When are condo boards required to release documents to owners?
As a starting point, courts have held that a corporation’s records should be treated as an “open book” where owners can gain a glimpse into their corporation’s activities. That said, section 55(3) of the Condominium Act provides that owners are permitted to examine the corporation’s records for all purposes reasonably related to the purposes of the Act.
What does that mean? If the purpose of a request to examine records is unclear (i.e. extensive and random), a corporation can ask the owner for the purpose of the request. “Fishing expeditions” for the mere purpose of discrediting decisions of the board are not reasonably related to the purposes of the Act.
However, if the corporation can ascertain the purpose from the request and that purpose is reasonably related to the purposes of the Act, then the owner does not need to provide any further information and the corporation should not demand that the owner provide a purpose. Courts have generally shown disinterest in the motives of owners’ requests provided that the purpose can be easily ascertained. In short, common sense should prevail.
Documents that may not be inspected by owners include those relating to employee performance, litigation or insurance investigations, or specific to units or owners.
Furthermore, the right to examine records does not entitle owners to engage in an investigation or interrogation of directors, officers or managers of the corporation. According to the Superior Court of Justice in York Condominium Corp. No. 60 v. Brown, to “the extent that [an owner] has demanded access to information (as opposed to access to records), [the owner] has exceeded any right under the Act…”
The Act requires reasonable notice for the request and states that the records can be examined at a reasonable time. According to the Ontario Court of Appeal in Metropolitan Toronto Condominium Corp. No. 932 v. Lahrkamp, it is for the corporation to “decide what notice is reasonable and what is a reasonable time and place for the appellant to examine the records.” Depending on the extent of the request and the corporation’s other business at the time, what is considered “reasonable” may vary.
In addition, if a request is made to review records at a time when property management is not on-site, such as in the evening, the corporation can advise the owner that the review must occur during regular business hours.
Josh Milgrom is an associate of Heenan Blaikie LLP‘s condominium group. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.