When your association receives a records request under Civil Code Section 5200 et seq, the first thing to analyze is the timeline for inspection of the records requested. Section 5210 of the Civil Code outlines the various timeframes for delivery or inspection of the records requested, and each category of records has its own corresponding time period. Because a failure to timely and adequately respond to records requests carries a statutory penalty of up to $500 per request, the Association should work quickly to analyze its time to respond.
After analyzing the timeline, the Association should determine if there are any exceptions to the records request that may apply. For example, the attorney-client privilege exception that applies to nearly any communication, contract, and invoice between an association and its attorney. Other types of association vendors, even those that do collections for the association, may not be afforded that type of protection from disclosure of documents under Civil Code Section 5200 et seq.
The Association should recall the general rule of thumb that homeowners are only entitled to inspect individual information if it pertains directly to that homeowner's property or assessment account. Homeowners have no right to inspect their neighbor's assessment ledger or interior architectural applications. Some exceptions may be made for exterior architectural modifications, such as when a neighbor's signature is required as part of the architectural application process.
Be aware that records other than minutes of regular meetings – which remain subject to inspection forever – association records requests only pertain to records from the current fiscal year and the previous two fiscal years. For an Association whose fiscal year begins July 1, it can exclude documents created prior to July 1, 2017.
Finally, the Association should consider what information may be redacted and advise the homeowner who made the request of the redaction costs. Associations may charge $10 per hour for redaction up to $200 total. Be careful not to exceed this total, lest the Association be accused of limiting access to documents and overcharging for this work.
Following these basic steps and understanding the Association's obligations under Civil Code Section 5200 will save the Association quite a bit of headache in the long run. If your Association needs any assistance with responding to a records request, please do not hesitate to contact our office.