Proper Record-Keeping Keeping a Paper Trail

Like any company, a multifamily residential community generates a lot of paperwork in the course of doing business, from employment records to tenant records and more. It can be an enormous amount of stuff to manage, and knowing what to keep—as well as what can be tossed —isn’t always obvious. In operating a multifamily community, though, it’s important to know what records must be discarded or kept, and for how long. Best practices and some laws dictate treatment of certain documents, and a building’s management-board team should at least be familiar with what goes where. 

Filing Paperwork

Understanding the difference between documents that should be destroyed immediately after their use at a board meeting, for example, and those that should be secured and saved for years to come is the responsibility of both the board and the property manager. Of course such decisions can be made with the help of their attorney, but all of these parties have a fiduciary responsibility to run the community as a business, which includes keeping records as long as needed. Keeping those records or disposing of them can not only keep administrators and community alike on the right side of the law, it can also help shield a building or association from some kinds of litigation. 

Some of the documents generated in the course of running a condo, co-op building or HOA include attorney correspondence, vendor contracts, blueprints, maintenance schematics and other equipment or operations and maintenance (O&M) manuals, floor plans, and more. A building’s governing documents, meeting minutes, tax information, and proofs of inspections often are also retained, says Patti Harris, special counsel for Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, a New York City law firm that also has offices in New Jersey and Stamford, Connecticut.

Some building records that should also be kept include leasing documents, emergency evacuation plans, shut-off valve maps, and a schematic of the building’s fire suppression system, says David Trask, business development representative for ARC Document Solutions, a document management and cloud-based hosting company headquartered in Walnut Creek, California, with more than 150 offices across the country, including three offices in New York City and one in Newark, New Jersey. “Oftentimes this stuff is in the construction documents and could also be in the tenant improvement documents,” Trask says. 

Other building documents that should be kept by management include water testing reports, asbestos reports, environmental plans, and warranties on equipment, Trask says. “All of that documentation has to live somewhere—often it’s on paper, in a storage room and not safe; though it would be safer in cloud storage,” he says.


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  • I live in a 112 unit condo complex that is managed by a professional property management firm. Recently, we had a change in the individual who actually manages our complex. After a few months, the new property manager had some sort of disagreement with our property handyman, and he fired him. The vast majority of the homeowners were taken aback, because in the past 20 years, we've had several incompetent and untrustworthy handymen, but the last one has been here over 5 years and he's good and nearly everyone likes what he does for the complex as well as what he does on his own time, and in their private condos, for them. No one on the board knew of the dismissal until after the fact, and it was never voted upon. The service company actually pays the individual, because the board chose to do it that way to avoid the extra paperwork of employment. Is there anything that we can do to get a hearing regarding this. Both the board and the management company say NO.