An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc. 

Published December 23, 2009


Reading FS 720.303(4) + (5) makes record requests sound real simple:
FS 720.303(4)
explains in detail which records constitute the official records of the association.

FS 720.303(5) explains in detail what needs to be done by association and owner to follow the inspection and copying requirements and what documents are exempt!


If you ignore the part of FS 720.303(5) dealing with possible cost and charges for inspecting and copying records, this is one of the few provisions in FS 720 that has language that doesn't create too many loopholes. And until some attorneys pushed FS 720.311 (PRESUIT MEDIATION) into the way of easy enforcement it worked reasonably well.

But we see it over and over again that simple record requests turn into angry exchanges between owners, board members and/or licensed community association managers.


The latest example of a simple record request creating havoc happened last week in the POINCIANA VILLAGE NINE ASSOCIATION, INC. in Kissimmee. 


Admittedly, this community had its fair share of controversy, from a pending recall of the board to the fact that one owner of 103(??) undeveloped lots, who is clearly not the developer or a successor, doesn't pay his full monthly dues (owners call it a sweetheart deal not backed by the governing documents) but was "given" full voting rights for all his lots. Personally, I surely can imagine why that creates controversy.


One of the owners in good standing demanded by e-mail -- as it was done before on many other  occasions -- the financials records for these lots in dispute. Rightfully so, as seen in FS 720.303(4)(j) 2. But instead of complying with the rightful request, the owner received a LETTER BY CERTIFIED MAIL, signed by Richard Murphy, LCAM -- the community association manager working for Leland Management, Inc.


In this letter Murphy referred to record request provisions in FS 617 (The association in question is regulated by FS 720-HOA) and demanded the owner to follow these provisions, like FS 617.1602(3)(a): The member's demand is made in good faith and for a proper purpose, and (3)(b): The member describes with reasonable particularity his or her purpose and the records he or she desires to inspect. Both these requirements are clearly absent in FS 720.303 -- actually FS 720.303(5)(c) states: "The association ............, but may not impose a requirement that a parcel owner demonstrate any proper purpose for the inspection, ...."

Murphy even attached copies of these specific statutes to the letter.


The reaction of the homeowner was an e-mail sent to Murphy, copying a whole group of owners and other interested parties. The tone of the e-mail may not have been nice, but the Murphy letter obviously aggravated the owner, and the answer was accordingly:

Sat 12/19/2009 4:27 PM
Dear Fellow  Association Members in Good Standing,
This is the response I got from  OUR   ( Salary paid with our Association Funds)  Leland Management representative, Richard Murphy !!!
I shall try to bring him up to the presence with information from Florida Statute 720,  ( by the way a "Statue" stands in a park.....")
He is obviously missing any "Continuing Education Classes" for his Cam License ....makes you wonder.....does he have one ??????
None posted in our Clubhouse !   
Florida Statute 720 long overtook Statute 617 !!! Further more relating to Corporation Rules is a waste and doesn't apply. 
He seems to be bent on hammering the nails into his coffin........
Makes for amusing reading, don't you all think so ? I wonder who helped with this letter......not something Richard Murphy is able to construct on his own !
Have fun reading.


This e-mail didn't sit too well with CAM Murphy. His response was more or less immediate:

Saturday, December 19, 2009 5:31 PM

Ms. Ward,

I am in receipt of your e-mail and have no comment.  Your behavior is unacceptable to me and I have no intention of subjecting myself to the likes of you and your group.  After the up coming election I suggest the new board, who ever they are, secure the services of someone who will tolerate you,  because I can assure you we will not.

If you have any further comments please direct them to the Association Attorney.  You know who he is!

Richard D. Murphy, LCAM


Curious about his reasoning for quoting provisions from FS 617 (not applicable for these issues) I sent an e-mail to Richard Murphy, asking politely for the reasoning of him quoting FS 617:

Sat 12/19/2009 7:36 PM
Dear Mr. Murphy,
without any emotions -- plain and simple -- would you please be so kind and explain your reasoning for lecturing Ms. Ward about the record request provisions in FS 617?
If my information serves me right the records requested are financial documents of a HOA, regulated by FS 720?
As the community association manager you should be aware that FS 720.303(c) specifically states: "The association may adopt reasonable written rules governing the frequency, time, location, notice, records to be inspected, and manner of inspections, but may not impose a requirement that a parcel owner demonstrate any proper purpose for the inspection, state any reason for the inspection, or limit a parcel owner's right to inspect records to less than one 8-hour business day per month."
Your response would be much appreciated! I am planning on publishing an article dealing with this letter next week!
Take care


I didn't get an explanation -- most likely because there is none -- but got this response from Richard Murphy:

Sat 12/19/2009 7:57 PM
As I said in my previous e-mail, I have no intention of corresponding with Ms. Ward or anyone that subscribes to her type of behavior.  I have witnessed first hand  these peoples unacceptable behavior.
Again, if you need information regarding the Community Association, please contact the Association Attorney. 


I didn't think that my request for an explanation was out of line and "subscribed to her type of behavior" -- and it definitely didn't deserve such a terse answer. From then on the e-mail exchanges pretty much escalated.


It's pretty obvious that Murphy's feelings about Ms. Ward got the better of him and his professionalism. 


Community association managers get paid a lot of money and the owners surely expect professionalism for the money they pay. I am not quite sure why Murphy refers everybody to the association attorney? A simple record request should create no such arguments as seen above. And a simple record request surely shouldn't require the legal services of the association attorney, especially if a licensed CAM like Richard Murphy (CAM 17376 -- Licensure Date: 07/17/1996) is being paid to take care of these issues. Maybe Murphy should have consulted with an attorney -- at his own expense -- before writing the letter that refers to FS 617 provisions. May have saved him from some embarrassment?


This example shows how easy it is to make a simple record request very complicated and get the whole neighborhood stirred up over such a normally simple issue.


In these testy economic times more and more associations decide to do without a management company and turn to a CPA firm to take care of their financial needs -- often at half the cost of the services of a management company.


Incidents like the one above may make it easier for board members to make the decision to do without a community association management firm. Who needs this aggravation?

Why do we need an attorney? We would rather collect the money!