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Owners’ Corporation Law - April 2015

01 Apr 2015

How to obtain records from your owners’ corporation

In any given month, I will be contacted by several lot owners requesting assistance in ‘getting answers’ from a committee or owners’ corporation about certain decisions made.

The most common question that owners want to ask are the “why” questions. Why did the committee make this decision? Why did it not seek alternative quotes? Why were other owners not consulted?

Inevitably, the advice that I give to these owners is always the same: by all means, ask the questions, but don’t expect any answers. There is nothing in the Owners’ Corporation Act to compel the manager, the chairperson, the secretary or the committee to answer the “why” questions?

However, what the owners’ corporation must do when requested, is supply certain documents and records for the inspection of owners, and within a reasonable time.

Again, the legislation makes it clear that the owners’ corporation does not have to send the documents to owners. An owner or their agent must make an appointment and physically attend the manager’s office. There, they will be entitled to review the documents and records of the owners’ corporation and, if they pay a fee for photocopying, they can take copies of the records for their own purposes.

There are certain practical considerations to take into account here. Firstly, many owners’ corporation managers will only keep certain records on-site, with the remainder stored in archives and in storage.

Therefore, a request to review “all financial records of the owners’ corporation over the last three years” may not be able to be accommodated without at least 7-14 days prior notice.

To avoid disappointment at the appointment, owners should always specify the class and category of documents, with the date range when making the appointment. This will give the OC manager sufficient time to retrieve the records for the owner.

On this topic, I’m always asked to determine what is a reasonable time period for inspection of the documents, as the OC Act states that an owners’ corporation must make records available within a reasonable time.

The answer is that it depends on the nature of the request and the type of documents requested. For instance, if an owner only wishes to see the accounts for the last six months, then that information should be at the fingertips of the OC manager, and it would be reasonable to provide access at reasonably short notice, perhaps a few days.

However, if an owner is requesting a range of documents dating back two or three years, then as mentioned earlier, it could take 14 days to retrieve the archive boxes, with a further two days for sorting through the documents to find what is requested.

Another point to be raised is the issue of whether an owner’ corporation can provide private information, such as the telephone numbers and email addresses of owners and residents.

The answer is that an owners’ corporation must provide the roll or register of owners upon request. The roll is to contain the “names and addresses” of owners.

A number of computer programs will also include telephone numbers and email addresses in the same document, however owners’ corporations need to be aware that this information must be redacted before the roll is handed over.

Otherwise, there may be a breach of privacy under the Privacy Act, and an owner that suffers a breach of privacy may seek to hold the owners’ corporation responsible for handing over their private information.

In the next issue, we’ll discuss the concept of privilege and the release of those privileged and “sent in commercial confidence” documents.

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