HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATIONS EDUCATION

COST OF INSPECTING RECORDS? ZERO!

To be very honest: I sometimes wonder if READING ENGLISH 101 is part of the BAR exam and/or the test for the license of a CAM (community association manager). Obviously not, because otherwise I can't understand why so many attorneys and CAMs still feel that they can make rules to charge (sometimes outrageous charges) homeowners, who ask to inspect association records -- as listed in FS 720.303(4). Even after the legislature enacted House Bill 7119, effective July 1, 2013. The newly written provisions make it very clear that an association can't charge an owner who request to inspect the public records of the association. The legislative intent -- as discussed during committee hearing -- made it very clear that a record inspection is free of charge for owners. There can be no charge for "preparing" records for inspection -- or a CAM sitting there watching the owner(s) inspect the records! 

Many of the statutes regulating community associations are vague, often even difficult to interpret. But the provision regulating inspecting and copying of records is very clear -- no fancy interpretation possible. FS 720.303(5)(c) makes it abundantly clear that associations may adopt "reasonable" written rules governing the frequency, time, location, notice, records to be inspected, and manner of inspections, but can't charge an owner if his record request goes only as far as INSPECTING the records.

The part allowing the association to IMPOSE FEES is reserved for the request to get COPIES OF RECORDS

 
If you read the actual wording below, it doesn't take Einstein to figure out the actual wording -- and the legislative intent. Maybe the folks who have a serious reading problem could blame our legislators for failing to double-space between the INSPECTION and COPYING part of the wording in the statutes, but if everything in the statutes would be as obvious as this part, we would see a lot less lawsuits.

 

HERE AGAIN FOR SLOW READERS:

RECORD INSPECTION: ZERO COST TO HOMEOWNERS!

REQUEST TO RECEIVE COPIES OF RECORDS: REASONABLE FEES TO COVER THE COST!


These changes where created by House BILL 7119 effective July 1, 2013.


FS 720.303(5)  
INSPECTION AND COPYING OF RECORDS.-- The official records shall be maintained within the state for at least 7 years and shall be made available to a parcel owner 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. This subsection may be complied with by having 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 the records to be viewed in electronic format on a computer screen and printed upon request. 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. An association shall allow a member or his or her 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 associationís providing the member or his or her authorized representative with a copy of such records. The association may not charge a fee to a member or his or her authorized representative for the use of a portable device.

 
(a) The failure of an association 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 with this subsection.

  
(b) A member who is denied access to official records is entitled to the actual damages or minimum damages for the associationís willful failure to comply with this subsection. The minimum damages are to be $50 per calendar day up to 10 days, the calculation to begin on the 11th business day after receipt of the written request.

  
(c) The association may adopt reasonable written rules governing the frequency, time, location, notice, records to be inspected, and manner of inspections, but may not require a parcel owner to demonstrate any proper purpose for the inspection, state any reason for the inspection, or limit a parcel ownerís right to inspect records to less than one 8-hour business day per month. The association may impose fees to cover the costs of providing copies of the official records, including the costs 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. Personnel costs may not be charged for records requests that result in the copying of 25 or fewer pages. The association may charge up to 25 cents per page for copies made on the associationís photocopier. If the association does not have a photocopy machine available where the records are kept, or if the records requested to be copied exceed 25 pages in length, the association may have copies made by an outside duplicating service and may charge the actual cost of copying, as supported by the vendor invoice. The association shall maintain an adequate number of copies of the recorded governing documents, to ensure their availability to members and prospective members.

 


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