PEST REPORTS – CAN HOA OR CONDO OWNERS SEE THEM?

Speaking of pests, which was the subject of my last E-newsletter
(check out the E-News Archives at www.californiacondoguru.com), here is a
question received by a reader:
“Question: My condo association intends to fumigate the building. Owners (non
board members) would like to see the paperwork attached to this i.e. pest
control assessments and bids. The Board refuses, saying such paperwork is confidential
to Board Members only. Are they within their rights to withhold such documents?”

In California, the Civil Code does allow boards to keep contract
negotiation documents confidential and the Board is allowed to discuss them in executive
session meetings where owners do not have access. The meetings laws are found
in Civil Code Section 1363.05.

That said, once the association accepts a contract – owners
generally have rights to inspect and or copy association contracts, unless they
are protected by some basis for confidentiality. (Civil Code Section 1365.2)

In practice, often a vendor’s bid endsup serving as the contract (not that I recommend that, but it’s true).

Thus, there may be a situation where a bid can be reviewed by
owners.

All that said, many boards fall short of effective communications
that help get the owners on board when the board had a plan to do something
like this.  When owners are on board, difficult projects tend to go much more smoothly.

Sharing information can lead to trust. Transparency breeds trust.
Member trust is an important component for any board.  And it tends to minimize the need for fighting
with owners who want to see documents or resist board projects. Think about it.

 

 

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4 Responses to PEST REPORTS – CAN HOA OR CONDO OWNERS SEE THEM?
  1. Kaiya
    February 21, 2012 | 10:39 pm

    If your board is taking action against termites, be grateful. You could have my board and my HOA who would prefer to ignore the problem. On the other hand, I wholeheartedly agree that transparency and the sharing of information is critical to the success of an HOA board and the support of its association. The fundamental purpose is to manage the property for the purpose of maintaining (or if possible improving) property values and for the safety and enjoyment of owners. But what happens when members of the board and/or owners want to ignore problems, like termites, because they can’t “see” or want to deny the damage that’s occurring behind the walls? Or perhaps some board members and owners have banded together to take care of their own units and left other owners to fend for themselves? I’m a new owner in my association and see this happening. My first HOA meeting is coming up and the board has put the burden on me as a new owner to try to influence the rest of the HOA to take steps to do termite eradication! Really?!! Owners who have lived in the complex for years and years are going to listen to a newbie? Doubtful. Without the support of the whole board, I see this as a big set up for failure. I’ll keep you posted, if I’m not burned at the stake by the angry HOA village or eaten alive by our termites.

    • Beth Grimm
      February 24, 2012 | 5:56 am

      Thanks for sharing. And you would be surprised sometimes at how factual and credible information can get through to apathetic people. Show them the way!

    • Jana J. Monji
      March 8, 2012 | 3:15 pm

      We made a request last year for a termite inspection, but only the unit of one of the board members was inspected because he thought he saw a termite. I had called the exterminator and if we had scheduled it together, it would have only cost each unit owner $20. But we were kept out of the loop. Actually, the board does everything it can in order to prevent us from attending meetings. When we took them to court in order to see documents, we were told that the violations to the Open Meeting Act can’t be handled in small claims court and they were fined $500.

      We do get more access to documents (some they pretend they don’t have), but still no meetings and as retaliation, they dropped us from the newsletter email list. They have made the other unit owners made at us because we cost the HOA money.

      When I lived in a house, we had it inspected every year for termites. We had good years (no termites) and bad years.

      I highly recommend a contract for inspections, but a contract should be for general pest control plus termite inspections. (Did I mention the black widow spider infestation that the board also can’t see?)

      • Beth Grimm
        April 10, 2012 | 9:50 pm

        I don’t like to get too specific as to any situation because I only hear one side. But I will address this comment/message: Without passing judgment on this particular situation, since I do not know either of the parties – hese are some points that come out of it.

        Small Claims Court can handle matters related to violation of the CID Open Meetings Act found at Civil Code Section 1365.05 and it sounds like the hearing officer did rule by giving these owners a judgment for a fine of $500. Some hearing officers do not feel they can order the turnover of records owners are entitled to see; others do not feel they can give these kind of mandatory orders, but rather deal with the money issue only, and there is a fine provided in the law at Civil Code Section 1365.2 for failure to provide records owners are entitled to inspect and copy. It seems that the fine of $500 should light a fire under a board and it seemed to happen here as this owner is apparently now getting some records. Maybe the “heat” was not hot enough. An owner can go back and ask for more $500 fines if a board fails to follow the law.

        Failure to keep records that a board is required to keep is not a good excuse for not providing them. The fine should be appied in a situation where the board’s excuse is failure to fulfill its duty so it can’t provide records. I have a couple of records primers in my webstore that explain what records must be kept by an associtaion and what records owners are entitled to see.

        If a board takes someone off a mailing list for newsletters because they don’t like them, that is inappropriate, but of course hard to prove. And not specifically subject to any fine, but is bad behavior. It also would complicate things – because many owner distributions/disclosures are required by law and that means they should go to ALL OWNERS.

        As for the termite inspections, a board often holds all the powers to arrange for or not arrange for inspections using association funds. Even if an owner spends their own money for a report and it differs with what the board had from an expert – the board is not often compelled to take the owner’s experts’ report to heart. However, if the board will not get a report and an owner does get one that shows a problem that needs to be addressed, if the board is not responsive an owner could raise the bar by sending the report to all owners – owners are entitled to have a mailing list for other owners or be given a means of communicating with the other owners by the Board.

        Boards and owners take different approaches to problems and do not always agree, but the bottom line is that the board is compelled to act in the best interest of the owners as a collective group, not any individual owner, and individual owners are generally coming from a perspective of personal interests, and so the law in some cases has given the board the upper hand.