Access to condo records—how the owners can still get jerked around

There is little that I can see that will stop a board that wants to prevent the owners from seeing the records from jerking the owners around until only the most determined will not give up.

Your requests are ignored
There are boards who will ignore an owner's requests to examine the corporation's records. This can be a very effective tactic.

The big stall
The manager may verbally agree to your requests but then never follow through. You keep asking but they have one excuse after another. After a while, most owners give up.

Verbal requests
The Act does not recognize verbal requests so the manager can safely ignore those requests.

If the owner makes numerous requests, either verbally, in writing, or both to view the corporation's records, then he or she may get a letter from the corporation's lawyer saying that they are harassing or oppressing the manager and this must immediately stop.

This letter may be accompanied by a demand of payment of $600 or more, the legal costs associated with the writing of this letter. Failure to pay will result in the costs being added to the unit's common element fees.

Guess what? Almost everyone gives up at this point.

If this happens to you, then you have to decide whether or not you will make an application to the Condominium Authority Tribunal. Selling your unit may be the wiser option.

Make you wait
The first obstacle is time. What's the old saying: "Justice delayed is justice denied"? If a board slows the process to a crawl, many owners will give up. That makes for an easy win for the board.

Electronic core records
Core records should be pre-scanned and sitting in a folder in the office computer. A request for electronic copies comes in and the manager, or office clerk, should have electronic versions e-mailed to the owner within one working day; two on the outside.

So why does CAT give the board 30 days to comply?

All other requests
The owner sends in a request for records. The board has 30 days to respond. The board's response is a list stating:
1. Which records are core records.
2. Which records are not core records.
3. Which records they will not provide, and why.
4. Which records they don't have or can't find.
5. How much is the estimated cost of providing each of the requested records.
Time 30 days

The owner needs to think about what he or she is willing to pay for and sends in a reply along with a cheque.
Time 2 days

Paper copies or in-person examinations of core records must be provided within seven days of the board getting the owner's response and cheque.
Time 7 days

Access to non-core records must be provided within 30 days of the board receiving the owner's response and cheque.
Time 30 days

So from the time the owner requests the records and he getting the records can legally run from 39 days to 62 days.

Of course if the board runs a little late and takes, lets say 70–90 days to deliver the records, there is not much the owner can do about it.

Demanding exorbitant fees
“If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it.”
—J. P. Morgan  

This is a blunt but effective way to prevent owners from examining the corporation's records. This example comes from a condo in Scarborough.

Here is a 2015 request from an owner:

To:    Property Manager
         Delivered in person to on site management office
Cc:    Board of directors
Re:    Request to inspect and examine records

I am requesting an appointment to inspect and examine certain corporation records. The records I wish to examine are:
The statements from the utility companies (electricity, gas and water) for the months of March and April 2015.
The bank statements for the corporation's Operating Funds and the Reserve Funds for the end of the months of March and April 2015.
The minutes of all board of director meetings since the last AGM.

I am interested in understanding the current financial status of the corporation and I believe that examining these records will help me achieve that goal.

Please e-mail me with a day and time when I can come to the management office and examine these records. I am free most days and I would prefer to come in the morning when the office opens at 9:00 am.

If you have any questions about my request or problems meeting my request, please let me know as soon as possible.

That's all that is being requested. A few pieces of paper that should be sitting in the on-site office.

Over a week goes by and the owner receives this e-mail:

Date: Tue, Jun 16, 2015 at 2:45 PM
Subject: Review documents

Hi Mr. Owner
Please make a payment with $300.00, payable to the corporation, the documents that you requested will be ready within next week after receive the payment.

Property Manager

This condo board is demanding the equivalent of roughly three days net pay for some of their owners before they are allowed to examine a few current corporation's records.

When the owner complained that the condo was not following the Condo Act, the management company replied:

"I acknowledge your point, the $300.00 charge is calculated based on Corporation's Record reviewing policy, Please make the payment accordingly."

2nd example
When an owner of a townhouse in northern Etobicoke asked to look at some records, she got this reply from the owner of the property management company.

3rd example
When the owners in a condo in Rexdale asked to look at the records, this is what they are told.

Well, isn't this swell. An ACMO 2000 accredited property management company telling owners that they have to pay $65.00 an hour plus HST and photocopy charges to examine their corporation records.

Where do they get off saying this? Does anyone who works for that rinky-dinky company as a clerk, or manager, makes $65.00 an hour?

So who is ordering that this expensive barrier be put in place to stop the owners from reading the corporation's documents and preventing them from knowing what is happening in their corporation? An out of control board with things to hide? Not this time. If you said an court-appointed administrator, you'd be dead on.

Will CAT stop this?

They can say that the fees need to be reasonable but what does reasonable mean? Don't you think that the management companies will see this as a very profitable sideline?

Say the management company claims:
Claimed time
Actual time
Looking for last year's board minutes, reacted confidential info & time to photocopy.
3 hr
1.5 hr
Looking for last year's owner meetings.
1 hr
15 min
Looking for & photocopy plumbing invoices
2 hr
30 min
6 hours
2.25 hr

So at a reasonable loaded hourly rate that may be double employee's hourly rate ($30 X 6 hours) plus photocopying costs, plus exaggerating the time required gives the owner a $180 bill.

Photocopying fees
COA says the board/management can charge 20 a page. However a page requiring reacting costs 60.

Here is how that works:
20 first photocopy that needs to be reacted with a black marker.
20 to run the reacted pages through the photocopier.
20 to run the second pages through the photocopier a second time.
20 (To insure that the reacted information can't be read.)
60 a page

Core records
If the owner wants a paper copy of a core record, the board/management company can only charge 20 a page with no labour costs.

Labour costs
The time taken to make the photocopies, and react confidential information, can be charged to the owner.

Application to CAT
If an owner is dissatisfied with the board's response to his request for records, he can make an application to CAT. How this is done is, at this time, is unknown to me.

Small Claims to get paid
If an owner wins an award from CAT, and the condo corporation won't pay up, he or she will have to make an application to Small Claims Court to request a court order.

Appeals to Divisional Court
Decisions by CAT can be appealed to Divisional Court. The owner will have to pay for legal representation and hope that he wins so he can recover most of his legal costs.

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