Homeowners associations (HOAs) keep a lot of records, including governing documents (bylaws and Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions), financial reports, and more.
Many of these records are public; however, different states have different laws about which records the HOA is required to make public and how the public can obtain them. The following HOA record overview will help you understand this issue.
Types of HOA Records
In general, the records that are the most valuable to the public are the HOA’s governing documents. These documents describe how the association is structured and outlines the extent of its governing powers. HOA governing documents include:
- Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions: Commonly shortened to “CC&Rs,” this document explains the association’s rules and responsibilities. CC&Rs include provisions about property use, restrictions, and various community guidelines and outlines the services that the association provides its members. CC&Rs also dictate the responsibilities of each association member.
- Articles of Incorporation: These HOA records are standard, necessary legal documentation, providing the association name, location, and the date it was established.
- Bylaws: Bylaws pertain to the HOA’s board, covering the rules and procedures for meetings as well as information about board elections.
- Rules and Regulations: The Rules and Regulations offer more details on the information described in the association’s CC&Rs. For example, if the CC&Rs mention a noise ordinance, the Rules and Regulations may state the agreed-upon “quiet hours” for the community.
Each of the records mentioned above is part of a contractual agreement entered between the HOA and all homeowners. Because one must agree to abide by these terms if they wish to buy property in the association, managers must give copies of these HOA records to all potential buyers and new homeowners.
However, other HOA records are not offered readily to the general public. Minutes from board meetings, financial records, insurance claim history, construction records, judgments, liens, street maps, and other documents are challenging to obtain.
These HOA records can only be made available to members of the association. The procedure for obtaining these documents can vary by state but generally requires a special written request.
Then, some records include a membership roster with names, addresses, and phone numbers. They also have data about membership status; for example, the HOA keeps a list of delinquent members who violate HOA rules or owe outstanding fees.
These types of personal records are not available to the public or individual members except in rare circumstances. One such case could include a written request by an attorney involved in a lawsuit with the HOA.
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Why HOA Records Matter
There are several reasons why it’s crucial to be able to access HOA records. First and foremost, making records available to the public — whether freely or by written request — guarantees a certain level of transparency, which can help eliminate potential fraud or illegal activity.
As mentioned previously, HOA records also matter to members of the public who are considering a home within the association. Potential buyers will need to understand the community’s rules and regulations, and also benefit from reviewing the HOA’s business. After all, their potential purchase is a literal investment in the HOA. Prospective buyers need to be aware of these problems if the HOA has any financial problems or other issues in its history.
Furthermore, HOA records can make a significant difference for professionals who may provide services to the association. For example, an association manager will need to review the HOA’s records to do a thorough job managing the community. They will also need access to financial documents if they are creating a new management system for the association by using association management software like CINC Systems.
CINC’s centralized platform vastly improves financial transparency, giving association managers instant access to financial records and other important records, empowering them to make informed decisions.
How to Obtain Public HOA Records
In some states, HOAs are allowed to charge for copies of public records. As an association manager, it’s unlikely that your clients will make you pay to access their documents.
However, there are several ways to bypass HOA record fees, for members of the general public who wish to learn more about the association:
- Get to Know Current Residents. HOAs may offer unique open houses and other events where prospective buyers can get to know existing residents. By befriending someone who is already an association member, the potential buyer may be able to receive their copy of the HOA records or learn more verbally.
- Search the County Public Records. The county registrar may not have every HOA record. Still, it will most likely have a copy of the Articles of Incorporation as well as information about liens, mortgages, and foreclosures of HOA properties.
- Ask the Seller Directly. Prospective buyers may also consider speaking directly to the current occupant of the home or their real estate agent.
Questions to Ask About HOA Public Records
Upon receiving HOA records, it may be helpful to ask specific follow-up questions to understand the information better and receive clarification. These question could include:
- What is the current status of the HOA’s reserve fund?
- How have fees risen in the past, and how much are they estimated to grow in the next year? What about the next five or 10 years?
- What kind of insurance coverage does the HOA carry?
- What kind of legal action can the HOA take to enforce its rules and regulations?
Understanding which HOA records are available to the public makes it easy to see how associations function and how they help their communities.
For further help with HOA management, click here for a free CINC Systems demo.