1

Florida HOAs are required to provide access to "written" request for HOA recrods. The link states:

Florida Statue 720.303 (5) states that official records must be maintained within the state for at least 7 years and be made available to parcel owners for inspection or photocopying within 45 miles of the community or within the county in which the association is located within 10 business days after receipt by the board or its designee of a written request.

The statue indicates conditions willfull miscompliance:

(a) The failure of an association to provide access to the records within 10 business days after receipt of a written request submitted by certified mail, return receipt requested, creates a rebuttable presumption that the association willfully failed to comply with this subsection.

If an email request for specific record receives a response from the association representative indicating that they will provide the record when they reopen their office (Florida is not under orders to close businesses), does the reply start the 10 day clock?

Assume access is not provide within 10 days of the reply to the email (which confirmed that original message has been received).

QUESTIONS:

  • Is the email reply (which confirm receipt of the request) enough to confirm miscompliance?
  • Does Florida Law recognize email as the equivalent of certified mail, when there is a reply to the email?
  • Does certified (snail) mail confer anything beyond proof of a message sent?

I would like to understand if it is necessary to send certified mail to "start the 10-day clock": or does Florida recognize a response to an email as the equivalent to certified mail.

2

No, it is not necessary to send certified mail

720.303(5) requires "a written request"; emails are a form of writing under law as are text messages, Facebook posts etc.

If a dispute arises, the onus is on the owner to prove on the balance of probabilities that "a written request" was made. 720.303(5)(a) provides that a receipt for "certified mail, return receipt requested" shifts the onus from the owner to the HOA. That is if there is conflicting credible evidence then, with an email, the benefit of the doubt will be given to the HOA but with a certified letter, it will be given to the owner.

Now, if there is clear and convincing evidence that "a written request" was made; such as an email response to that written request, then it seems unlikely that the evidence will be so finely balanced that who bears the onus of proof will be relevant.

  • Is the email reply (which confirm receipt of the request) enough to confirm miscompliance?

No, but it is almost certainly enough to prove that a written request was made - whether the HOA complied with that request or not would be the subject of different evidence.

  • Does Florida Law recognize email as the equivalent of certified mail, when there is a reply to the email?

No. This particular Florida law distinguishes between things that are in writing and things that are oral; the former has legal consequences and the latter doesn't. It does distinguish between certified mail and all other forms of writing with respect to who bears the onus of proof that a request in writing was made.

  • Does certified (snail) mail confer anything beyond proof of a message sent?

It does not prove the message was sent. It is pretty solid evidence that it was sent but you could have broken into the Post Office, completed the forms and entered them into the system without sending the letter or bribed a Post Office employee to falsify the records; we'd have to see the evidence about that if it became an issue.

It also doesn't prove that it was received but it changes the obligation from the owner proving that it was to the HOA proving that it wasn't.

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  • I look forward to a comment regarding the update to the post regarding starting the clock – gatorback Mar 26 at 13:06
  • @gatorback no update needed – Dale M Mar 26 at 21:04

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