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Q:

What information is required to be on a homeowners' association website? My association maintains a website, but it only contains minimal information. I cannot find the minutes of board meetings, copies of contracts, or insurance policies. If the association is not required to post this information on the website and I have to submit a written request to view these documents, what will be the maximum cost they can charge me per page for these copies?

– S.S. (via email)

A: There is no requirement in the law that a homeowners' association maintain a website. Similarly, there is no provision of the law that dictates what information must be contained on the website if the association chooses to maintain one.

Official records must be made available for inspection or photocopying within 45 miles of the community, or within the county in which the association is located. The association must allow a member or his or her authorized representative to use a portable device, such as a smartphone or portable scanner, to make copies of the official records requested, and the association may not charge for copies made in this manner.

The association may charge up to 25 cents per page for copies made on the association's photocopier. If the association does not have a photocopy machine available where the records are kept, or if the member requests more than 25 copies, the association may send the records to an outside company for copying and, then, the member is responsible for the actual cost of copying charged by the outside company.

In addition to copying costs, the statute authorizes a homeowners' association to charge personnel costs associated with the time spent retrieving and copying official records in response to a written request. However, these costs may only be charged if the time spent retrieving and copying the records exceeds one half hour, and if the personnel costs do not exceed $20 per hour. Personnel costs may not be charged for records requests that result in the copying of 25 or fewer pages.

Q: One of our homeowners' association board members is not a homeowner. Our bylaws state that each owner of a lot within the community is a "Member" of the association. The bylaws then provide that the board shall consist of not less than three and not more than nine "members." I understand that the use of a capitalized term usually means that the definition of the term applies and, conversely, where the word is not capitalized, it is not defined. However, our bylaws do not seem to uniformly capitalize terms that should be defined. My question is whether the lowercase reference to "members" in the director provision means that directors must be "members of the association."

– S.W. (via email)

A: Probably not, at least not by their reference to the lowercase use of the term "member" alone. Typically, the reference to "board member" is a reference to "members of the board," not "members of the association."

The Florida Homeowners' Association Act does not regulate who is eligible to serve on a board, only who is not eligible to serve on a board. Legal disqualification includes being more than 90 days delinquent in the payment of any monetary obligation to the association and having been convicted of certain felonies. In discussing the election of directors, the act uses the term "person," meaning that membership on the board is not restricted to "members" of the association, unless so provided by the association's governing documents.

It is not unusual for HOA governing documents to be silent on this issue. In that case, provided that he or she is not ineligible to serve based on the criteria set forth in the act, any person can serve on the board of an HOA if properly elected or appointed.

Joseph E. Adams has practiced law in Southwest Florida for 30 years, and spent the past 28 years focusing his entire practice on condos and homeowner associations. His firm represents more than 4,000 associations in Florida, including some 1,000 associations in the Southwest Florida market. He personally serves as counsel to a number of condo associations on Marco Island.

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