Staying on top of the paperwork for a community association can be daunting, but it’s an important task. Here are some simple guidelines for staying compliant
Document management is one of the most undervalued tasks of an HOA board. It is certainly not as exciting as choosing a vendor to provide services, but it is important nonetheless. In many cases, keeping accurate records is a matter of law. So what documents does a community association need to keep and for how long? VendorSmart℠ provides a guide to smart document management so managers can stay compliant with regulations and maintain transparency with residents.
The indefinite documents
Certain documents should be kept indefinitely, meaning don’t ever get rid of them. These often relate to the HOA’s governing documents, which basically make it legal for the association to operate and collect funds.
HOA governing documents
Governing documents are vital for any association. These documents spell out how the association should conduct business, set guidelines for how board members are elected, and ensure that the association remains compliant with state laws. There are three major components that make up governing documents.
1. Association’s declaration
This is perhaps the most important of the governing documents. The declaration is essentially paperwork from the developer that includes:
- A breakdown of the property
- Descriptions of common areas
- Engineering sketches
- Owners’ proportionate share of the property
- Owners’ portion of monthly common expenses
The association bylaws are its rules of self-government and should include:
- How the board should conduct business
- How to prepare and present the budget
- How to conduct correspondence with association members
- Meeting requirements
- How to conduct voting
- Board makeup, and duties of the board and each office
- Board election procedures
3. Rules and regulations
The third portion of an HOA’s governing documents is sometimes referred to as Policies and Procedures. They are meant to help managers administer and enforce the association’s declaration and bylaws.
The rules might pertain to things like property use, property-maintenance standards, noise ordinances, who can live in a particular dwelling, parking restrictions, the use of common areas, how residents can file complaints, and procedures for hiring vendors.
The rules can be changed as needed. Bylaws can also be changed, but it generally takes a supermajority of all association members. The state might also have its own regulations when it comes to how to change bylaws. Of course, in some cases, changes to the bylaws might be in reaction to new government regulations.
Other HOA documents:
- Articles of incorporation
- Master deed
- Property leases
- HOA correspondence
Beyond governing documents
Aside from governing documents, there are other documents that are important for HOAs to keep. Which ones and for how long? Here are some general guidelines, but management should be sure to check state laws to ensure compliance. Failure to save the required documents could result in fines or legal action.
Meeting minutes – These should include a record of any matters discussed, actions or votes taken by the board. Minutes should be kept indefinitely.
Tax records – These should include filings of any property, local, state or federal taxes that are paid each year. Keep tax records for at least four years, as an audit can occur up to three years after filing. See state regulations regarding tax returns, however. Any paperwork or filings regarding tax exemptions should be kept indefinitely.
Financial records – These can include bank statements, records of deposits and payments, and audits. The association should hold on to monthly records until receiving a year-end statement from its CPA. For monthly ledgers, deposit slips, billing or collections, bank statements, and time cards, the general rule is to keep them for four years. Annual financial statements should be kept per state regulations. The extent of financial statements will depend on annual revenue.
For example, in Florida, associations with:
- Fewer than 75 units or less than $100,000 annual revenue must present a report with cash receipts and expenditures
- Between $100,000 – $200,000 must present a compilation
- Between $200,000 – $400,000 must present a review
- More than $400,000 must present an extensive year-end audited financial report
Homeowner correspondence – Keepassociation members’ correspondence as long as the member is a resident. This is especially important if the member has been reported for violations and/or the board is contemplating taking any actions.
Vendor agreements – Keep copies of all vendor contracts, which should include everything a vendor agrees to do and for what price. New contracts will supersede the old one. The same rule should apply to insurance policies.
Legal papers – Keep a record of any legal actions taken against the HOA or the board, including filings, claims, and any judgments. These should be kept indefinitely.
Warranties or repair records – The best rule of thumb when it comes to warranties is to keep a record until the warranty expires. So, if the roof on the clubhouse is guaranteed for 30 years, keep the record for 30 years.
Records of complaints – Your bylaws and Policies and Procedures must spell out how association members can file a complaint and how the board will deal with them. Be sure to document and save this correspondence, including any resolutions or decisions made in the matter.VendorSmart℠ can help maintain and manage important documentation so you stay compliant. We can also help you find a vendor and manage their documentation, including contracts and insurance verifications. Contact us to get started.