Q: I attended my first HOA meeting, and I noticed the format is slightly different from city council meetings. Board members were provided a lengthy document prepared by management, containing specific details on water usage, maintenance requests and detailed financials. I queried if the report was available, and was told no, they are only provided to board members. In city council meetings, documents that don’t violate confidentiality or executive session privilege must be made available for review in advance of the meeting. Does the Davis-Stirling Act require something similar? — D. R., Ventura
A: Civil Code Section 5200 includes a long list of “association records” that HOAs must produce upon member request. A typical board meeting packet, prepared by the manager to inform the board prior to its meeting, may contain documents that are included in the list, but the board packet itself is not a document that is required to be shared with all members.
HOAs, even the largest ones, do not have the same resources as cities, and the requirements of the Davis-Stirling Act on community associations are not as strict as government code requirements applicable to public agencies. Board packets can be anywhere from 20-100 pages for most HOA board meetings, so the cost of distributing them would be prohibitive. Furthermore, the audience doesn’t need the board packet in advance, since the board and not the audience is deliberating. However, documents may be identified during the deliberations that are “association records,” which you can later request to see.
Q: Our HOA has not been publishing meeting minutes for many months. We have written twice to the management requesting copies and received no reply. This lack of transparency is concerning. What are the requirements for an association to publish their minutes and activities to the members of the association? — P.R., Irvine
A: The approved minutes or draft minutes must be available to members within 30 days of an open board meeting, per Civil Code Section 4950. The statute does not require minutes or draft minutes be published to all members, but many HOAs post minutes on their websites for all members to see.
If a member requests copies and reimburses the HOA for the cost, minutes or draft minutes must be provided. If they are not provided, a member may file a small claims court claim under Civil Code Section 5235. Court action should only be taken as a very last resort, but the HOA should be reminded of these statutes.
Q: I had requested a copy of the contract between our current attorney representing our HOA. I received an email indicating that I was not entitled to receive a copy of the agreement. Is this correct? Any recommendations in receiving copies of vendor contracts? — R.K., Irvine
A: While Civil Code Section 5200(a)(4) provides that executed contracts may be inspected by members, there is an exception for privileged contracts. Attorney fee agreements are specifically designated by the Business and Professions Code as “confidential” documents. I have not encountered any other form of contract which is designated as “privileged,” so members should be able to review all other executed contracts.
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to Kelly@rodllp.com.
Source: Orange County Register