In any association of two or more parties, clear communication is essential to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship. In an HOA, there are interlocking relationships, such as between the board and the manager, and between the board/management company and the resident shareholders/unit owners. For the average resident, especially those new to co-op or condo living, it’s not always apparent who in the community is responsible for what, and who they can turn to turn to for answers to their questions.
Part of the necessary flow of communication is the exchange of information contained in the governing documents and community records. Such records detail the community’s financial status; legal proceedings; and correspondence between the board, unit owners and management company. Some of the information is off-limits to all but the board members, the property management staff, and the board’s legal counsel.
The disclosure of other community records is required by state law, as well as by the association’s bylaws. The idea is to allow all residents to keep an eye on the actions of their neighborhood representatives, who may be making decisions that will take money from all of the residents’ wallets. Part of working towards clear communication in a community is making the effort to ensure that everyone understands the rules, so that homeowners don’t have unrealistic expectations about what data is available for inspection.
Knowing what’s allowable will enable board members to make prudent decisions about what information they should regularly disclose, and what they should let out on a case-by-case basis. It also will help the board to avoid the knee-jerk reaction of clamming up and stonewalling when a resident of residents lawfully demand certain community records.
Which Open Records?
Respect for the privacy of fellow residents is important, but privacy concerns must be balanced by a thorough understanding by the board and residents of what records should be made legally available to residents. The board also must understand what information needs to be disclosed to the community, and how often such information should be disseminated.