Property owners are entitled to see homeowner association documents

Question: Our covenants, conditions and restrictions state that our association has a pool available for year-round use by all owners. Our pool has been in and out of commission over the last four years and has not been functioning at all since at least December. The board claims to have entered into a contract of more than $11,000 to have the pool repaired but won't let owners see the contract. We also are having problems accessing association documents. If I request to see association-related documents, including the pool contract, under the Freedom of Information Act or California Public Records Act, is the board then required to show them to me and can I make a copy of them?

Answer: The Freedom of Information Act pertains only to federal agencies. The California Public Records Act pertains only to state agencies. Neither of these statutes apply directly to your homeowner association.

The statutory authority allowing deed-restricted titleholders to obtain association documents is found in the Davis-Stirling Act, Civil Code Sections 1350 to 1378. Access to the records must be requested in writing -- preferably by certified mail, return receipt requested -- to any or all directors. Demand letters should reference Civil Code Section 1365.2(b)(1), which requires the association to make documents available and specifies the time limits within which they must respond.

Clearly identify the documents you want. For example, you might ask to see "any contract entered into by the association with any party regarding repairs to the association pool during the period of January 2008 to the date of this request." Or you might ask for all association documents listed in that code section, emphasizing that you want them within the specified time frames. You are allowed to view and copy the items.

If the association asks to extend the time limit, you can reject it because the association is responsible for the care, safekeeping and production of association records on demand.

If the board fails to provide the requested documents in a timely fashion, you can seek a Small Claims Court order to produce those records. Ask the court to find that the board's failure to produce the records was unreasonable and to award you the $500 penalty provided for in Civil Code Section 1365.2 along with the costs of the Small Claims filing.

Courts have said that buyers are entitled to rely on statements made in the recorded CC&Rs. If your CC&Rs promised a year-round pool, or any other amenity, the association is obligated to provide, maintain and repair it. However, CC&Rs can be amended, and your pool or other amenities can be eliminated by amendment.

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

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