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Di Felice v. Wentworth Standard Condominium Corporation No. 379 - 2023 ONCAT 77 - 2023-06-06

Corporation:

DFWSCC 379

Date:

2023-06-06

Under:

CAT Decisions - Decision
Access to Records
Entitlement to Records
Fees, Costs, Penalties

Summary:

In the case of Di Felice v. Wentworth Standard Condominium Corporation No. 379, the applicant sought access to certain records, specifically legal invoices for the years 2017 to October 19, 2022. The condominium corporation denied the request, citing exemptions under the Condominium Act, 1998, and solicitor-client privilege. The tribunal found that the applicant was entitled to redacted copies of the legal invoices, allowing for transparency while protecting privileged information. The tribunal also determined a reasonable fee for redaction and ordered the corporation to reimburse the applicant for the cost of filing the application. However, no penalty was imposed on the corporation.

Verdict:

In the case of Di Felice v. Wentworth Standard Condominium Corporation No. 379, the tribunal found that the applicant, a unit owner, is entitled to receive redacted copies of the condominium corporation's legal invoices for the years 2017 to October 19, 2022. The tribunal also determined that the corporation can charge a reasonable fee for the cost of redacting these records, up to $187.50, along with photocopying costs of $0.20 per page. The applicant was successful in her application, and the corporation was ordered to reimburse her the filing fee, but no penalty was imposed on the corporation.




Takeaways:

Key Takeaways from Di Felice v. Wentworth Standard Condominium Corporation No. 379 (2023 ONCAT 77):

Entitlement to Records: The case centered around a unit owner's request for access to specific records related to legal invoices of a condominium corporation. The decision reaffirms that unit owners are generally entitled to access to records, balancing the rights of unit owners and the condominium corporation.

Redacted Records: The ruling highlights the importance of redacting sensitive information to protect solicitor-client privilege while ensuring transparency and accountability. Redacted records should strike a balance between revealing essential financial information and protecting confidential legal details.

Reasonable Fees: Condominium corporations may charge reasonable fees for the cost of redacting records and providing copies to unit owners. The decision outlines the factors to consider when determining such fees.

Reimbursement for Successful Applicants: If a unit owner is successful in their application before the Condominium Authority Tribunal, the condominium corporation may be ordered to reimburse the unit owner for the cost of filing the application.

Penalties: A penalty may be ordered against a condominium corporation that unreasonably refuses to provide records to unit owners. In this case, the tribunal found that the refusal was not without a reasonable excuse, and thus, no penalty was ordered.




Recommendations: 

Compliance with the Tribunal's Order: Wentworth Standard Condominium Corporation No. 379 should comply with the Tribunal's order promptly. This includes providing the Applicant with redacted copies of the requested legal invoices within thirty (30) days of receiving the required fees. They should ensure that the redaction process is conducted in accordance with the Tribunal's guidelines to protect solicitor-client privilege while providing transparency.

Billing Transparency and Record-Keeping: In order to avoid future disputes over access to records, the corporation should maintain clear and transparent financial records, especially concerning legal expenditures. They should consider providing regular updates to unit owners on legal matters and related expenses, as long as these updates do not breach solicitor-client privilege. This approach aligns with the "open book principle" mentioned in the case.

Legal Expense Management: The condominium corporation should consider adopting cost-effective practices for legal expense management. This could include negotiating reasonable legal fees, reviewing invoices for accuracy, and clearly segregating legal costs that relate to unit owners or the corporation as a whole. Effective management of legal expenses can help maintain trust and accountability between unit owners and the corporation.

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