Minnesota Supreme Court Holds That Common Interest Associations Are Only Required to Disclose Records That Fall Within The Categories Listed in Minn. Stat. § 515B.3-118, Which Includes “Records of Membership”.

On April 6, 2022, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that a request for records by a member of a common interest association must be granted only if such request falls within the categories listed under Minn. Stat. § 515B.3-118. Interpretation of this statute rests on the meaning of the phrase “all records … shall be made reasonably available for examination.” The Court determined that “all records” is limited to the certain categories listed in the statute but goes beyond the statutorily minimum required records if that record is included in one of the previously mentioned categories.

In the underlying action, Harkins, a member of the Grant Park Association (“the Association”), requested the names, addresses, and email addresses of all members of the Association. The purpose of Harkins’ request was to seek support for proposed amendments to the Association’s Bylaws. The Association responded back to Harkins that they would supply the names and addresses but not email addresses, and then, only supplied a list of member’s names.

Harkins initiated an action seeking declaratory, injunctive, and equitable relief. The district court, granted the Association’s motion for judgment stating that the phrase “all records … shall be made reasonably available” in Minn. Stat. § 515B.3-118 refers to the first sentence of that section which only requires common interest associations to keep “adequate records.” The court held that email addresses are not required to be maintained.

The court of appeals reversed holding that “all records” under the statute is not limited to the minimum records required by statute to be maintained. Harkins’ request for records was sufficient as a claim for relief because the Association regularly conducts business through email.

The Minnesota Supreme Court disagreed with both positions, and adopted a middle ground interpretation that “all records” refers to any record falling within the categories of records an association is required to maintain. The categories of records required to be maintained are found in the first two sentences of Minn. Stat. § 515B.-118. This interpretation includes records that exceed the statutory minimum of what would be considered “adequate records” but also includes limitations, so an association is not required to disclose all documents in their possession. Because an association is required to maintain and disclose certain categories including “records of membership”, if e-mail addresses are included in those “records of membership”, this interpretation requires disclosure even though they may not be required to be maintained as “adequate records” under the statute.

The Supreme Court decision can be found here: https://cousineaulaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Hawkins-v.-Grant-Park-Assn-2.pdf