DOCUMENT & RECORD retention

Document retention is a key topic every common interest community needs to address. Discussion threads from volunteer leaders consistently ask what documents do we need to keep on file and for how long?

In RCW 64.90.495(1), Washington's WUCIOA statute does an excellent job of identifying many categories of documents that communities are required to retain. An association must retain the following:


(a) The current budget, detailed records of receipts and expenditures affecting the operation and administration of the association, and other appropriate accounting records within the last seven years;

(b) Minutes of all meetings of its unit owners and board other than executive sessions, a record of all actions taken by the unit owners or board without a meeting, and a record of all actions taken by a committee in place of the board on behalf of the association;

(c) The names of current unit owners, addresses used by the association to communicate with them, and the number of votes allocated to each unit;

(d) Its original or restated declaration, organizational documents, all amendments to the declaration and organizational documents, and all rules currently in effect;

(e) All financial statements and tax returns of the association for the past seven years;

(f) A list of the names and addresses of its current board members and officers;

(g) Its most recent annual report delivered to the secretary of state, if any;

(h) Financial and other records sufficiently detailed to enable the association to comply with RCW 64.90.640;

(i) Copies of contracts to which it is or was a party within the last seven years;

(j) Materials relied upon by the board or any committee to approve or deny any requests for design or architectural approval for a period of seven years after the decision is made;

(k) Materials relied upon by the board or any committee concerning a decision to enforce the governing documents for a period of seven years after the decision is made;

(l) Copies of insurance policies under which the association is a named insured;

(m) Any current warranties provided to the association;

(n) Copies of all notices provided to unit owners or the association in accordance with this chapter or the governing documents; and

(o) Ballots, proxies, absentee ballots, and other records related to voting by unit owners for one year after the election, action, or vote to which they relate.

In addition to document retention required by statute, there are also a number of documents to keep because doing so is reasonable. Consider documents that relate to projects like schematics, renderings, engineering memos and more.

DOCUMENT BREAKDOWN BY AUDIENCE / EASE OF ACCESS

  • Documents available to all owners proactively (minimum friction, maximum efficiency)

  • Documents available to all owners by request (see 'Access to Records' below)

  • Documents that are confidential to the Board

  • Documents that are confidential to the Management Company

    • e.g. certain types of employee records, individual unit files, etc.


WHERE DO YOU STORE FILES?

  • Email (*cringe*)

  • Paper (*double cringe*)

  • Association document repository (Dropbox, Google Drive, MS365 / Sharepoint, etc.)

  • 3rd party IT infrastructure (Active Building, BuildingLink, CondoSites, eUnify)


CONSIDERATIONS

  • Consider the importance between IT infrastructure that the Board can easily control vs. management company infrastructure that may cease to exist if there's a management change

  • Does your IT infrastructure

    • facilitate collaboration features that allow for sharing and editing documents as a team?

    • allow you to search for documents? Does that search index both document titles and document content?

    • allow you to easily download all your files?

    • provide data security?

  • If your IT infrastructure is not cloud-based, how are you ensuring redundancy in case of storage failure? Do you have a written digital redundancy policy and/or backup procedures and checksums?

Example File Infrastructure Categories

Access to Records

Contextually similar to RCW 64.90.445, RCW 64.90.495(2)-(6) elucidates units owners' rights to access records.


(2) Subject to subsections (3) and (4) of this section, all records required to be retained by an association must be made available for examination and copying by all unit owners, holders of mortgages on the units, and their respective authorized agents as follows, unless agreed otherwise:

(a) During reasonable business hours or at a mutually convenient time and location; and

(b) At the offices of the association or its managing agent.

(3) Records retained by an association may be withheld from inspection and copying to the extent that they concern:

(a) Personnel and medical records relating to specific individuals;

(b) Contracts, leases, and other commercial transactions to purchase or provide goods or services currently being negotiated;

(c) Existing or potential litigation or mediation, arbitration, or administrative proceedings;

(d) Existing or potential matters involving federal, state, or local administrative or other formal proceedings before a governmental tribunal for enforcement of the governing documents;

(e) Legal advice or communications that are otherwise protected by the attorney-client privilege or the attorney work product doctrine, including communications with the managing agent or other agent of the association;

(f) Information the disclosure of which would violate a court order or law;

(g) Records of an executive session of the board;

(h) Individual unit files other than those of the requesting unit owner;

(i) Unlisted telephone number or electronic address of any unit owner or resident;

(j) Security access information provided to the association for emergency purposes; or

(k) Agreements that for good cause prohibit disclosure to the members.

(4) An association may charge a reasonable fee for producing and providing copies of any records under this section and for supervising the unit owner's inspection.

(5) A right to copy records under this section includes the right to receive copies by photocopying or other means, including through an electronic transmission if available upon request by the unit owner.

(6) An association is not obligated to compile or synthesize information.