Condo document extortion – a realtor’s perspective

Especially when the market is tough, like it is right now for condos across Calgary, everyone is a bit cost sensitive. It’s hard enough losing money on real estate but after you add on realtor fees, legal fees & moving expenses, paying to obtain condo documents for your own condo seems like just too much.

For those that haven’t owned a condo before, condo documents are a package of the bylaws, financial statements, meeting minutes, budget, insurance certificate, reserve fund study, management agreement and more that relate to your condominium corporation.

These are vital documents when purchasing a condo because you aren’t just purchasing what’s inside your four walls. You are purchasing a share of a corporation that owns and runs all of the common areas of your building – areas like parkades, hallways, roof, exterior walls, etc. If the physical or financial health of the building is in jeopardy, it could have big consequences for you as a unit owner.

These documents are essential to review before purchasing a condo and our normal real estate contracts stipulate that the Seller must provide these documents to the Buyer at the Seller’s expense.

Now let’s remember that the Seller has already been paying condo fees every month to cover common items such as insurance, maintenance and some utilities but also to cover the professional management of the building. The management company is the one that keeps copies of all of these condo documents – the gatekeeper.

As it stands currently, these “gatekeepers” charge owners big bucks when they want to obtain copies of these documents. Some of the documents are provided to all owners for free each year such as the insurance certificate and budget but others aren’t. If you have misplaced some of the free ones, you have to pay to get another copy.

I have seen management companies charging upward of $600 to obtain the full package (even when documents are provided electronically, not printed!).

In my opinion, these documents should ALWAYS be available for free to all unit owners – both so you can stay on top of what is really happening in your building and to provide to prospective purchasers when you sell.

There are websites that make it easy to upload and order these documents and if there was a admin fee to make an order, such as $5 or $10, I feel this would be fair just to cover the subscription to the website. However, to charge hundreds of dollars for documents that really should belong to all owners is just plain wrong.

One of the things that realtors pay for every year as part of our annual dues is lobbying the government for positive changes in the real estate industry. This is one of those changes.

The Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA) is working with the provincial government on changes to the Condominium Property Act. This is one item they are working on and their position is: “Condominium owners should have a right to documents pertaining to their property, without paying additional fees.” The full article can be read here.

AREA estimates that Albertans will spend $3.2M this year to obtain documents that are rightfully theirs. You can help support this issue by contacting your MLA – find them here!

-Amie