How to Avoid the Inspection of Records Trap

by admin on February 11, 2010

in Documents, Management, Residents

Inspection of Records

Throughout the years we see associations get into trouble over the issue of inspection of records by their owners more than any other issue.  Chapter 718, 719 and 720 are very specific on what constitutes “Official Records” and what an owner can and cannot inspect.  The statutes on record inspections further goes on to detail specifics on time for compliance and penalties for not complying with these provisions.  In addition to the compliance issues, the statutes allow for associations to adopt reasonable rules regarding the frequency, time, location, notice, and manner of record inspections and copying of same by a member.   

We see very few associations that formalize their inspection policy in writing.  We also see very few owners who know that there is a statute that governs in this area.  Therefore, I believe that it would be wise for associations to compile and notice its members as to just what their inspection of records policy is.  If the policy is formalized, it may help many associations in the future avoid so many problems (legal, monetary and otherwise) with inspection of records with their owners. 

The following is an outline of a sample inspection of records policy.  As always, have your association attorney review your policy before it is agreed to, ratified by the Board of Directors and noticed to your owners:

1.         Who will act as a Repository for these records?  Will the management company, attorney have, or will the records be kept and inspected in the on-site office?

2.         After it is determined where the records will be kept for inspection, it would be wise to state that the association’s attorney shall determine whether a document is an Official Record of the association.

3.         There should be a statement that the ownership of the records remains exclusively with the association and that they are only available for inspection and copying.

4.         State exactly which documents will be available for inspection (quote the statute) by the Repository (holder of records).

5.         Detail that in accordance with Florida Statutes that the inspection is to be performed during normal business hours.  Any request for inspection and/or copying by a unit owner must be made in writing to the Board of Directors, and an appointment for the inspection scheduled at the convenience of the Repository, within the time frame provided by Law.

6.         State that any photocopies of requested items shall be paid in advance by the unit owner at a cost of $ .50 per page.  Also, state how the copies shall be paid.  I would suggest by check only, as this will provide a record.

7.         Inform the owner that any persons inspecting or requesting copies of records shall conduct themselves in a businesslike manner and shall not interfere with the operation of the Repository office.  Further, state that there will be a staff person or Board member present during the inspection.

8.         Outline that every person inspecting or receiving copies of records shall sign said log or a comparable receipt prior to inspection or receipt of copies. Have a form made for this purpose.

9.         State the Association Enforcement Policy that any violation of these rules shall cause the immediate suspension of the inspection or copying until such time as the violator agrees in writing to again comply.  In addition, any written requests for inspection or copying not complying with these rules will not be honored by the Association.  

10.       Provide in this statement, a form letter titled such as Request for Inspection and also a form for The Log for Records Receipt. 

In this way, everyone will know what the rules are… whether they like it or not.  If an owner does not like the policy, objects to the terms and does not want to comply, have them put it in writing and then provide the letter from the owner to the association’s attorney for further disposition, as you are complying with the statutes for inspection of records in its intended form.

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