliant with the statutory record keeping requirements. Likewise, associations should consult with their legal counsel to adopt reasonable rules and regulations for records inspection requests in order to ensure that uniform procedures are utilized for all requests.



Carolina Sznajderman Sheir is a partner at Eisinger Law and her practice focuses on real estate law, community association law, commercial litigation and developer representation. She can be reached at csheir@eisingerlaw.com or 954-894-8000 ext. 238.



Eisinger Law, is a full service Florida law firm focusing on community association law, real estate law, developer representation, commercial litigation, insurance law and estate planning. For more info visit eisingerlaw.com.