Secretary overwhelmed by record keeping

L.R. writes:

Dear Paul: Our condo corporation will soon be 13 years old.  I have been condominium board secretary beginning with construction.  At that time, the board would meet once a week, now we meet 10 times per year.  The volume of board meeting minutes, financial statements, AGM package copies, insurance records, etc. is becoming overwhelming.  How long should records be kept?  Can records be kept electronically?  Who should keep what?  We have changed management companies three times in the past five years.  I am worried that some documents might be/have been “lost in translation”.  I have brought this issue up and was told that no one monitors the way condominium corporations keep records so “it doesn’t really matter”.  I feel heavy responsibility in this regard.  Can you give us some advice, please? Thank you so much for your help.

Paul replies:

Dear L. R.: Congratulations on staying on as secretary for so long. You are a dedicated individual. I understand your concern with record keeping, it can be an onerous task taking much time and space. Records should be kept for at least two reasons. First, some documents must be kept for a certain length of time by law. Second, you should keep records to defend the corporation in the event of a challenge to a corporation’s action that may occur years later. So, how long should you keep them? It depends on the record itself. For example, the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) recommends keeping tax records for 6-7 years. Other records, however, may need to be kept longer. For example Board meeting minutes, audit reports, receipts for large items under warranty, receipts for work done around the building, reserve fund studies, insurance certificates, legal cases, and more. The question to ask yourself is: “Could this document be needed as proof sometime in the future?” Most medium to large sized companies have a “records retention policy” that lists all the types of documents they must keep and a safe to destroy date. Your accounting firm may be able to give you some advice in this regards.

Records can be kept electronically as long as that they contain the same information that can stand in place of the originals, that they are easily accessible and retrievable, and that the reproduction is clear and legible. A blurry record is of no value. Hard copy records can take up a lot of storage space. If kept electronically, I would recommend having at least two copies. One copy should be close at hand and the other kept in another location offsite as a backup should the working copy be destroyed.

Who should keep the records? This is entirely up to the organization. The Condominium Act places the responsibility on the shoulders of the Corporate Secretary. However, nothing prevents the board from delegating the task to a professional property management company.

Whoever told you that:” that no one monitors the way condominium corporations keep records so “it doesn’t really matter” is partially right. There are no condo police. But, you do have owners, and owners can ask to see the records. In addition, should the corporation ever be challenged and have to provide proof as a defense, you will need those records. I have a personal saying that “98% of the time you won’t need all the paperwork that crosses your path in life. The other 2% will make you pay for it.” Are you a risk taker?

Note: the Regulations made under the Manitoba Condominium Act. Schedule C of the regulation provides a list of documents that must be kept and how long each must be kept.



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