A key to success and functionality in any relationship is clear, consistent communication. In a residential community, part of achieving functionality is managing the information in the governing documents and records which detail the community’s finances, legal proceedings and correspondence between unit owners, the board, the management company and others.
Who gets to know what, and when they can know it can easily become a bone of contention pitting residents against each other—but it certainly doesn't have to. The differences between information that can be shared with members of the community and data that should be kept confidential are clearly marked by the law. This doesn’t mean all members of the community, or even every member of the board, understands what is legal or illegal to share. Unfortunately, misunderstandings in this area can lead not only lawsuits, which create legal fees that are paid by all members of the community, but mistrust and bad feeling among neighbors and their boards—and that in turn can rot an association from the inside out.
What’s Hidden, What's Open?
Experts say that keeping residents in the loop, while still maintaining appropriate levels of confidentiality, is the smartest and most economical course. Openness helps to prevent misunderstandings. That being said, just because something may be community business, doesn’t mean it’s your business. While it is the bailiwick of board members to know what records they can and cannot reveal, all unit owners should know what official records they legally have a right to see.
Traditionally, a co-op or condo board has on hand many resident records such as personal information, financial statements, delinquencies, complaints, comments, just to name a few. While certain members of the board and management are able to view this information, not all third parties have access to it. And for the most part, expert say, the amount of information owners are entitled to is very limited. They're entitled to the annual meeting minutes, the owner/shareholder list and the annual financial statements.
On the other hand, official records of condo associations include a copy of the plans, permits and warranties provided by the developer, a photocopy of the recorded Declaration of Condominium and recorded bylaws and amendments to both, a certified copy of the articles of incorporation, a photocopy of the cooperative documents and a copy of the current rules of the association. Other official records include minutes, a current roster of all unit owners and their mailing addresses, unit identifications, voting certifications and, if known, telephone numbers, current insurance policies and current copies of any management agreements, leases or other contracts.