By SwedelsonGottlieb Associate, Community Association Attorneys
We are often asked by California community association board members and managers as to the records members have the right to inspect and copy. One record request that can prove problematic is when a member requests a list of an association’s members. Under Civil Code Section 1365.2(a)(1)(I), an association’s member can request a membership list for the association, including the association’s members’ names, property addresses at the association’s development and mailing addresses (if different than the property address), if (1) the member requesting the membership list states the purpose for the request, (2) that purpose is reasonably related to the member’s interests as a member of the association and (3) the association reasonably believes that the information on the membership list will be used for the purpose stated.
If the association reasonably believes that the membership list will be used for a purpose other than the member’s stated purpose, the association can deny the request. However, if the requesting member brings an action against the association for that denial, the burden will be on the association to prove that the member would have allowed use of the information for purposes unrelated to the member’s interest as a member of the association (which may be difficult to prove). We suggest that any board considering such a denial consult with association legal counsel before denying the request.
An issue a membership list request brings up is the privacy and confidentiality of an association’s members’ information. Fortunately, Civil Code Section 1365.2(a)(1)(I)(iii) provides that a member can opt out of the sharing of his or her name, property address and mailing address by notifying the association in writing that he or she prefers to be contacted via the alternative process described in Corporations Code Section 8330(c). This Corporations Code provision allows the association to submit to a member requesting a membership list a written offer of an alternative method of achieving the requesting member’s demand. For example, if a member wants to send a communication to all association members about an issue of concern regarding the association, the board could offer as an alternative method to directly mail the communication to those members who have opted out of the sharing of their information (at the owner’s expense).
An association’s board members and manager should keep in mind that an alternative method offered by an association must reasonably, and in a timely manner, accomplish the purposes set forth in the member’s demand for a membership list, and the association must carry out the alternative method accepted by a member. Any board dealing with an alternative delivery method situation should consult with association legal counsel to ensure it complies with applicable statutory requirements.
We have developed a boilerplate opt out form that can be customized and provided to your association’s members upon request, or provided to all members as part of the annual disclosure process or a monthly mailing.