Sunlight on RRHA.
As a public agency, RRHA makes our records available to any member of the public. To access our records, you can make a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request.
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3700 et seq.) guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees.
A public record is any writing or recording that is prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business. All public records are presumed to be open, and may only be withheld if a specific, statutory exemption applies.
The purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities. In furthering this purpose, FOIA requires that the law be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption allowing public records to be withheld must be interpreted narrowly.
Your FOIA rights
- You may request records by U.S. mail, fax, email, in person, or over the phone. FOIA does not require that your request be in writing, nor do you need to specifically state that you are requesting records under FOIA.
- You have the right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance.
- If you believe that your FOIA rights have been violated, you may file a petition in District or Circuit Court to compel compliance with FOIA. Alternatively, you may contact the FOIA Council for a nonbinding advisory opinion.
Making a request for records from RRHA
It may be helpful to both you and the person receiving your FOIA request to put your request in writing. This allows you to create a record and also gives us a clear statement of what records you are requesting, so that there is no misunderstanding over a verbal request. A specific, detailed request will better ensure that you receive exactly what you are looking for.
Additionally, please keep the following in mind when making your request:
- Your request must identify the records you are seeking with “reasonable specificity.” This does not limit the volume or number of records that you are requesting; rather, it requires that you be specific enough so that we can identify and locate the records that you are seeking.
- Your request must be made for and can only be responded to with preexisting records of RRHA. FOIA gives you a right to inspect or copy records; it does not apply to a situation in where you are asking general questions about the work of RRHA, nor does it require RRHA to create a record that does not exist.
- You may choose to receive electronic records in any format used by RRHA in the regular course of business. For example, if you are requesting records maintained in an Excel database, you may elect to receive those records electronically, via email or via a computer disk. Printed-out hardcopies are also an available option at your request.
- Upon receiving your request, we may need to contact you for additional information. To better serve you, we ask that you please cooperate with staff’s efforts to clarify the type of records that you are seeking, or our attempts to reach a reasonable agreement about a response to your large request. We may need to discuss your request with you to ensure that we understand exactly what records you are seeking.
To request records from RRHA, you may direct your request to our FOIA Officer.
901 Chamberlayne Parkway
Richmond, VA 23220
In addition, the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is available to answer any questions you may have about FOIA. The Council may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (804) 225-3056 or toll-free at 1-866-448-4100.
RRHA’s responsibilities in responding to FOIA requests
- RRHA must respond to your request within five working business days of receiving it. Day 1 is considered the day after your request is received. The five-day period does not include weekends or holidays.
- You are not required to state you reason for your request and/or why you want specific records before we respond as that information is irrelevant for purposes of us processing your request. FOIA does, however, allow RRHA to require you to provide your name and legal address.
FOIA requires that RRHA provide you with one of the following responses to your request within the five-day time period:
- We provide you with the records that you have requested in their entirety.
- We withhold all of the records that you have requested due to specific statutory exemption. If all of your requested records are being withheld in entirety, we must send you a response in writing. Our written response must detail the volume and subject matter of the records being withheld, and state the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows us to withhold the records.
- We provide some of the records that you have requested, but withhold other records. We cannot withhold an entire record if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption. In that instance, we may redact the portion of the record that may be withheld, and must provide you with the remainder of the record. We must provide you with a written response stating the specific section of the Code of Virginia that allows portions of the requested records to be withheld.
- We inform you in writing that the requested records cannot be found or do not exist. However, if we know that another public body has the requested records, we must include contact information for the other public body in our response to you.
- If it is practically impossible for RRHA to respond to your request within the five-day period, we must state this in writing, explaining the conditions that prevent us from meeting the deadline and why an extension will be needed. This will allow us seven additional working days to respond to your request, giving us a total of 12 working days to respond to your request.
- If you make a request for a very large number of records, and we feel that we cannot provide the records to you within 12 working days without disrupting our other organizational responsibilities, we may petition the court for additional time to respond to your request. However, FOIA requires that we make a reasonable effort to reach an agreement with you concerning the production of the records before we go to court to ask for more time.
- A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication. All charges for the supplying of requested records shall be estimated in advance at the request of the citizen as set forth in subsection F of § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.
- You may have to pay for the records that you request from RRHA. FOIA allows us to charge for the actual costs of responding to FOIA requests. This would include items such as staff time spent searching for the requested records, copying costs, or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records. It cannot include general overhead costs.
- If we estimate that it will cost more than $200 to respond to your request, we may require you to pay a deposit, not to exceed the amount of the estimate, before proceeding with your request. The five days that we have to respond to your request does not include the time between when we ask for a deposit and when you respond.
- You may request that we estimate in advance the charges for supplying the records that you have requested. This will allow you to know about any costs upfront, or give you the opportunity to modify your request in an attempt to lower the estimated costs.
- If you owe money to RRHA from a previous FOIA request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, RRHA may require payment of the past-due bill before it will respond to your new FOIA request.