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In a case involving a timeshare corporation not governed by the Davis-Stirling Act, the court of appeals in Worldmark v. Wyndham Resort interpreted the word "addresses" in Corporations Code §8330(a) to include email addresses for purposes of a member's inspection and copying rights.

Applicability to HOAs? The courts have not ruled on whether it applies to common interest developments. An argument can be made that HOAs are governed by a similar but more restrictive provision in Civil Code §5200 which allows members to inspect and copy "Membership lists, including name, property address, and mailing address." If an association maintains a membership list with everyone's email address and if a California appellate court decides that the Worldmark decision applies to homeowner associations, boards would then be required to provide membership lists that include email addresses to those members who request it (except for those homeowners who opt out of the membership list).

Argument Against. At least one lower court decided that the WorldMark case does not apply to associations governed by the Davis-Stirling Act. Lower court decisions are not binding on other courts or other parties. Nonetheless, this decision shows that at least one court, when faced with an actual controversy and having had an opportunity to analyze the WorldMark case in detail, found that it did not apply. The court recognized that the law does not require associations to maintain a list of members’ email addresses and that members who give their email addresses to the association so that they can receive communications from the association should not be forced to receive unsolicited emails from fellow members.

Recommendation: Because there is no case law on this issue for HOAs, the better position for boards is to protect member privacy by not releasing email addresses.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

Adams Stirling PLC