Sensitive Documents

Sensitive Document Requests (Oregon Law)
March 2, 2011 | By: Ryan D. Harris

Homeowners association and condominium owner association boards are frequently confronted with the question: what should the board do when a homeowner requests sensitive association documents? Frequently the homeowner seeking the documents is angry with the Board and is threatening to sue the Association.

While Boards would usually prefer to refuse these requests, Oregon law generally gives the homeowner the right to inspect and copy the Association’s records. The Oregon Planned Community Act and the Oregon Condominium act both require the Association to make its documents and records reasonably available for inspection if the request in made in good faith and for a legitimate purpose. ORS 94.670 (8); ORS 100.480 (8). Similarly if the Association is incorporated under the Oregon Nonprofit Corporation Act, that act requires that the Association make its corporate document’s available to the homeowners.

Which documents must the Association make available? Nonprofit Corporations Act requires that the Association keep the articles of incorporation, Bylaws, Resolutions, minutes, list of the names and addresses of the directors and officers, the annual financial statements, accountant reports, and the most recent annual report. The Oregon Condominium Act and Oregon Planned Community Act also require that “all … records of the association” be made reasonably available. ORS 94.670 (8); ORS 100.480 (8).

The Association can, however, place a few boundaries on document requests. First, the Association can require that all requests are submitted in writing. The Association can require the writing to contain a short explanation of the purpose of the homeowner’s request. This simply hurdle may dissuade owners from making frivolous requests

Second, the Association can charge owners a reasonable fee for copying the documents. Something around 10 to 25 cents a page would probably be reasonable. Boards should tell owners the fee before they request copies so they will not be surprised.

Finally, while an Association should generally comply with a homeowner’s request for documents, there are some documents that should never be produced to owners, or other parties for that matter. Communications and documents about employment, contract negotiations and collections should not be disclosed. Furthermore, communications between the Association and its attorney should never be disclosed. By disclosing attorney-client communications, even when the communications do not seem particularly sensitive, the Association may inadvertently waive attorney client privilege.

In conclusion, with the exception of the cases outlined above, owners have a right to access Association documents.