Where does the money go? Condo budget lack of detail concerns owner

D.P. writes:

Dear Paul:

The annual budget provided to the condo owners in our building is a summary of the detailed budget. The detailed budget, which we do not receive, has budget amounts for each  account such as water, electricity, snow clearing, grounds, carport sweeping and many more at that account level.

The budget we do receive has summary totals of numerous of these accounts.

These summary totals are expressed in two lines – repairs and maintenance is one line, utilities is the second line. This summary budget provides very little information with which to understand where our money is to be spent.

The detailed budget provides good information and properly informs users as to where our money is being spent.

Which type of budget is being used in other condos?

Which type of budget would you recommend?

What format is required by the Legislation?

Paul replies:

Dear D.P.:

I am sad to hear that your board does not provide you with the budget information you would like to receive. I am surprised as to how little information is provided. I agree with you that you should be informed as to where your money is being spent. This is information that you have a right to have.

To my knowledge, the Manitoba Condominium Act does not provide a particular format that a budget must follow. However, it does state that

“(149(1) within 14 days after the board approves a budget, a condominium corporation must give each unit owner

                (a) written notice of any change to the unit owner’s contribution to the common elements; and   

                (b) upon request, a copy of the approved budget.”

I am not a CPA and cannot tell you if accounting best practices recommend a specific format. Each condo corporation being different, budgets may vary in format and content. The board controls how much information to distribute to unit owners. If owners are not satisfied with the detail received, the first step is to request the details ( I suggest that the request be made in writing ) if denied, the second step is to make a request to see a copy of the complete budget. As a condo owner, you are entitled to access any of the corporation’s files. The Act states:

“132(1) Upon request, a condominium corporation must, within a reasonable time, provide copies of its records to a unit owner, unit mortgagee, buyer or prospective buyer or an agent of any of them for examination. The corporation may charge a reasonable fee for labour and copying charges.”

I would hope that it does not get this far, and that the board recognizes its responsibility to keep owners informed. However, failing the above, if you can gather 25% of the ownership to indicate in writing that you wish to have a  special meeting to review budget details, the board should call a meeting. If it doesn’t, provided the request is in accordance with the Act and your governing documents, you could call a meeting yourself.

If your group has an agreement with a property management company to provide accounting services, supplying the details should not be a problem.

I would like to stress that unless your governing documents state otherwise, you probably won’t be given access to the monthly budget details. I agree with this practice. The board was elected to oversee the day-to-day operations. If everyone starts questioning individual expenditures ongoingly, chaos will soon follow.

What kind of information should a budget contain? It should be sufficiently detailed as you stated, “for you to know where you money is being spent?” 

 

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