In the State of Florida, transparency and accountability are highly valued in both private and public organizations. The Florida Sunshine Laws not only apply to state government entities, but also homeowners associations. This blog will delve into what Florida Sunshine Laws are and how they apply to homeowners associations, what are considered official records of a homeowners associations and the importance of well-maintained association official records.
The Florida Sunshine Laws are a series of laws which requires openness in government operations and the accessibility of public records, and also applies to community associations. These laws grant members of the Association the right to attend Board meetings, inspect and copy records, which allows Association members to stay informed.
Florida law imposes specific requirements on community associations in regard to official records keeping. Our clients must maintain their official records properly, and they shall be made available to members within 10 business days of a formal written request. Availability of the records may be produced by having a copy of the records available for inspection or by sending the record via email.
Official records of a homeowners association include, but are not limited to, a copy of all governing documents, minutes of all board and member meetings, current roster of members, insurance policies, copies of plans of common area improvements, contracts to which the Association is a party to, and financial records.
The homeowners association argued that a tape recording is not an official record. However, the Court held otherwise and determined that the tape recording was an official record
Failure to produce official records could open the Association up to potential liability. In arecent court case in the 18th Judicial Circuit, Kathryn Favata v. Tennis Village Homeowners Association, Inc., a member of the Association was denied a records request for a tape recording of a Board meeting. The homeowners association argued that a tape recording is not an official record. However, the Court held otherwise and determined that the tape recording was an official record of the Association as written minutes were not memorialized at that time.
Florida law allows for Board’s to record meetings of the Association in any form so long as that form can be converted to written form within a reasonable time. The court determined that as a member of the Association, Kathryn was entitled to a copy of the recording and the association was held liable for her attorneys’ fees and costs. Having a clear understanding of what is considered an official record is important for Board members to facilitate legal compliance.
Having a clean, updated, searchable database of records is important for the Association to efficiently provide records to association members. Accessible records facilitate seamless transitions between board members and facilitate the resolution of disputes. Further, accessible records create trust amongst association members and contribute to the overall credibility of the community association. We encourage association directors to address official records questions under the guidance of experienced community association legal counsel.