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Is It Time to Reorganize Your Association’s Files?

If your community association has been around a while, it’s probably safe to say it has amassed some paperwork over the years.

As warmer weather leads many of us to turn our attention to spring cleaning, it can be tempting for association board members to focus their sights on those dusty old files.

Before you toss those folders or shred their contents, consider what you need to keep versus what you can do without.

When it comes to maintaining records, there are files that should be kept around for a little while (approximately 1-3 years), files you should maintain a little longer and those you should always keep.

While it’s always best to double-check both state laws and your association’s governing documents, here is a general (but by no means complete) list of items your association should keep and for approximately how long.

Items to Keep a Little While

  • Taxes. An audit could occur up to three years after your association has filed taxes, so it’s better to be prepared by keeping four years of filings on hand, just in case. Note: Your association should permanently maintain any paperwork containing a tax ID number or regarding tax exemption.
  • Voting documents. All paperwork and electronic records related to association member voting – including ballots, sign-in sheets and votes by proxy – should be kept for at least one year.
  • Project bids– any bids for materials, services, equipment, etc., should also be kept for at least a year.

Items to Keep a Little Longer

  • Member/Homeowner Info (at least seven years)  names, mailing addresses, unit IDs, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc.
  • Property records (at least seven years) – any bills of sale or transfer for any property the association owns.

 Items to Keep Even Longer Still

The following are documents you should keep indefinitely:

  • Accounting Records -- These records may include but are not limited to:
    • Receipts and expenditures
    • Assessment payment records for each homeowner
    • Any audits, reviews and/or financial reports
  • Community plat/zoning map
  • Developer-related documents – copies of plans, permits, warranties and anything else the developer of your community provided.
  • Founding documents – articles of incorporation, declaration, Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs), bylaws and any amendments.

Sifting through all these documents and trying to sort them into piles can feel a bit overwhelming. And besides, where are you supposed to store all these papers? The good news, of course, is that nearly everything these days can be converted to a digital file. Even with those hard copies you must keep, make a digital copy as well, if only for easy access to it from your computer or laptop.

If you are still unsure of how to safely and properly store your association’s documents, a professional management company like CAMS can assist and provide guidance.