Richard LeCouffe has been a lawyer since 1976. He is a graduate from the Université de Montréal, from which institution he received his law degree (LL.L.) in 1974.
During his career, although Me LeCouffe was mostly involved in labour and employment law affairs and negotiating labour collective agreements, he also had the opportunity to become very familiar with condominium law. Among other things, he has contributed in the writing of many articles, books, conferences, memoirs and legal procedures on the latter subject.
May 19, 2015 - I am sometimes asked for how long documents filed in the co-ownership register should be kept by the syndicate. This is a fair question, since the legislator has given no explicit directions on this subject in the Civil Code.
It could be that its silence means, "You must keep everything, permanently !” As far as I am concerned, I rather lean in that direction.
The Code provides in essence that the syndicate (i.e., the Board of Directors) must keep the list of its members, as well as "the books and records necessary for its proper functioning" and specifies that the co-owners must have access to them (section 342 C.c.Q). For its part, section 1070 C.c.Q. lists various documents that must be kept or kept up to date by the syndicate (see my previous three publications on register’s record keeping).
For how long should they be safeguarded?
The legislator did not indicate a minimum retention period. It should be remembered, however, that the preservation of the registers implies first and foremost acting as a “responsible” person. One must also keep in mind that these registers belong to the syndicate, a legal person entirely distinct from its members, having its own powers and duties. The directors of the co-ownership can therefore not act in the same manner as for their personal documents. In my opinion, it is wise to be very careful before destroying any document from the registers of co-ownership. These registers contain:
Insofar as the documents in this second category, I think they should also be kept in perpetuity for the most part. Apart from the registers of co-owners and tenants, which must be kept up-to-date in a meticulous manner, it might be feasible to archive some documents, where possible (in paper or electronic form) or to store them, as the years go by and the filing cabinets overflow.
What is most important, in my opinion, is to preserve the possibility to consult these documents. One should therefore consider making a backup copy, by transferring them on an electronic media when possible. Records or CD’s must be stored in safe and secure locations; they must however remain accessible for consultation.
Let’s nevertheless be “practical". Are there documents of the second category that can be disposed of, after a few years, without risking harming the syndicate? I would say yes, on a very limited basis.
Hereunder is, in my opinion, what every well run syndicate should minimally do, in terms of retention of documents kept in the register:
As directors, you do not have the right to destroy or dispose of documents that are still valid or could be useful, thereby putting at risk or affecting negatively the syndicate’s operation or rights. In doubt, one preserves, one does not destroy. Instead, focus on archiving or storage in a dry location unlikely to be flooded (avoiding the basement or garage floor), away from a source of heat. Consider archiving on electronic media in a safe location, away from magnetic fields or extreme temperatures.
Incidentally, when decisions are made to destroy documents from the co-ownership register (invoices, checks and bank statements, etc.), they are to be shredded before recycling. One does not put them directly in the garbage or recycling bin, to avoid any possible identity theft.
Richard LeCouffe, Lawyer
1801, avenue McGill College
Montréal (Québec) H3A 3H3
Tél. : (514) 335-9595 / sans frais 855 633.6326
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