Can unit owners in resident-owned communities discover what the association is paying its employees, including the manager

We are asked this question frequently each year, especially when the association is in the process of preparing its annual budget.   Obviously, the association’s employees would prefer that information about the compensation they are receiving be kept private and confidential and many board members and managers are uncomfortable disclosing this information to residents in the community.  Directors are concerned–quite often, with justification–that the residents in the community do not understand that a salary paid to a ROC employee in Ohio twenty years ago would not be a competitive salary in a community in Florida in 2009.

However, Florida’s statutes governing condominium associations, cooperative associations, and mandatory homeowners associations make it clear that information about the compensation paid to an employee and the other benefits that an employee receives falls within the "official records" of the association.   Any association member is entitled to inspect and copy this information.

I have a few suggestions to help board members and managers maintain some amount of privacy for the association’s employees without violating Florida statutes:

  1. Florida’s statutes require that an association member’s request to inspect or copy official members be made in writing and that the association has a number of days to respond to that request.  This allows a manager confronted at the office by a unit owner demanding salary information to request that the unit owner submit his request in writing prior to allowing that unit owner access to that information.
  2. The requirement that requests to inspect official records be submitted in writing allows the President or Chairperson to advise any member insisting upon disclosure of an employee’s salary during a meeting of the board or membership that any unit owner  wishing to obtain this information is free to do so by submitting a written request as provided for by Florida’s statutes.
  3. It’s also very helpful if the association’s board of directors can assure its members that its employees’ wages, salaries, and benefits are in line with those paid to employees in comparable communities in the area.  The board or manager can often obtain this information from its accountant or through networking with neighboring communities.   Local chapters of the Community Associations Institute and regional groups such as Mid-Florida ROC or SWFLROC  would provide an association’s board members the opportunity to gather this information on an informal basis.

Finally, any member that does inspect or copy information about an employee’s compensation and benefits should be gently but firmly reminded that any employee of the association deserves the courtesy of not having his or her salary broadcast throughout the community indiscriminately.   No unit owner would enjoy having his financial information freely discussed at the pool or in the clubhouse and any member that obtains an employee’s salary information channels should respect that employee’s privacy. 

In addition, ROC members living in communities where not all of the residents are members of the association (such as resident owned mobile home cooperatives where some home owners are not members of the cooperative) should keep in mind that a unit owner who divulges an employee’s salary may in fact be providing that information to non-member homeowners who are not entitled to that information and who may try to use that information to damage the  association–for example, by challenging an increase in the annual rent to be paid by the non-member mobile home owners and citing the salary information that was intentionally or unintentionally disclosed to that non-member.

Clearly, every member of the association owes both the association’s employees and all of the other residents in the community a high degree of discretion when that member obtains information about the compensation and benefits paid to association employees.