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Condo bill would toughen rules for document access

State legislators are being urged to toughen a law governing condominium boards so condo owners will have better access to basic financial information.

Current rules require condo associations to make insurance policies, balance sheets, and other documents available to homeowners, but there are no penalties for failing to comply.

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Condo owners often need their associations’ financial information to refinance or put their homes up for sale. Before approving a refinancing, a lender generally wants to know how many units are vacant and how many are rented, along with other details, said Bruce Spitzer, spokesman for the Massachusetts Bankers Association.

A bill that has already passed in the Senate would require associations to pay legal expenses if a a condo owner has to go to court to obtain documents. But with a little over a week remaining until the end of the legislative session, the measure is stalled in a House committee.

“This is a common-sense bill,” said Meredith Keane, who owns a condo in West Yarmouth. “It’s time to update the statute.”

Keane said she spent nine months battling her condo board over access to the complex’s insurance policy.

Frank Lombardi, president of the New England chapter of the Community Associations Institute, said the group worries the bill could result in frivolous legal action being taken against condo boards.

‘This is a common-sense bill. It’s time to update the statute.’

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“While we absolutely are open to making those records available, we’re concerned about people exploiting it,” Lombardi said. “We think the [existing] statute is fine.”

Another condo owner, Jill Dennard, said that on July 1 she requested several documents from the company that manages her complex in Hull, but she has yet to get a response. Dennard said she needs the paperwork to sell her two-bedroom oceanside unit.

“A couple of weeks, when you’re selling a home, can mean the difference between someone buying or walking away,” she said. “It’s just basic financial information. To not give it to me is just mind-boggling.”

Deborah Jones, vice president of Dartmouth Group, which manages the Hull development, said Dennard can go to the firm’s Bedford office to view the records.

“It’s important for homeowners to be able to have access to records,” Jones said.

Dartmouth Group manages 90,000 units across 75 condo associations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

“I have heard of owners who have not been able to get documents from their associations, but we have always made them available,” Jones said. “All of the larger management companies are set up to do this.”

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey
@globe.com
. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.
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