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Homeowners association can't charge for finding documents

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Question: I requested copies of our budgets and minutes for several years back. The association's attorney wrote me: "The costs for copying and providing the pro forma operating budgets for 2008-11 and minutes of annual meetings of members and open board meetings for those years is twelve cents ($0.12) per page and $55 per hour to locate and copy the documents requested plus postage, unless you wish to pick up the documents at management. Management estimates copying charges of $40 and clerical charges of two hours or $110 to provide these documents." These costs sound steep. Are they correct?

Answer: There is nothing in the statute about charging the homeowner for "locating and copying the documents." This appears to be an association tactic to deter owners from accessing documents.

Civil Code section 1365.2(c) (4) states the association may bill the requesting member for the direct and actual cost of copying and mailing requested documents. The association shall inform the member of the amount of the copying and mailing costs, and the member shall agree to pay those costs, before copying and sending the requested documents.

Subsection (c) (5) states that, in addition, "the association may bill the requesting member an amount not in excess of ten dollars ($10) per hour, and not to exceed two hundred dollars ($200) total per written request, for the time actually and reasonably involved in redacting the enhanced association records as provided in subdivision (a)(2). The association shall inform the member of the estimated costs, and the member shall agree to pay those costs, before retrieving the requested documents."

At worst, if the clerical charges are interpreted to mean the time spent in editing out ("redacting") the personal information of homeowners, the association can charge no more than $20 for that two hours of time.

Board meeting minutes must be available

Question: I requested copies of association board meeting minutes from 2007 and the association's attorney wrote me that because the management company started working for us in October 2007, minutes before then are not available. Despite the change in management, isn't the board supposed to have these?

Answer: Civil Code section 1365.2(h)(i)(2) provides that "minutes of member and board meetings shall be permanently made available." Effective Jan. 1, 2007, the association must also keep the minutes of any committee with decision-making authority.

There is no valid excuse for not providing the records you requested. You can take the association to Small Claims Court for an order to produce the records and claim $500 for failure to comply.

Description of exec meeting is required

Question: I made a request to view association documents and the board went on overkill, sending it to its attorney, who wrote, "Pursuant to Civil Code Section 1365.2 (a) (1) (H) Executive Sessions Minutes are privileged and not available for inspection or copying." Is this correct?

Answer: Minutes of executive committee meetings are confidential and may not be disclosed. But the minutes of the next regular board meeting must, as noted in Civil Code section 1363(c), include a generally noted description of that executive session. For example, if the board met in executive session to discuss litigation against the association, the minutes of the meeting immediately following could say simply that.

Send questions to P.O. Box 10490, Marina del Rey, CA 90295 or e-mail noexit@mindspring.com.

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