- “…I always think that the chances of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say hang the sense of it and just keep yourself occupied.” — Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy*
Responding to record requests can sometimes be a daunting task. With CCIOA’s detailed list of “records of the association” that Colorado common interest communities are required permit requesting owners to inspect, combined with requesting owners’ increasing tendency to submit broad records requests, here are a few tips to help you get through this process as easily and painlessly as possible:
- “I don’t know what I’m looking for… I think it might be because if I knew I wouldn’t be able to look for them.”
It is helpful to scrutinize records requests closely, as soon after receipt as feasible, in case they encompass documents that are not “records of the Association.” Unless stated otherwise in the governing documents, if a document in the possession of the association or manager (as the association’s agent) does not qualify as a “record of the association” (per C.R.S. 38-33.3-317), the Board may decline to allow the requestor to inspect or copy that document. This includes documents falling outside the relevant statutory retention timeframes (such as old ballots, contracts, proxies, tax returns, “written communications…to all unit owners generally as unit owners” etc.).
- “So once you do know what the question actually is, you’ll know what the answer means.”
Just because an owner has requested it, and the association/manager has it, doesn’t mean it needs (or is allowed) to be provided:
- Contracts, leases, and bids, etc. currently under negotiation, attorney-client privileged communications, and records involving individual units not belonging to the requestor, are among the types of documents that may be withheld.
- Personnel, salary, or medical records relating to specific individuals and (without prior written consent) personal identification and account information of members and residents, including bank account information, telephone numbers, electronic mail addresses, driver’s license numbers, and social security numbers, must be withheld/redacted before records are turned over to the requestor.
However, copies of email threads among Board members that culminate in a vote/action outside a meeting, must be provided to owners who request them, so it is best to limit extraneous discussion on such threads.
- “We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!”
Although the provision of association records to a requestor may no longer be conditioned upon the statement of a “proper purpose,” owners may be required to submit written document request describing with reasonable particularity the records sought. This means, if an owner requests a broad category (such as ‘financial records’) fails to include a limiting timeframe, etc., the Board is within its rights to request greater specificity. This can be a very helpful early step in the process by expediting/ limiting the review time required for responding to such requests.
Moreover, associations may charge, and collect in advance, a reasonable charge to cover the costs of labor and material for copies, production/reproduction, mailing, and special processing of records, if applicable.
- “Why should I want to make anything up? Life’s bad enough as it is without wanting to invent any more of it.” — Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Records that do not already exist or are not in possession of the association or manager do not need to be created/re-created in response to a records request.
* Unless otherwise specified, all quotes herein are from Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (See https://www.audible.com/blog/quotes-hitchhikers-guide-to-the-galaxy.)