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Are residents entitled to see condo/co-op board documents?

New York condominium unit owners and co-op shareholders are now going to have increased access to certain condo and co-op board documents. These include financial statements, legal documents, invoices and receipts and well as contact information of residents.

That was the decision of an appellate court in a case brought by a unit owner of a condo on 52nd Street. She's been fighting a legal battle since 2011 to gain access to her condo boards records because she suspected serious mismanagement by the board. She was also seeking contact information for other unit owners so that she could share information she learned with them.

Last year the New York Supreme Court ruled in the plaintiff's favor, stating that she could have whatever board documents she wanted "to the extent that her demand for them was made in good faith and for a proper purpose." The condo board appealed that decision.

The appellate court ruling included some stipulations that the earlier ruling didn't. Apart from allowing for redaction for privacy purposes, it requires the unit owner or shareholder to go to the board office, inspect the documents and make copies as desired, as opposed to just requesting that the board turn them over.

The ruling left some details vague. For example, the board can require residents who examine or copy documents to sign a confidentiality agreement that could prevent them from being able to share the information. It also upheld the earlier stipulation that a person have a "legitimate purpose" for seeking such records. However, the meaning of that term can be open to interpretation.

Condo and co-op boards can still attempt to deny access to documents if they believe there is "ill intent," as one of the board's attorneys noted. Condo and co-op boards who encounter requests for information may want to consult with their board attorneys to help ensure that they are in compliance with the law as well as the privacy rights of their residents.

Source: Habitat Magazine, "Courts Open the Vault to Co-op and Condo Documents," Marianne Schaefer, accessed Dec. 09, 2016

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