Issues of Owners’ Right to Information & Access to Documents

Fully 33% of all persons who write report that they are refused access to condo records they are entitled to view or receive as per the Ontario Condo Act. Many of these letters are described in the sections on Issues with Boards of Directors and "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined.

 Letter: It took many months before the manager agreed to let us see the minutes of Board Meetings and she only gave us three sets of minutes to see; we wanted to see the three most recent ones but she refused these and we are concerned because this is where the Board supposedly approved some contracts for work that does not need to be done (I am a [deleted], so I should know). That's the first and the second problem. The third is that she then charged us $180 to pay for the time she spent digging up these minutes while it is my understanding that she should have charged us only if she had done photocopying and she refused to do this and instead we had to view the minutes in her office. So we refused to pay and now we have a letter from the condo solicitor threatening to place a lien on our unit if we don't pay up. Isn't this all illegal?

— January 2012, Mississauga, ON

Answer: Everything that you write about is totally unacceptable and probably illegal because none of this follows the Condo Act of Ontario. You have the right to see and have a photocopy of the minutes for a basic fee of a few dollars. But the Act doesn't support a fee for "digging up" documents — especially so as they pertain to the current year: Not much "digging" should be required. You were right to refuse to pay. And a lien for such an issue is not as per the Condo Act either. This lawyer is making money at your expense... Read some of the letters in Abuse of Legal Letters and Liens . As well, you may ask yourself who will benefit from the work that is planned but which you believe is unwarranted in view of your professional expertise? Is there a conflict of interest somewhere down the line?

Letter: If it were not for the AGMs we would never know that we have a Board of Directors. The only info we get is from the Manager's postings of maintenance work to be done but we never know why. We do however have a Newsletter done by a volunteer group of owners about social events, things in the community and this sort of things. It's something positive but not in terms of the condo business itself. Seeing this, I wrote our Board to point out to them that they can't delegate our right to information about the business of the condo, which is our business after all, to a group of volunteer owners that write about social activities. They never replied! Even at the AGM, we get very little information and questions are not taken; it's generally the management company that chairs the AGM. The few owners that I know here (most are tenants) are also concerned and after reading your info, we fully realize that we would never be able to get the number of votes necessary to get rid of this board. So we are stuck. I think that the Condo Act should be much more helpful and dictate that boards at least inform owners of board meeting decisions and discussions. I don't even find the financial statement in the AGM package and the budget very helpful because there are not enough details. What can you do with just two pages? It really never explains why fees are going up.

— February 2011, London area, ON

Letter: After I showed the pages from your website to the president and the manager [about the fact that they were refusing to let him/her see the minutes of board meetings], they sent me a note stating that I would have to pay $100 for each set of minutes and as I need to see all the minutes of the past year, this will cost me $1,000. What do I do now as I can’t afford this?

— October 2009, Ontario

Answer: [This owner needed to see the minutes because the board never provides information and refuses to answer questions--while, at the same time, the board is making decisions about very large expenditures that seem unwarranted and without going through the tendering process. The president was very angry at this person for asking.] The Condo Act, Section 55(6), clearly stipulates that the fee they charge you has to be reasonable. The fee they demand is not reasonable. It’s extortion! They are trying to make you back off, intimidate you, for one reason or another. There is very little in board minutes that an owner can’t see: These are discussions about personnel and residents and on-going litigations; such discussions don’t even occur at each meeting. Therefore, discussions that need to be erased certainly will not require $100 each for labour—unless these minutes are nothing but gossip...

Letter: I requested to have a copy of the Minutes of the Board Meetings for the past 3 months and received 3 pages. Please note: 3 pages for 3 meetings, one page per meeting. It said nothing, really: only that the minutes of previous meetings were accepted, that a discussion followed, that the financial statements were accepted, and other agenda subtitles. No idea of what was discussed. Second, they charged me $5.00 per page and sent them to me via email as an attachment. I refused to pay because imagine how much I would have had to pay if the Minutes had been good ones? So now they want to lien me for the $15. Help, please.

— August 2009, 905 area, ON

Answer: There is really nothing in the Condo Act that forces boards of directors to be transparent in the minutes of their meetings. But the minutes of your board, as you point out, are not even informative. Perhaps someone should ask about this at the next annual general meeting? I might add that some believe that the less written in the minutes, the better. I disagree because a future board might want to revisit some decisions made by a previous one and may not understand the reasoning that guided the decisions if there is no information on the process and the substance.

As to the fee, Section 55(6) clearly states that the fee has to be reasonable to cover copying and labour. But, in your case, there were practically no costs as it took the manager at most 3 minutes to email you the 3 pages. At best, $3.00 would have been acceptable. And they certainly cannot lien you. This is not covered among situations that can be the source of a lien. I suggest that you write back and offer $3.00 and point to Section 55(6). Added January 2012: Click here for the section on Abuse of Legal Letters and Liens.

On the positive side, the manager has forwarded you the minutes via email, which saves paper, and has done so quickly and without questioning your motive. This is excellent: In many condos, they refuse to comply or question your motives.

Letter: I trust that we are a good Board of Directors: we communicate and communicate. We even post the Minutes of Board meetings. We study what we can do for the future and make promises only when they are realistic and then follow through. We do due diligence and follow the Act, our Rules and our Declaration. We even have passed a set of Rules to help in the transition from one President to the next, including a Rule that requires that a notice is placed on our notice boards to the effect that the incoming President and the outgoing President have held a meeting in order that the knowledge accumulated by the outgoing President has been passed to the current one. Both signatures have to appear. We have posted your website on our notice boards because we believe that the more residents are aware of their rights and responsibilities and the Board’s and Manager’s responsibilities, the better we can all run this business.

August 2009, Toronto


Letter: In my condo we do not know what is going on. There are no special notices or newsletters and we do not even know when and if there are any board meetings taking place. We have no idea of what is going on except when we receive the budget and that budget does not explain much. At the AGM, the president’s report is very sketchy and he does not seem to be able to answer questions in any lucid manner. When we go to the office and ask a question, it is never well received and one of our neighbours dared asked for a copy of the latest board meeting minutes and was told that he didn’t need them and the manager has since been unpleasant to him.

August 2009, Mississauga, ON

Comment: Your neighbour should consult the section on Right of Access to Condo Records? Added January 2012: Lack of communication from management and boards as well as difficulties in obtaining documents together constitute the most frequently mentioned complaint. The problems related to access to condo records and unfair fees charged are widespread. See also the section on "Harassment" and "Defamation" Redefined