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Associations May Adopt Reasonable Rules Regarding Record Inspections & Need Not Deliver Records to Members

January 22nd, 2016

Posted in Condominium & Homeowner Association Law,General Practice

Section 718.111(12)(c) of the Florida Statutes grants condominium association members a general right to inspect and copy official records of the association not expressly excluded by the statute. An association’s failure to provide records within ten days of a written request creates a rebuttable presumption that the association willfully failed to comply with section 718.111(12)(c). Under the statute, a member who is “denied access” to association records may recover damages for the association’s willful failure to comply. Fla. Stat. § 718.111(12)(c). Further, a “failure to permit inspection” entitles the person prevailing in an enforcement action to recover attorney’s fees “from the person in control of the records who, directly or indirectly, knowingly denied access to the records.” Id.

However, a recent opinion out of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal emphasized important language found in Section 718.112(12)(c). In Ridge Groves Condo. Ass’n v. Misserville, the court stated that “a member’s right to inspect and copy is not limitless. An association may ‘adopt reasonable rules regarding the frequency, time, location, notice, and manner of record inspections and copying.’” 2016 WL 166651 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016) citing Fla. Stat. § 718.111(12)(c). As is the case with many associations, in Misserville, the association office was not staffed during all business hours, so it promulgated a form for requesting access to records for inspection and copying, which provided that the member call for an appointment. The member in Misserville made the request but never called for the appointment. The court in Misserville found that although the form for requesting access to records may not have been properly adopted by the association in the form of a written rule, the member nonetheless utilized the request form to make an official records request, and the member failed to abide by the rule by not calling for an appointment.

Also, the court in Misserville notably made it clear that “[t]he statute does not provide that an association must deliver records to a member; rather, it must simply furnish the member a reasonable opportunity to inspect and copy records.”

Chapter 719 and Chapter 720 and of the Florida Statutes governing cooperative associations and homeowners associations, respectively, contain similar language regarding the ability of the association to adopt reasonable rules governing the frequency, time, location, and manner of record inspections and copying. An Association seeking to implement reasonable rules regarding record inspections and copying should consult with the Association’s legal counsel to discuss and review with counsel amendments to the provisions of the Association’s governing documents.

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