Community associations in Florida are required to provide owners with access to the association’s official records within 10 working days after receiving a written request from a unit owner or the owner’s authorized representative. Given such a statutory mandate, it is not so uncommon for associations to receive requests to inspect financial and accounting records, contracts, certified copies of plans, permits and warranties provided by the developer or any other contractor, as well as copies of the declaration, articles of incorporation, bylaws, rules and regulations, and insurance policies.
Associations should be prepared to respond to requests to inspect official records by utilizing strong document management and retention policies. For large associations, records should be cataloged and preserved using third-party cloud services for offsite storage and backup. These systems can be set to automatically backup and store association records at regular intervals.
One of the simplest ways for associations to keep a thorough and searchable archive of important email communications with property management, attorneys, insurance brokers and others is to utilize a single association board email address as the sender and/or copied recipient of all such messages.
In addition to the digital document archives, associations should also maintain an organized and up-to-date paper filing system. Paper still serves a practical purpose for the provision of obtaining quick copies of important documents for immediate perusal, and it can also be an emergency backup system against any potentially lost or damaged electronic data.
Paper files and cabinets should be organized using a basic indexing system, and access to the files should be limited to only a few individuals. Confidential legal and personnel files should be kept separately and securely locked away. File retention and disposal policies should require that no files will be disposed without prior board approval.
Association directors and property managers with any questions or concerns regarding the maintaining of official records and their inspection by members should always consult with highly qualified and experienced community association attorneys.
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