When I teach the topic of association records at our Condo Craze Board Certification seminars, I try to make the topic pretty simple. In sum, if the record relates in any way to the operation of the association, it is an official record of the association and must be maintained. Arbitration cases have interpreted this statutory provision very broadly. So, if it’s a record that could possibly be considered a record that relates to the operation of the association, it probably is, and it should be maintained.
A few years ago, my law firm’s operating account was stolen from. The thief used fake checks that had my account number on them and the number of the checks were right in line with the number we were actually up to. At some point, a few people were arrested and last week I testified as a witness before a jury regarding the matter. It felt a little weird being asked the questions instead of asking the questions in the courtroom.
In any event, the whole scenario made me think about the fact that while associations are required to maintain so many official records, not all of these official records are allowed to be seen by the unit owners, precisely to prevent what happened to me; forgery and identity theft.
Here are the records that cannot be accessed by unit owners:
1. Any record protected by the lawyer-client privilege as described in s. 90.502 and any record protected by the work-product privilege, including a record prepared by an association attorney or prepared at the attorney’s express direction, which reflects a mental impression, conclusion, litigation strategy, or legal theory of the attorney or the association, and which was prepared exclusively for civil or criminal litigation or for adversarial administrative proceedings, or which was prepared in anticipation of such litigation or proceedings until the conclusion of the litigation or proceedings.
2. Information obtained by an association in connection with the approval of the lease, sale, or other transfer of a unit.
3. Personnel records of association or management company employees, including, but not limited to, disciplinary, payroll, health, and insurance records. For purposes of this subparagraph, the term “personnel records” does not include written employment agreements with an association employee or management company, or budgetary or financial records that indicate the compensation paid to an association employee.
4. Medical records of unit owners.
5. Social security numbers, driver license numbers, credit card numbers, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, facsimile numbers, emergency contact information, addresses of a unit owner other than as provided to fulfill the association’s notice requirements, and other personal identifying information of any person, excluding the person’s name, unit designation, mailing address, property address, and any address, e-mail address, or facsimile number provided to the association to fulfill the association’s notice requirements. Notwithstanding the restrictions in this subparagraph, an association may print and distribute to parcel owners a directory containing the name, parcel address, and all telephone numbers of each parcel owner. However, an owner may exclude his or her telephone numbers from the directory by so requesting in writing to the association. An owner may consent in writing to the disclosure of other contact information described in this subparagraph. The association is not liable for the inadvertent disclosure of information that is protected under this subparagraph if the information is included in an official record of the association and is voluntarily provided by an owner and not requested by the association.
Make no mistake. If the association asks a unit owner for information deemed confidential under the statute, that information is supplied to the association, and then the association releases that confidential information to a third party, the association can be sued should the unit owner who provided the information suffer damages.
Associations and managers are warned to be careful. Florida leads the nation in identity theft claims. Please do all you can to limit everyone’s losses.