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Court rules for members access to membership lists

Carolinian

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Like many states, corporate law (HOA's are organized as non-profit corporations) in California requires HOA's to give a membership list to any member who requests it for use in contacting other members on HOA governance. This is an essential requirement of homeowner democracy to be able to communicate with other timeshare owners at your resort. Many developers and some incumbent HOA leaders, however stonewall on providing these lists in order to entrench themselves in power.

Worldmark, faced with members who wanted a real member voice on the governing board was one developer which played this game, thumbing its nose at California law that required they turn over the list. Management whined that they were ''protecting privacy'' when their real gambit was trying to protect their own control. Members sued to obtain the lists they were entitled to under the law.

Now the Caifornia Supreme Court, in Worldmark v. Miller has let stand an earlier court ruling which ordered Worldmark to turn over the lists, and even included the email addresses of members, which had not been explicitly covered in the statute. That will make member communication to try to elect a member-friendly board to replace the developer's placemen much cheaper and easier.

This court victory strikes a major blow for timeshare homeowner democracy and should be a wakeup call to timesharers as other resorts to demand their rights under the law. It should be a warning to overbearing developers against stonewalling on providing lists they are legally obligated to provide.
 
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Jennie

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Does the resort have to be located in California and/or does the member requesting the list have to reside in California? Would it apply to a California resident requesting the list from a timeshare property located in another state?
 

TSToday

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We reviewed various court documents in the lawsuit and published an article on page 35 of the January/February issue.The lawsuit was undertaken by an individual owner, not a class action. We assume at his own expense. The use of the list of email addresses was eventually granted and that use was very restricted. It included a strict warning of legal action if the list was shared The path to getting the list was long and hard fought. Every concerned owner should read the article to get a glimpse of the complexities. Mr. Miller obtained the list in March 2011 and his email blast was sent in July 2011. TimeSharing Today will be following further developments. One issue is whether the decisions in this matter will set a precedence for future cases.

Over the last 20 years, we have often heard owners say, "There ought to be a class action lawsuit suit". Some of us have seen some of those close up. It seems that class actions, for the most part, are destined to be settled. It takes a courageous individual to undertake an action that actually gets litigated.
Shep Altshuler
Publisher
TimeSharing Today
 

Carolinian

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A class action is really unnecessary. This ruling is a precedent for any resort whose HOA is organized as a non-profit corporation under California law. It is also persuasive authority in other states, although not controlling there. The key is not where the member lives, but where the HOA is registered as a non-profit corporation. I suspect that virtually all timeshares in the US have their HOA's organized under the laws of the state where the timeshare is located.

One important aspect is shooting down Worldmark's bogus defense of ''protecting privacy'', showing that dog does not hunt.

Many but not necessarily all states have similar requirements to California in their corporate law about turning over lists. Bully boy big developers like Worldmark have sometimes thumbed their nose at those laws.

Most states that require HOA's to turn over lists also restrict how that list can be used, generally limiting it to communication with other members on issues of HOA governance and policy and prohibiting passing the list on to others or using it for any commercial purpose.
 
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