Q&A: Accessing Maintenance Records

Q. Can I, a shareholder, get access to records of maintenance work for my own unit? I have been told by the property manager and a board member that the maintenance supervisor has claimed that certain maintenance work was done in my unit that in fact was never done. Our board does not require shareholder verification of claims of performance of maintenance work to their unit.

         —Do I Have a Right to See These?

A. “Most cooperative apartment corporation’s in New York are organized under the New York State Business Corporation’s Law (BCL),” says attorney Adam D. Finkelstein of the New York City firm Kagan Lubic Lepper Finkelstein & Gold, LLP. “Under those laws a shareholder’s right to access books and records is very limited.  Specifically pursuant to BCL, Section 624, a shareholder is only entitled, as a matter of right, to inspect the minutes from annual shareholders meetings and the shareholder list.  Most cooperative bylaws also require that the annual financial statements be provided.  Therefore the scope of what is required to be provided is very limited. Based solely on that statute, the letter writer would not have a right to see maintenance records for his or her apartment.  However, there is more to a shareholder’s rights than that statute (and bylaws) alone.  There is also a common law right of access to certain records.  That right, however, is somewhat qualified, insofar as the request must  be made by the shareholder in good faith and only to the extent they can establish that the inspection is for a proper purpose.  The general rule in this regard is that the shareholder’s common law right of inspection should be based on some property right, a controversy, or a specific and valuable interest that is in question that the inspection is necessary to resolve.  It is not clear from the question as to whether the shareholder has a sufficient basis to exercise their common law rights.  If the inquiry is based on their being charged for the repairs and they are questioning those charges, one could better make the argument in favor of allowing such access, as that would allow them to verify the appropriateness of those charges.  If the request was for a more vague purpose, such as merely confirming if repairs had been made, then denial of the request would seem to be more appropriate.”

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