It is an issue that every community association faces: homeowner requests for association documents. But what are homeowners entitled to and what documents, if any, can an association withhold? While each state has different laws governing which documents an association must retain and those they must produce to homeowners, Colorado’s requirements reflect a focus on increasing the transparency of associations’ operations. The list of documents that must be maintained by an association in Colorado is therefore extensive and includes meeting minutes, an association’s most recent reserve study, ballots, proxies, and written communications among board members related to any action taken without a meeting, among other documents. These documents must be made available for inspection to owners upon request. An association does not have to compile or synthesize information and it can require that owners submit their requests in writing and describe the documents requested with reasonable particularity. However, the association can never require owners to provide a purpose for their request. Their membership in the association alone entitles them to this information.
There is certain information that the association must withhold from inspection for privacy reasons. This information includes personnel, salary, or medical records of individuals, and any personal identification and account information of members and residents. Personal identification information includes the obvious bank account information, social security numbers, and driver’s license numbers, but also includes telephone numbers and email addresses, which may only be disclosed with the prior written consent of owners.
Any document that is not specifically required by Colorado law to be maintained as a record may be withheld by the association. This includes specific documents listed in Colorado law as able to be withheld, including architectural drawings, contracts under negotiation, and records relating to individual owners other than the requesting owner. It also includes documents that an association maintains pursuant to requirements in its governing documents, if those documents are not also specifically required to be maintained as an association record by Colorado law. While this allows associations some discretion in its productions to homeowners, it also allows for inconsistent handling of homeowner records requests.
In order to combat these potential inconsistencies, associations should draft comprehensive inspection and copying of records policies. Not only are such policies required by Colorado law, but they provide necessary guidance to associations. Colorado law does not dictate the contents of an inspection and copying of records policy, but an effective one should not only address what discretionary documents will and will not be produced, but should also contain provisions regarding the submission of owner requests, timelines for responding to such requests, the ability of the association to charge for fulfilling the requests, and how the association will fulfill the requests. A thorough policy can act as a quick-reference guide and eliminate the need to analyze the statute every time the association receives a records inspection request.
Once adopted, consistent compliance with the policy can minimize the risks of discrimination allegations against the association and of financial consequences for an association’s failure to allow inspection of requested documents in a timely manner. If an association receives a written request from an owner via certified mail, return receipt requested, and does not allow inspection within thirty days, the association may be liable for fines of fifty dollars a day. An association’s inspection and copying of records policy should therefore provide for a turnaround time of less than thirty days for inspection of records upon receipt of an owner request.
In these ways, a comprehensive records inspection policy will not only meet legal requirements, but will increase transparency with owners while protecting the association from liability. While it may seem inconsequential, the inspection and copying of records policy is an important tool in an association’s arsenal that should not be overlooked.
Enter your email below to be included on our newsletter!