Streamline Association's Records System

July 29, 2016
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Record keeping is an essential part of running an association. Not only does the law require associations to keep certain types of records for specified periods of time, but records also can prove that the association acted as it was required to in certain situation, and help you keep track of things like association spending, complaints and requests by members, and board decisions.

Organization is key when it comes to record keeping. One way to keep records organized so they are ready when you need them is to classify paper and electronic records according to three categories that mirror a record’s life cycle.

Category #1: Active records. These are records that are currently serving the purpose for which they were created. They include documents like existing contracts, open accounts receivable, and open insurance claims. Active records should be kept in a convenient place, such as the management office, for easy reference.

Category #2: Inactive records. These are records that are no longer needed for frequent reference, but still need to be kept available for occasional reference. They include documents like completed contracts and settled insurance claims. Inactive records don’t need to be kept at your fingertips, but they should be kept in a safe place that’s relatively easy to access.

Category #3: Obsolete records. These are records that can be disposed of because they’ve been kept for the full amount of time required by your policy’s record-retention schedule and have no relevance to an impending or ongoing lawsuit. Records can be disposed of after they’ve been kept for the full amount of time required by your policy’s retention schedule only if it’s clear that they’re not needed for a current or expected lawsuit.

Increasingly, associations have turned to using electronic records and documenting important conversations or correspondence using email threads, rather than using snail mail to communicate with vendors, members, or staff. Just like your paper files, your policy should specify which electronic files are active, inactive, or obsolete and point out where they can be found. Electronic records take up valuable space on your computer’s hard drive just as paper records take up space in your office, but you have several options, such as using an external hard drive for files or using a service that will store your electronic files for a fee. It’s always a good idea to consult an IT expert, if you’re not sure how to set up a good electronic records system.

For an explanation of how you can design a comprehensive records-management plan, and a model policy that includes pertinent points to include, see “Craft Detailed Records-Management Policy to Shield Association from Liability,” available to subscribers here