A Utah court recently ruled that under the Utah Nonprofit Corporation Act an association is not obligated to provide a member with the email addresses and phone numbers of other members. Although this case was decided by a Utah court interpreting the Utah Act, it demonstrates how a court in Washington might decide a similar issue.
In the 2015 case Walker I Investments, LLC v. Sunpeak Association, Inc., an owner submitted a records request to the association. The association refused to produce some of the records so the owner filed suit asking that the association be ordered to produce the rest of the requested records. In particular, the owner demanded the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of all association members for the purpose of communicating efficiently and cost-effectively about the association’s operations.
The trial court found that the association was not required to produce the e-mail addresses or phone numbers because the owner did not have a proper purpose for the information. The trial court explained that the record of member names and mailing addresses, which the association did produce, provided a sufficient method for contacting other members. The owner appealed, arguing that under the statute the association was required to grant access to any record that a member has a proper purpose to inspect. However, the appeals court affirmed that the association had satisfied the owner’s request and was not required to produce the member e-mail addresses and phone numbers.
Clients ask us whether they are obligated to disclose contact information like this frequently, concerned about the implications of releasing private information (as opposed to ownership & address records, which are publicly available). We hope this case provides some guidance, but be sure to consult with your Association’s counsel as you respond to records requests from your owners.