Question: I live in a homeowners’ association. I recently received a letter stating that a decorative holiday flag in my front yard is in violation of the association’s rules and regulations. I am confused because several of my neighbors have similar decorations in their gardens. I sent the community association manager an e-mail asking to see all of the other violation letters that have been sent to owners over the last year. I was told by the manager that I am not entitled to this information. Is the manager correct? (G.G. via e-mail)
Answer: No. You have the right to inspect the “official records” of the Association. The definition of “official records” in the Homeowners’ Association Act is very broad, and generally covers written records of the association which are related to the operation of the association. The association can comply with your request by making a copy of the letters available for inspection or copying in or, at the option of the association, can make them available electronically. If the association willfully withholds providing you access to certain official records you may be entitled to damages.
There are certain exceptions to the scope of the official records that have to be provided to a requesting owner. The HOA Act includes exclusions for attorney-client privileged communications and records protected by the work-product privilege, information obtained in connection with the approval of a lease, sale or other transfer of a parcel, personnel records, medical records, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers and certain information regarding data security measures used by the Association.
Owner complaint letters do not fall within any of these exceptions, and must be made available, although certain personal identifying information, such as e-mail addresses can be redacted (blacked out) in some circumstances.