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

Published September 10, 2011


What would you think if you are a condo owner and receive a BILL FOR $ 245.00 -- just for making a simple request to INSPECT some public records of your association? Wouldn't you expect that the inspection takes place in a luxury suite, with champagne and caviar being served? 


I would -- especially since Florida statutes don't allow charges for RECORD INSPECTION -- and in this case there was absolutely no request for copies. But the least I would have expected is a location like a garage and a table in a parking lot!

This is the description of the location that was sent to the owners who requested to inspect the records: "The warehouse does have electricity and a restroom.  I have arranged for an extension cord to be ran if you would like to bring a fan.  Space is very limited so there are no chairs and table set up.  We have folding chairs and a table that can be opened and set up just outside of the warehouse (due to the space availability)." I read it three times before I believed what I was reading!  All that luxury for $245?


To be polite: I consider these charges outrageous -- and an obvious violation of Florida statutes.



The management company quotes FS 718.111(12)(c) on the bill, but leaves out important parts of this provision. CLICK HERE to read the complete wording of this important provision.


How "PUBLIC" are public records if only the rich owners can afford to inspect them? According to legislators who worked on changes to the wording of this provision, it was clearly the legislative intent to allow Record Inspections Free Of Charge, while the cost of copies of these records -- if so specifically demanded -- could be charged to the owners. 

Many blogs and articles dealt with these "charges for record inspections," but I have so far not seen one public opinion from an attorney officially claiming that the Florida statutes allow associations and/or community association managers to charge owners for the INSPECTION OF RECORDS.


Steve Inglis, President of Bristol Management, boasts on the firm's website all kinds of experience: Past President of CAI, Member of Jupiter-Tequesta-Juno Chamber of Commerce and Member of Palm City Chamber of Commerce. Sounds impressive, but shouldn't a person with that kind of experience stop his obviously less experienced employees from sending out these kinds of outrageous bills, with amounts billed that have no legal foundation in the Florida statutes?


Despite protests from the owners, the demand still stands -- but the owners are still waiting for the champagne and the caviar!


Why is it that certain professionals consider owners in community associations their private cash cows -- and are even willing to disregard the Florida statutes in order to improve their profits?


FS 718.111(12)(c) The official records of the association are open to inspection by any association member or the authorized representative of such  member at all reasonable times. The right to inspect the records includes the right to make or obtain copies, at the reasonable expense, if any, of the member. The association may adopt reasonable rules regarding the frequency, time, location, notice, and manner of record inspections and copying. The failure of an association to provide the records within 10 working days after receipt of a written request creates a rebuttable presumption that the association willfully failed to comply with this paragraph. A unit owner who is denied access to official records is entitled to the actual damages or minimum damages for the association's willful failure to comply. Minimum damages are $50 per calendar day for up to 10 days, beginning on the 11th working day after receipt of the written request. The failure to permit Inspection entitles any person prevailing in an enforcement action to recover reasonable attorney's fees from the person in control of the records who, directly or indirectly, knowingly denied access to the records. Any person who knowingly or intentionally defaces or destroys accounting records that are required by this chapter to be maintained during the period for which such records are required to be maintained, or who knowingly or intentionally fails to create or maintain accounting records that are required to be created or maintained, with the intent of causing harm to the association or one or more of its members, is personally subject to a civil penalty pursuant to s. 718.501(1)(d). The association shall maintain an adequate number of copies of the declaration, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and rules, and all amendments to each of the foregoing, as well as the question and answer sheet as described in s. 718.504 and year-end financial information required under in this section, on the condominium property to ensure their availability to unit owners and prospective purchasers, and may charge its actual costs for preparing and furnishing these documents to those requesting the documents.