Q&A: Are residents allowed to see voucher payments?

This question relates to vouchers. The management firm of our condo building will not let the unit owners see vouchers authorizing payments. They will only show us their internal ledger book. The Board of Managers does nothing to aid the unit owners by either telling the firm to release the data, or threaten to cancel their contract for non conformance to the bylaws and the Condominium Law 9B of the New York State RPL. What advice do you give to us? We are 10 unit owners of a total of 108 who are interested in seeing who authorized payments for specific expenses.

                               —Seeking Action

“The determination of who shall be granted access to the books and records of a condominium and if entitled, what they shall receive, is governed by the Condominium Act (New York State Real Property Law Article 9B) and the bylaws of the condominium,” says Dennis H. Greenstein, a partner at New York law firm of Seyfarth Shaw, LLP.

“The Condominium Act provides at 339-w, Books of receipts and expenditures: availability for examination. “The manager or board of managers, as the case may be, shall keep detailed, accurate records, in chronological order, of the receipts and expenditures arising from the operation of the property. Such records and the vouchers authorizing the payments shall be available for examination by the unit owners at convenient hours of weekdays. A written report summarizing such receipts and expenditures shall be rendered by the board of managers to all unit owners at least once annually.”

“Typical sections of provisions in the bylaws of condominiums relating to receipts and expenditures are as follows:

“The Board (or the Managing Agent) shall keep detailed records of the actions of the Board, minutes of the meetings of the Board, minutes of the meetings of the Unit Owners, and financial records and books of account with respect to the activities of the Board, including a listing of all receipts and expenditures.”

“Within four months after the end of each fiscal year, an annual report of receipts and expenditures, prepared by an independent certified public accountant or an independent certified public accounting firm, shall be submitted by the Board to all Unit Owners, and Permitted Mortgagees of Units, who have requested the same in writing.

“Since the Condominium Act and likely the bylaws of the condominium require the Board of Managers to maintain and permit the unit owners to inspect the receipt and expenditures arising from the operation of the property and to receive annual audited financial statements showing all receipts and expenses, the managing agent must make available to the unit owners the inspection of the vouchers. Even if the bylaws of the condominium of the letter writer are inadequate regarding the requirement to make the vouchers available, the Condominium Act mandates permitting their examination.

“The managing agent is hired by the Board of Managers on behalf of the unit owners of the condominium. If the Board of Managers has advised the managing agent to make the vouchers available and/or to carry out the duties under its management agreement and the managing agent fails to do so, such action may be a basis for terminating the management agreement.

“If legal action were taken by the unit owners against the Board of Managers to seek the review of the financial records, the failure to provide information and documents to unit owners which are specifically required by the Condominium Act or the bylaws of the condominium would not protect the Board of Managers from the court’s review under the business judgment rule.

“If the Board of Managers declines a unit owner’s request to review the vouchers as provided for in the bylaws and the Condominium Act and/or fails to provide an annual report of receipts and expenses, the letter writer could request a special meeting of the unit owners. The bylaws of the condominium will provide the minimum percentage of common interests owned by unit owners required to call a meeting. The request should state that the purpose of the meeting is to obtain the receipts and expenses of the condominium. Again, it is likely that a court would question the Board of Manager’s refusal to provide the information since such refusal is contrary to the board’s fiduciary obligations.

“In addition to the above actions, if a sufficient number of unit owners feel that the Board of Managers is not carrying out its duties, they can seek to elect a new Board of Managers at the annual meeting or at a special meeting of the unit owners.”

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