What’s “Reasonable” About Fees for Record Inspection?

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A.D. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have asked my Association’s Management Company to allow me to see documents which our by laws allow us to view. I have no problem paying for copies but he is going to charge me $45.00 dollars an hour to look at the documents at his office. I’m not sure the $45.00 per hour charge is considered “reasonable fees”. Also if the owner of the Management Company is also owner of the “contractors” hired to do any maintenance and repair he needs to disclose this to the unit owners, correct? He can not abbreviate the names of his maintenance Companies and mislead us in meeting minutes and other documents, correct? Thank you so much for providing us with any and all information. It is so appreciated and helps me to vent and relieve some of the stresses of condo ownership. Thanks, again.

Mister Condo replies:

A.D., I am sorry you are finding so much stress in your condo ownership. I am glad you can find some relief by venting here.

You, and every other condo owner, have the right to inspect the books of your association. This right is likely guaranteed in your by laws, as you mentioned, and also under state law. The hourly fee charged by your management company can always be questioned but there is little in the law, as I understand it, which clarifies “reasonable fees”, so unless there is a court case or additional law that addresses what fees are “reasonable”, the Management Company can charge fees that it considers reasonable. For the record, I see both sides of the coin here. Access should be easy and affordable but the Management Company is a business and has to pay for employees, benefits, overhead expenses, etc.. In a perfect world, all of these records would be online with secure access granted as needed, thus eliminating what is reasonable and what is not, although that would require another level of recordkeeping and internet access for all condo owners.

My greater concern from your question is in your assertion that the Management Company is also acting as a contractor and not disclosing that information to the Board or unit owners. That is a serious accusation that should be brought to the Board’s attention for further investigation and/or legal action. If the allegations you are making are true, there could be serious repercussions to the accused. At the very least, your community would be well-advised to seek out a new management company if your current one is performing illegally or unethically. There are a myriad of reputable and qualified property management firms to choose from so there is no reason to use a firm with questionable practices with regards to hiring contractors. Also, doesn’t your Board have a say in who gets hired to do the work of the association? At my association, we solicit bids and award contracts based on price and reputation. I can’t imagine awarding contracts any other way.

As always, all my best, A.D.. Good luck!

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