Condominium and HOA Records Inspection Requirements

If you are a member of your association’s board of directors and one of your association’s members asks you to see the minutes from the most recent board meeting, do you need to provide those minutes to him?  Does your answer change if the topic of the most recent board meeting was whether or not to file a lawsuit against this particular owner, who is delinquent in his assessment payments?  These situations arise frequently, and a board should prepare itself to deal with them by not only being familiar with the laws governing association records, but also by adopting rules regulating the inspection of such records.

The Ohio Condominium Act, Chapter 5311 of the Ohio Revised Code, governs condominiums and condominium owners’ associations and, in particular, Section 5311.091 governs the inspection of condominium association records by members of the association.  The newly enacted Ohio Planned Community Law (effective September 10, 2010) governs non-condominium homeowners’ associations.  Section 5312.07 governs the inspection of records.  Since the relevant sections of the Condominium Act and Planned Community Law are substantially similar, I’m just going to quote the Condo Act for this discussion.  Keep in mind, though, that the same rules will apply to a homeowners’ association as of September 10, 2010.

Under Section 5311.09(A), a condominium association is required to keep all of the following:

(a) Correct and complete books and records of account that specify the receipts and expenditures relating to the common elements and other common receipts and expenses ;

(b) Records showing the allocation, distribution, and collection of the common profits, losses, and expenses among and from the unit owners;

(c) Minutes of the meetings of the association and the board of directors;

(d) Records of the names and addresses of the unit owners and their respective undivided interests in the common elements.

Section 5311.091(A) goes on to say that any member of the unit owners association may examine and copy the books, records and minutes described above, subject to reasonable standards imposed by the association through the declaration, bylaws or rules adopted by the board.  These standards can include the type of documents that are subject to exam and copying, and the time, place and reasonable fee for copying.

The following documents, however, are not subject to copying pursuant to Section 5311.091(B):

(1) Information that pertains to condominium property-related personnel matters;

(2) Communications with legal counsel or attorney work product pertaining to pending litigation or other condominium property-related matters;

(3) Information that pertains to contracts or transactions currently under negotiation, or information that is contained in a contract or other agreement containing confidentiality requirements and that is subject to those requirements;

(4) Information that relates to the enforcement of the declaration, bylaws, or rules of the unit owners association against unit owners;

(5) Information the disclosure of which is prohibited by state or federal law.

Going back to the hypothetical at the beginning of this post, you can now see that the board did not need to allow the examination of that portion of its minutes dealing with a potential lawsuit against the delinquent owner, since that would be “information that relates to the enforcement of the declaration.”  Any communications with the association’s attorney about the issue would also be exempt from disclosure.  The information referred to in items 1 through 5 above should generally be discussed by the board in executive session, and the minutes related to these discussions should be kept separately from the association’s other books and records to prevent inadvertent disclosures.