Association Records Requests
It is common for issues between community associations and owners to escalate into disputes when there is a request by the owner to review association records. On the one hand, a board may not understand the obligation and elect to deny a records request outright. On the other hand, an owner may have unreasonable expectations regarding the scope, timing, and who should bear the cost of review. With this in mind, we offer the following primer on records requests.
Fundamentally, community associations in Oregon and Washington are obligated to maintain their corporate records and to make those records reasonably available for review and duplication by owners upon request. ORS 100.480; RCW 64.34.372. These records are typically understood to include governing documents, meeting minutes, financial records, contracts, records of payment, and other documents reflecting the operation of the association among others.
Oregon exempts from disclosure documents that are of a “personal” nature; medical records; contracts under negotiation; most communications with legal counsel; documents prepared or considered for executive session; and individual unit files for anyone other than that unit owner. In addition, the board of directors, by resolution, may adopt reasonable rules governing the frequency, time, location, notice and manner of examination and duplication of association records and the imposition of a reasonable fee for furnishing copies of any documents. The fee may include reasonable personnel costs (such as community manager time) incurred to furnish the information.
In Washington, the rules are similar. All financial and other records of the association, including but not limited to checks, bank records, and invoices, are the property of the association, and shall be made reasonably available for examination and copying by the manager of the association, any unit owner, or the owner's authorized agents.
The best practice is for community associations to think proactively about a resolution setting forth reasonable rules and regulations governing owner document requests. A records resolution will spell out the amount of advance notice required for a request, the location where documents may be reviewed, and will describe the copy costs or other personnel costs associated with any records request.
Finally, be mindful that emails by and between board members and the community manager could under certain circumstances be considered association records. Take care to keep your emails professional to avoid ever having to make potentially embarrassing disclosures.
As always, please feel free to call us if you have any questions.