Is the Board Authorized to Limit Official Records Requests?

By October 14, 2019 October 28th, 2019 Condo & HOA Law

Q: We have a homeowner that makes three or four requests per week to inspect official records. Each request contains multiple document categories and many of his requests are duplicative of previous requests. The property has suffered because management simply can’t do their job because of these requests. What can we do?

N.D., Naples

A: This is a common situation and difficult to manage because property management only has so many hours to manage the property and these requests are often time consuming. Even if the property management firm maintains a strict organization system, requests to inspect official can take hours or days depending on the breadth of the requests. On the other hand, most associations have no issue with transparency and have nothing to hide, but time necessary to comply with a broad request is often overly-burdensome.

First, I should note the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has routinely concluded that motive is irrelevant – meaning that you cannot deny access to an owner just because he or she requested the same document last week or if you believe the owner intends to use records in an information campaign against the current Board of Directors.

Next, the statute does provide some relief. In both the statutes governing condominium association and homeowners’ associations, the Board is authorized to limit requests. Specifically, the statutes provide that “the association may adopt reasonable rules regarding the frequency, time, location, notice, and manner of record inspections and copying”. Similarly, the homeowners’ association statute provides that “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 owner’s right to inspect records to less than one 8-hour business day per month.”

If the frequency and breadth of requests is affecting the Association’s ability operate, we recommend the Board adopt a rule authorize by the above statutes. There are a number of arbitration cases which set the parameters for what is “reasonable” but obviously this is somewhat dependent on the facts and circumstances. As a result, we recommend you work with your legal counsel to craft a rule that is appropriate and enforceable in your situation.

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Steven J. Adamczyk Esq., is a shareholder of the law firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC.  To ask Mr. Adamczyk questions about your issues for future columns, send your inquiry to: info@gadclaw.com.  The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.  The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC or any of our attorneys.  Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein.  The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.

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