Homeowners elect board members at the annual meeting, who are then responsible for making comprehensive business decisions for the association, such as setting the annual operating budget, entering into contracts, promulgating rules, and enforcing restrictive covenants. Because the board has extensive decision making power over the association, owners want to (and also mistakenly believe in an absolute right to) attend the board meetings to observe the decision making process, inspect the documents, and provide input.
A common misconception is the applicability of the Ohio Sunshine Laws, i.e. Ohio’s Public Records Act and Ohio’s Open Meetings Act, which require government to make meetings, records, votes, and discussion open for public attendance, participation, or examination. The Ohio Sunshine Laws do not apply to condominiums or planned community associations. Although Ohio law does not require associations to hold open board meetings the association’s Declaration, Bylaws, or other organizational documents may expressly require board meetings to be open to owners.
Open board meetings allow owners to attend meetings, but do not entitle owners to participate or disrupt the meeting. Even if open meetings are required by the governing documents, the board may still hold an executive session that is not open to owners to discuss such topics as pending or threatened litigation, purchasing property, or hold enforcement hearings.
Pursuant to the Ohio Condominium Act, Planned Community Act, and Nonprofit Corporation Act, owners may examine and copy the books, records, and minutes of the association. The right of owners to inspect association documents is not absolute. The board may promulgate reasonable standards governing the type of documents that are subject to examination and copying, the times and locations those documents may be examined or copied, and a reasonable fee for copying the documents. Additionally, the board is not required to permit the examination of information that pertains to:
- property-related personnel matters;
- communications with legal counsel or attorney work product pertaining to pending litigation or other community property-related matters;
- information that pertains to contracts or transactions currently under negotiation, or information that is contained in a contract or other agreement containing confidentiality requirements and that is subject to those requirements;
- information that relates to enforcement of the Declaration, Bylaws, or rules of the community association against owners; or
- information the disclosure of which is prohibited by state or federal law.
Regardless of whether board meetings are required to be open, the board should strive for good communication with the owners to raise awareness about community issues, keep owners reasonably informed about the status of association projects, and comply as soon as practicable with reasonable requests from owners for information.