Does an ROC have to allow a former member to inspect and copy the information about that member in the ROC’s files?
One of the resident-owned mobile home cooperatives I work with received a written request several days after the sale of a unit from the former residents that sold the unit. Those former residents, who were members of the cooperative, wanted to inspect the file that contained their personal information. The ROC’s manager told me that the former residents were concerned that their social security numbers were in that file.
Florida Statutes Section 719.104(2)(c) provides that the "official records" of a cooperative association "shall be open to inspection by any association member or the authorized representative of such member at all reasonable times". A condominium association has the same obligation to allow its "official records" to be inspected (again, by any association member or that member’s authorized representative) under Florida Statutes Section 718.111(12)(c), and a similar provision exists for mandatory homeowners associations in subdivision communities per Florida Statutes Section 720.303(5).
It appears to me that these statutes give the right to inspect only to an association member or that member’s authorized representative. The governing documents of most, if not all, ROC’s clearly provide that unit or lot ownership is a requirement of membership and many of these documents further provide that membership terminates upon the sale of the lot or the unit. In other words, a resident ceases to be a "member" of the association when he or she closes on the sale of his lot or unit. From that point forward, he or she is no longer a "member" (unless, of course, he or she owns another lot or unit in the community) and no longer can require the association to allow either that member or his or her "authorized representative" to inspect the association’s "official records". This is consistent with the definition of "unit owner" in both the cooperative and condominium statutes and "parcel owner" in the homeowners’ association statute. An ROC manager or board of directors would certainly have no problem refusing a record inspection request from a prospective purchaser who had not yet become an association member and the request from a former member should be refused for the same reason: simply because the person requesting the inspection is not a member of the association.
While there do not appear to be any decisions from the arbitrators appointed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation that deal with whether a former member’s request to inspect records can be denied, an arbitrator’s decision in 2005 held that "The Concerned Unit Owners of the Deauville Hotel Condominium Association" was not a "unit owner" and the association’s receipt of a written request from that group did not create an obligation on the part of the condominium association to allow a records inspection by that group (Ibarra v. The Deauville Hotel Condo Assn., Inc., Arb. Case No. 2005-03-6532). A similar decision was reached by the arbitrator in a 2007 case where a condominium association received a records inspection request from the "Plaza Resort and Spa Ad Hoc Committee" (Frank Hock, et. al v. Plaza Resort and Spa Condominium Association, Inc., Arb. Case No. 2006-06-8783).
I would anticipate that the DBPR’s arbitrators will continue to strictly define "member," "lot owner," and "unit owner" in the future and that only current (as opposed to past or future) association members will be the "members" entitled to inspect and copy the association’s "official records".