Email Addresses in Membership Records

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A 2010 court decision may compel an HOA to include member email addresses in satisfying a member’s demand to inspect membership records…

The recently decided case of Worldmark v. Wyndham Resort Development Corporation, 187 Cal.App.4th 1017 (2010), may subject Homeowners Associations (“HOAs”) to new requirements when members make demands to inspect membership records. In the statute authorizing nonprofit mutual benefit corporation members to demand inspection of a list of member’s names, addresses and voting rights, the court in Worldmark found the term “address” to be sufficiently broad to include email addresses.

Section 8330 of the corporations code provides that a member of a mutual benefit corporation has the right, for a “proper purpose”, to “[i]nspect and copy the record of all the members’ names, addresses and voting rights” and to also “[o]btain from the secretary of the corporation…a list of the names, addresses and voting rights of those members entitle to vote for the election of directors…” However, the Corporation does not have to provide the membership records in the form requested if it can provide a “reasonable alternative.” Because of the significant expense and delay of contacting and distributing information to other members through the standard mail system, the court held that providing only the standard mailing addresses of the members did not constitute a “reasonable alternative” to email addresses.

In distinguishing it’s holding, the court stated that “the important point in terms of the individual member’s access, is that in this day and age of instantaneous electronic transmission of data, a corporation may not insist on a slower and more expensive form of communication when a member requests a form of electronic communication and the corporation has the capability of complying with the request.”

The Worldmark decision does not explicitly reference HOAs. However, the consensus among industry professionals is that it will indeed apply to HOAs, as HOAs are primarily nonprofit mutual benefit corporations subject to the provisions in the corporations code.

hoa laws Boards of Directors are encouraged to become familiar with a HOA’s practices regarding the retention of member email addresses and the opt-out provisions contained in the California Civil Code. These provisions may enable a HOA’s Board of Directors to avoid the obligation of providing member email addresses.

To read the full text of the holding, click here.