What are considered “Official Records” in Florida Condominiums and HOAs?
Question: I am the secretary of my homeowners’ association. In reading the bylaws, I see that I am responsible for making sure that the association maintains all official records. However, our bylaws do not specify what constitutes an “official record.” We just had our annual elections. We now have ballots, and a large number of torn open envelopes. Are these all official records? And, if so, how long do I have to keep them for? J.S. (via e-mail)
Answer: That is a good question. The Florida Condominium Act (Chapter 718 of the Florida Statutes) specifically lists ballots, sign-in sheets, voting proxies, and all other papers relating to voting by unit owners as “official records” which must be maintained for one year from the date of the election/meeting (generally speaking, most records must be kept for seven years).
The Florida Homeowners’ Association Act (Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes), however, does not mention voting materials used at members’ meetings as part of “official records.” However, the HOA Act does include a “catch all” provision that requires homeowners’ associations to maintain all “written records” not specifically listed in the statute. It is my opinion that ballots and all of the envelopes fall within this definition, and must be kept as official records. Of course, I am assuming your HOA is conducting secret ballot (rather than proxy-based) elections under proper authority in your bylaws, which is one of the most common mistakes I see in homeowners’ association operations.
The HOA Act generally provides that official records must be maintained within the state for seven years unless a different timeframe is provided (for example, bids only need to be kept for one year). Therefore, as odd as it may seem, all of these materials are supposed to be kept for seven years. If there is a management company, their contract usually requires them to oversee this.