As citizens of the United States, we all have the right to view the documents of our government any time we wish—be it the Constitution of the nation or the laws governing individual states. And just as it is with the federal government, so it should be with the governing body of a community association. There are certain bylaws and community charters that dictate how the community is to be run, and residents of that community have the right to view those documents any time they wish.

But what’s the best strategy for community associations to make these documents available? For starters, this is a wonderful way to put your community website to work for you. You may not have the space to upload each and every resolution passed by the board, but you can at least put a copy of the bylaws online, perhaps even the minutes of recent board meetings. This is a great, convenient service to residents who have misplaced their copy of the bylaws—and it will save the board itself from having to entertain countless requests for community documentation.

And what do you do about any other community documentation that you can’t fit onto the website? Well, it’s a good idea to put a standard procedure into place for all residents to follow.

The first thing for the resident to do should be the submission of a written request to the board president or manager, stating which document the resident would like to see. This request should be specific—i.e., the minutes from a certain date, not just the minutes that discuss a general topic—and they should be submitted a few days before the resident needs the community documentation. This ensures that the board has a little time to locate the paperwork, as older documents may be in storage.

Once the documents are located, a board member should contact the resident and establish a meeting time for the resident to come view the documents. The resident should being writing materials to make note of any particular pages he or she may like a copy of—and, of course, the board member should charge a copying fee for this service.

It is important that the HOA Board make community documentation available to the public—but it is equally important that there be a procedure to ensure that board members are not completely bogged down by these requests. The blueprint listed here should serve as a good general model of what this policy might look like.

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