Condominium Document Retrieval Fees are something the one doesn’t very often consider or investigate the true cost of, until it is too late. The reason being is that condominium unit holders seldom are even aware they exist until they go to sell their unit. At that time, they often discover they have to fork up several hundred dollars more than they had budgeted for, in order to get replacement set because they never received them or they received them and just chucked them in the garbage.
This is very unfortunate. Condominium Boards often know little about hiring a Condominium Management Company and I doubt the topic of Condominium Documents seldom, if ever comes up during the negotiation and selection of a Condominium Management Company. I have read more than a few of these Condominium Management Agreements and most of them do not specifically mention charging the unit holders for providing these documents to the unit holders. Instead they usually contain a vague clause reverencing that they may be reimbursed for reasonable expenses, without any definition of what is reasonable and what is an expense.
The costs to provide these condominium documents is not insignificant. Most Condominium Management Companies charge substantial fees to provide a full set of documents. The cost per unit holder upon sale of their unit most often is in the range of $500 – $750 per set. This provides a very good additional income stream to the Management Company and the Condo Corporation is not usually even aware of it since they bill directly to the end user. Individual items are charged out as per their schedule. For example a one page Insurance Certificate (Valid for one year) usually goes for $20.00 and a one page Disclosure Letter averages $125.00. They may sell that same Certificate dozens of times throughout the year to individual unit holders, and yet they most often prohibit real estate agents from providing the same document the agent may have on file, free of charge. Surcharges are levied by the condominium management companies for one day delivery and provides for an up-charge in the range of 50%. This is totally unacceptable in my view, as all the documents could and should be made available by the Condo Board for free to their unit holders and updated as new documents come out.
The Condominium Management Companies claim that much of the information, such as board minutes ($15.00 per meeting each) Reserve Fund Studies etc. are too costly to distribute to every unit holder. The fact of the matter is that these documents should be made available online, free of charge to all unit holders and/or their agents acting on behalf of the unit holders. This could be done very easily in most cases and practically as easily as saving a file to a disk. On the contrary, these management companies so relish this additional income stream. Many will provide the documents by way of a signed agreement for a one-use only basis. This means that even if you have the documents on file, one must buy them again. No doubt they will claim privacy issues.
Condominium unit holders need to be more aware, and more diligent in communicating their concerns about Condominium Document Fees with their Board of Directors. I can almost guarantee you that the topic has never been brought up, and as a consequence, unit holders are compelled to pay thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in additional cumulative fees over and above what they are already paying for in their monthly condominium fees, upon sale of their condo. In some cases, for example when a disclosure letter is required, this has to be prepared on an as-needed basis. In these instances a fee of $25.00 would be more reasonable than $150, and ought to be negotiated and provided by the board. Every Condominium Board should review their entire Condominium Document Retrieval system and see if it is inline with their mandate, and is in the best interest of the unit holders.
Condominium Documents are not always easily obtained. For example at time of this writing, at least one Calgary company, Montgomery Ross, does not even seem to have a means to order Condominium Documents online.
Failure to provide condominium documents in a timely manner can cause needless delays or even the collapse of a conditional sale, when time is of the essence.