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Homeowners have legal right to review association's records

January 10, 2010|By Stephen Glassman and Donie Vanitzian

Question: I sent my homeowners association board the following request: "According to Civil Code Section 1365.2 board members (not the management company) are supposed to make available the association's books and records upon the request of homeowners. Please provide the association books and records from 1/1/09 to the present. I understand there may be a nominal charge for the photocopies and this request may take a few more days to assemble."

The board president explained that the majority of the documents will have to be requested from the management company because they work for the association and keep our records. He then wrote that he was forwarding my request to the association's attorney because some things cannot be shared with me.

The management company wrote me that they needed a "detailed list of exactly" what I want to inspect. They said there's a charge for photocopies but if I come to the management office to inspect records there is an additional fee for supervision of $60 per hour that is charged to the association and $10 per hour that is charged to the owner requesting the records. Can they charge these fees?

Answer: Civil Code section 1365.2(b)(1) of the Davis-Stirling Act requires that the "association shall make available association records and enhanced association records for the time periods and within the timeframes provided" -- not the board or the management company.

The law also allows the association to charge a fee of $10 per hour up to a maximum of $200 for supervision while the records are reviewed. Any other supervisory charge is paid by the association.

The homeowner also can be charged a reasonable fee for each document copied, usually no more than 10 cents a copy. That does not mean the association must charge those fees.

There is no need for detailing a list of documents -- simply refer to Civil Code section 1365.2. Inform the association that you want to review all the records identified under that section, and demand that they be produced within the time frames stated in the Davis-Stirling Act, generally 10 days.

That is enough of a description to require the association to provide the records you request, especially if they involve the association's attorney, who should understand the law or your demand.

A denial of your request could be deemed unreasonable, paving the way for you to file a Small Claims Court action against the association to obtain those documents. That same Civil Code section allows the court to award you costs and $500 for each request unreasonably denied.

In this case, involving the association's attorney may only be a delaying tactic employed by the board and a waste of association funds. From the description, there are no privileged documents being requested. Therefore, referring your request to the association's attorney appears frivolous and does not change the association's statutory time for responding to your request.

As a titleholder, inspecting your homeowners association's records is your right and possibly one of the best avenues available for protecting your assets. Providing documents for review is the board's duty and the association's obligation.

Send questions care of P.O. Box 10490, Marina del Rey, CA 90295 or e-mail noexit@mindspring.com.

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