Member Record Inspection Rights

A member of an association has certain rights to inspect and copy various association records. Those rights cannot be limited by contract or by the association’s articles or bylaws. (Corp. Code § 8313.) However, not all records are subject to inspection and copying by a member. Those limitations, along with the requirements and procedures applicable to requesting and inspecting association records, are principally governed by Civil Code Sections 5205, 5210 and 5215.

Records Subject to Inspection
Association records are broken down into two (2) categories: (1) “association records” (Civ. Code § 5200(a)), and (2) “enhanced association records” (Civ. Code § 5200(b)). “Association records” include such items as annual budget reports and financial statements, income tax filings, board meeting minutes (except for executive session minutes), and executed contracts. “Enhanced association records” include such items as invoices, canceled checks, purchase orders, credit card statements, and reimbursement requests submitted to the association. (See “Records Subject to Inspection.”)

Records Not Subject to Inspection
Many association documents contain sensitive, confidential or privileged information. While such documents may fall within the purview of an “association record” or an “enhanced association record,” they may be withheld or redacted. (Civ. Code § 5215; See also “Records Not Subject to Inspection.”)

Proper Purpose Requirement
A member’s request to inspect association records must be for a proper purpose:

“…association records, and any information from them, may not be sold, used for a commercial purpose, or used for any other purpose not reasonably related to a member’s interest as a member.” (Civ. Code § 5230; See also Tract No. 7260 Association, Inc. v. Parker (2017).)

This proper purpose requirement is also referenced in Corporations Code Sections 8330 and 8333. A member’s misuse of records may subject the member to legal action by the association for injunctive relief and damages. (Civ. Code § 5230(b); See also “Misuse of Association Records.”)

Time Periods for Desired Records
An association is only required to produce records for its current fiscal year and for its two (2) previous fiscal years. (Civ. Code § 5210(a)(1); See also “Deadlines for Producing Association Records.”) However, minutes of member meetings, board meetings, and meetings of committees with decision-making authority must be made permanently available for inspection. (Civ. Code § 5210(a)(2).)

Right to Designate Agent
A member may designate another person to inspect and copy the specified records on the member’s behalf. (Civ. Code § 5205(b); Corp. Code § 8311.) Such a designation must be made in writing. (Civ. Code § 5205(b).)

Costs of Copying, Mailing & Redacting Records
An association may charge the member for the direct and actual cost of copying and mailing the requested records. (Civ. Code §§ 5205(f), 4950(a); See also “Fees & Costs for Records.”) An association may also charge the 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 an enhanced association record.” (Civ. Code § 5205(g).) An association is required to inform the member of the amount of copying and mailing costs, including estimated redacting costs, and the member is required to agree to pay those costs, before providing the member with the requested records. (Civ. Code § 5205(f)-(g).)

Electronic Production of Records
A member has the option of receiving the requested records “by electronic transmission or machine-readable storage media as long as those records can be transmitted in a redacted format that does not allow the records to be altered.” (Civ. Code § 5205(h).) Where records are delivered by such means, “[t]he cost of duplication shall be limited to the direct cost of producing the copy of a record in that electronic format.” (Civ. Code § 5205(h).)

Deadlines for Producing Records
An association must produce the requested records within specified time frames following the member’s request. (Civ. Code § 5210(b); See also “Deadlines for Producing Association Records.”)

Location for Inspecting & Copying Records
Records must be made available at the association’s onsite business office or, if there is none, at a location agreed upon by the member and the association. (Civ. Code § 5205(c)-(d).) If there is no onsite business office and no alternate location can be agreed upon, or if the member submits a written request directly to the association for copies of the records, the association may mail them to the member by individual delivery within the applicable deadlines for producing the requested records. (Civ. Code § 5205(e).)

Enforcement of Inspection Rights
If an association wrongfully denies a member’s valid request for records, the member may bring a lawsuit (including a small claims suit where possible) against the association to enforce the member’s inspection rights. (Civ. Code § 5235(a),(c).) If the association is found to have unreasonably withheld access to association records, the member is entitled to reasonable costs and expenses, including reasonable attorney’s fees, and the association may be further subject to a civil penalty of up to five hundred dollars ($500) for the denial of each separate written request. (Civ. Code § 5235(a).) If the association prevails, and if the court finds the member’s action to have been “frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation,” the association may recover its costs from the member. (Civ. Code § 5235(c).)