Managing a homeowner association (HOA) requires solid bookkeeping skills. You need to be organized, detail-oriented, and capable of tracking large volumes of paperwork. Although HOA management software can help your company go paperless and streamline your organization, it’s still important to keep certain records for your clients.
How long does an HOA need to keep records? Are certain types of records more important to keep than other types? What are the best ways to securely store records for HOAs? By learning the answers to these questions, you can assist your clients with all their record-storing needs. This will enable you to provide better service and improve your business as an HOA manager.
At CINC Systems, we’re committed to helping you improve your clients’ HOAs and ensuring your success as an HOA management business. That’s why we’ve compiled the following tips to help you understand how long an HOA needs to keep records. Learn the basics of HOA record-keeping below.
Why Keeping HOA Records Is Important
Keeping HOA records is important for several reasons. First, HOA records create a literal paper trail of the association’s business affairs. Because an HOA is governed by an elected board, the community’s leadership changes over time. Records help ensure that there are no gaps in the HOA’s business affairs just because someone leaves the organization.
When a new member joins the HOA’s board, he or she needs to understand the association’s history in order to make informed decisions. HOA records provide detailed information about the association’s finances, development projects, repairs, codes and bylaws, governance, and more. This is also important information for you to possess as the HOA’s manager.
Second, the HOA may be legally required to keep certain documents, such as tax records and previous versions of governing documents such as the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs). These legal documents are important for internal audits. Plus, they help protect the HOA in the event of legal disputes.
But do all records need to be kept indefinitely? If you or your client balks at the idea of endless record storage, don’t worry. Not all HOA records must remain stored indefinitely. Below, we’ve broken down which records your client’s HOA needs to keep permanently and which ones can be discarded after a certain period of time.
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As the name implies, permanent records must be kept by an HOA indefinitely. Permanent records contain vital information pertaining to the HOA’s governance and therefore need to be available at any time for members and managers to reference.
For an HOA, the following types of documentation fall under the category of a permanent record:
- Board meeting minutes
- Executive session minutes
- Special committee minutes
- Original and amended articles of incorporation
- Original and amended bylaws
- Original and amended CC&Rs
- Legal settlement agreements
- Legal deeds and titles
Additionally, there are several types of financial records that must be kept permanently. These financial records include:
- Tax ID issuance notices
- Annual corporate tax returns
- Documents granting tax-exempt status, if applicable
- CPA prepared financial statements
- Yearly general ledger statement
Certain construction and maintenance records should also be kept among the HOA’s permanent records, if they apply to your client’s properties. For example, blueprints, use permits, and documents related to architectural changes should be kept indefinitely for future reference.
Four Year Records
Other HOA records only need to be kept for four years. After this time, the records can be discarded. Four-year records for HOAs include legal documents, financial documents, business correspondences, and other types of documents. This includes:
- Member check-in sheets, ballots, and proxies for meetings
- Deposit slips and canceled checks
- Paid bills, invoices, and collection documents
- Employee time cards and payroll tax returns
- Monthly general ledger statements
- Documents related to insurance claims
- Important business or legal correspondences
- Association newsletters
Keep your clients’ four-year records in a separate storage area for easier access and perform an annual review of these documents. Once a document passes the four-year mark, it can be safely destroyed to clear space for more records.
One Year Records
In addition to permanent records and four-year records, HOAs also have certain records that must be kept for one year. These records usually concern smaller, short-term projects or one-time business transactions.
Advise your HOA clients to keep these records on-hand for quick, easy reference. Then, as you help your clients perform an internal record audit at the beginning of each year, you can discard any of these records past the one-year retention mark.
HOA records to keep for one year include:
- Meeting agendas
- Monthly financial statements (other than general ledger)
- Documents related to projects that have been completed or issues that have been resolved
- “Light” correspondences with residents
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Finally, it’s important to remember that there’s an exception to every rule. For example, there may be unique circumstances where your HOA clients must keep certain four-year records for a longer period of time while a legal action is being resolved. A client’s HOA may also have documents that aren’t listed above and will need to be sorted for record-keeping on a case-by-case basis.
It’s also recommended to make note of any advice that the HOA has received from CPAs or legal counsel. As with many aspects of the HOA business, there’s no “one size fits all” answer for keeping records. Be prepared to improvise and offer new, creative solutions for your clients who need special management.
Best Practices for Record Storage
Now that you know what documents HOA needs to keep, and for how long, it’s time to help your clients implement some best practices for record storage. We recommend using uniform-sized file boxes, such as bank document boxes. Write the contents on the outside of each box and mark them with the date so they can be sorted by one year, four years, or permanent retention. Then, store these boxes in a dry, secure area with limited access.
When it comes to HOA management, organization is key. You can help your clients become more organized by trying association management software like CINC Systems. Click here to request a free demo.