Record Requests Can Be a Pain, But Compliance Is Often Required
Owner record requests can prove a hassle for managers and their clients, but courts clearly favor greater access to less — let alone the denial of access. An association in Michigan learned this lesson the hard way when confronted with requests that even the state Supreme Court described as “longwinded” and “often difficult to follow.”
Over the course of several months, the owner in the case requested to inspect seven records:
- Bills or invoices showing the cost of past litigation,
- Records related to orders for wrist bands that gave owners access to the pool,
- Work orders or invoices for bulb replacement in the owner’s building,
- Board minutes for April-September 2019,
- Records related to when the owner’s checks from about June-September 2019 were received by the association and posted to his account,
- Board minutes for 2018, and
- Financial statements for 2017 and 2018.
The association denied the requests because they didn’t state a “proper purpose,” as required by Michigan law.
“The reason has to be more than idle curiosity,” says Kevin Hirzel, managing member of Hirzel Law, PLC, a Michigan-based firm that works with numerous community associations. “Owners can’t just try to drum up a reason for a lawsuit.”
The owner here responded to the denial by filing. His lawsuit filing (what’s known as a complaint) gave more detailed reasons for wanting to inspect the records than his initial requests. On the basis of the complaint, the trial court ordered the association to allow inspection, prompting it to appeal.
And that was only the beginning of the bad news: