A member's right to inspect records is not open-ended. It is subject to statutory limitations that include a proper purpose and may include redaction of information and copy costs.
Current & Two Prior Years. Except for minutes that are permanently available, associations need only produce records for the current fiscal year and two previous fiscal years. (Civ. Code § 5210(a).) Older records may be disposed of in accordance with a duly adopted records disposal policy.
Records Subject to Review. While some records are not subject to review, most can be inspected and copied by members. (Civ. Code § 5200(a).) Following is a list of records subject to membership review:
1. Financial Records
- financial documents required by Civil Code § 5300 (budget, reserves, lien policies, insurance, financial statements, etc.);
- interim financial statements, including (i) balance sheet, (ii) income and expense statement, (iii) budget comparison, and (iv) general ledger;
- salaries paid to employees, vendors, or contractors (except as provided by attorney-client privilege), which shall be set forth by job classification or title, not by the employee's name, social security number, or other personal information;
- state and federal tax returns;
- reserve account balances and payments from reserves; and
- invoices, receipts, canceled checks, purchase orders approved by the association, credit card statements for credit cards issued in the association's name, statements for services rendered, and reimbursement requests submitted to the association (Civ. Code § 5200(b)).
2. Governing Documents
- CC&Rs, articles of incorporation, bylaws, condominium plan, operating rules, election rules, etc. (Civ. Code § 5200); and
- schedule of monetary penalties used in rules enforcement.
4. Minutes (board, committee, and membership meeting agendas and minutes, except for executive session minutes)
5. Election Materials
Electronic Records. Members who request records have the option of receiving them in electronic form if the records can be transmitted in a redacted format that does not allow the records to be altered. (Civ. Code § 5205(h).)
a. Format of Files. Compliance with the statute can best be accomplished by burning the files to be produced to a non-rewritable CD or DVD. Although the file, regardless of format, could still be copied and the copy manipulated, the files burned to the disk could not, thus preserving the integrity of the production. Emailing a .pdf or other editable format may not be fully compliant with the statute because the actual file produced could be manipulated. Unsecured .pdf files and files in other formats can be edited by legitimate, commonly available software. Even secured .pdf files can have their security removed by unscrupulous websites. However, a court could find that a good faith attempt at compliance could be met by transmitting either a password-protected secure .pdf, or by producing an image file of the document, such as a .tif format, converted from a .pdf file.
b. Reasonable Fee. The association may charge a reasonable fee for this service based upon the association's actual cost to procure, redact, prepare, and reproduce the requested items. (Civ. Code § 4530(b).) The cost of duplication shall be limited to the direct cost of producing a copy of a record in that electronic format. (Civ. Code § 5205(h).)
Written Request. Requests to inspect records should be in writing. The request must be sufficiently detailed so there is no confusion over what is being requested from the association. The other benefit to a written request is that it sets a clear start date for the applicable time period for the association to produce the records.
Deadlines for Production. The association must produce records within time frames established by the Davis-Stirling Act.
Creating Documents. The right to review documents does not give owners the right to demand that documents be created for them.
Director's Right to Inspect. See Director's Right to Inspect Records.
Additional Information. See Records not Subject to Inspection and Deadlines for Producing Records.
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