Those of us who work with condo corporations often grumble that unit owners have no appreciable knowledge or understanding of the declaration, by-laws or rules that govern their condominium.  Indeed, if you ask any 100 (or 1,000 or 10,000) unit owners whether they have ever read those documents, the overwhelming majority will candidly tell you that they have not.  While there are many different reasons why owners fail to even attempt to learn how their condominium works and what is expected of them, at least one of those reasons is squarely the fault of the corporation itself.

I cannot possibly count the number of crappy condo document packages (whether or not accompanied by a status certificate) that have crossed my desk over the past decade that featured one or more of the following cardinal sins:

1.   Include by-laws or rules that have been repealed (despite the fact that s. 76(1)(f) of the Condo Act requires copies of the current declaration, by-laws and rules);

2.   Include old (but un-repealed) by-laws exhibiting ancient management agreements or insurance trust agreements that have long since been superseded (even though while seemingly required by s. 76(1)(f), these items can probably be omitted as being irrelevant and of no value whatsoever to anyone);

3.   Contain draft, altered or forged versions of the declaration and by-laws – Honest to God, we often encounter condominiums whose boards are using declarations and by-laws that are materially different than those registered on title!;

4.   Exhibit superfluous documents like first year budgets (for a 20 year-old condo) or any other materials that are expired or are not strictly required by s. 76(1);

5.   Are incomplete because they’re missing vital documents or useful pages of any document;

6.   Feature any documents without proper page numbering;

7.   If in hard copy, feature no table of contents or include no tabs to separate the documents;

8.   If delivered electronically, do not contain an electronic content page or bookmarks (or are not included in a “PDF portfolio”);

9.   Are printed single-sided (such a waste!) or are poorly bound;

10.   If electronic, are not scanned for optical character recognition (OCR) and are therefore not keyword searchable, or are scanned at improper settings, causing gargantuan file sizes (over 2 megabytes);

11.   If the documents are bound separately from a dated status certificate, do not bear a date that the package was last revised, making it impossible to tell if, many years later, the documents have ever been superseded; and

12.  Include dozens of useless pages listing all the Property Identification Numbers of the various units to which the by-law is registered. While it’s handy to include the main registration page with the critical details, there’s no need to include the other pages that simply list PINs, and I will rant another day about the completely unsatisfactory state of the documents generated by the Teranet electronic land registration system.

Have you seen any other common blunders in making status certificate packages?   Let me know by adding a comment.

Though some might argue that the answer is in delivering materials electronically, I’m not so sure.  As seen above, packing up these materials in an electronic PDF file is no guarantee of a usable package. In fact, it is just as easy (and maybe easier) to deliver a terrible package in electronic format as a hard copy.   If the contents are not carefully selected, double-checked and produced, an electronic document package can contain virtually all of the faults listed above.

Admittedly, the measly fee that the Condo Act prescribes ($100 inclusive of 13% HST) for issuing status certificates does not lend itself to generating a high-quality product, but many professional condo management firms deliver document packages that are concise, easy to use and will serve as a handy, functional reference to the unit owner for years to come.   Those firms recognize that the document package is reflective of their building and the good care that they take of it and the way they serve their members.  This concept would catch on like wildfire if it was perceived as a way to increase market value.

Pick up a copy of your current status certificate package and ask yourself if you’d care to read it.  If not, strike a committee to review the package for accuracy and to find ways to improve it and enhance the production values.   Then generate a good electronic package to distribute in response to status certificate requests and, since it’s sitting there, send each of your owners and residents a copy.

While delivering a well-prepared document package is no guarantee that a unit owner or prospective purchaser will ever read the materials, the effort is worthwhile if it removes a major obstacle to owners understanding their condominium and their rights and obligations.  More importantly, it will eliminate one legitimate excuse for owners being ignorant of these important documents.