Owner Access to Records
Quite regularly, an owner (or a group of owners) will request access to certain records of their given Strata Corporation. The owner must be provided access under Section 36 of the Strata Property Act (SPA) and need only pay for the copy costs (with the Strata Corporation being charged the related administration time for staff to observe the records review, if so required). The most typical requests relate to financial records, copies of contracts, repair work and the like. However, every so often an owner will request access to a list of other owners in the building, and that can result in the Strata Council considering the motives of the owner right along with the requirements under the Act. Such requests may be made by those owners who disagree with a decision made by the Strata Council or the Ownership at large (such as a new bylaw or the approval to raise funds for specific work). Other times it is community development oriented in nature such as an invite to owners to participate in a neighbourhood cleanup. It can also be an owner who happens to be a financial planner/real estate agent/etc. looking for clients, an angry drug dealer wanting to know information about the people complaining about them, or someone else with questionable motives. Whatever the case may be, Council needs to consider the request carefully, in a very timely manner and with due consideration to the related legislation. While the Privacy of Information and Protection Act (PIPA) sets certain limitations on the dissemination of private information, SPA quite clearly outlines the Strata Corporation’s obligation on this matter.
Section 36 of SPA details the owner’s right to access certain records that the Strata Corporation is required to hold and reads as follows (our emphasis added):
Access to records
36 (1) On receiving a request, the strata corporation must make the records and documents referred to in section 35 available for inspection by, and provide copies of them to,
(a) an owner,
(b) a tenant who, under section 147 or 148, has been assigned a landlord’s right to inspect and obtain copies of records and documents, or
(c) a person authorized in writing by an owner or tenant referred to in paragraph (a) or (b).
(1.1) On receiving a request from a former owner, from a former tenant referred to in subsection (1) (b) or from a person authorized in writing by the former owner or former tenant, the strata corporation must, with respect to records and documents referred to in section 35 that, whenever created, relate to the period during which the former owner or former tenant was an owner or tenant, make those records and documents available for inspection by, and provide copies of them to, the former owner, former tenant or person authorized in writing, as the case may be.
(2) On receiving the request of a tenant, or a person authorized in writing by a tenant, the strata corporation must
(a) make the bylaws and rules available for inspection, and
(b) provide copies of the bylaws and rules.
(3) The strata corporation must comply with a request under subsection (1), (1.1) or (2) within 2 weeks unless the request is in respect of bylaws or rules, in which case the strata corporation must comply with the request within one week.
(4) The strata corporation may charge a fee for a copy of a record or document provided under this section of not more than the amount set out in the regulations and may refuse to supply the copy until the fee is paid.
Section 35 (only a portion of which is included below) details exactly which records the strata is required to hold (and thus are required to allow access to per section 36). For the purposes of this discussion relating to owner’s contact information, section 35(1)(c)(i) is noted below (again, our emphasis added):
35 (1) The strata corporation must prepare all of the following records:
(a) minutes of annual and special general meetings and council meetings, including the results of any votes;
(b) a list of council members;
(c) a list of
(i) owners, with their strata lot addresses, mailing addresses if different, strata lot numbers as shown on the strata plan, parking stall numbers, if any, and unit entitlements,
(ii) names and addresses of mortgagees who have filed a Mortgagee’s Request for Notification under section 60,
(iii) names of tenants, and…
Note that the requirement under section 35(1)(c)(i) for the Strata Corporation to maintain a list of owners with their mailing addresses does not also include a list of phone numbers, email addresses, etc., so there is no reason we’re aware of that a Strata Council should be distributing such information even if it is available. It is very possible that doing so might violate an owner’s reasonable expectation of privacy.
Balancing the requirements of SPA to release records and the privacy requirements of PIPA is a tricky proposition and one that is potentially fraught with concerns and potential extenuating difficulties. Stratawest is able to provide some guidance based upon our knowledge and experience, but at the end of the day we must take direction from the Strata Council. In the event that a Strata Council is uncomfortable in releasing records to an owner for whatever reason (an example is the above-noted fear that the records would be used for marketing purposes) then legal advice should always be sought, and certainly well within the two week deadline provided by section 36(3).