Q&A: Can We Force an Audit?

Q. My condo bylaws state that an annual audit must be performed, but our board won’t do them, leading us to suspect something may be amiss. What can we do?

                               —Suspicious Owner

A. “The ‘Condominium Statute,’ Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 183A, gives you the right to pay for the audit yourself,” says Ellen Shapiro, a partner at Goodman, Shapiro & Lombardi, LLC, a law firm with offices in Dedham, Massachusetts and Lincoln, Rhode Island. “Whoever is responsible for maintaining the financial records must cooperate by providing that information to you. While that won’t make your association obey its bylaws, it will provide you with the information you want.

“However, before you go through that expense (and you also have to pay any expenses incurred by management in providing the information you need to do that), you might want to start by asking the association to conduct a review. The Statute requires a review to be done annually by an independent CPA in associations with more than 50 units. If your request is denied, you could file suit — because this is the unusual situation where if you win, the association would have to pay your legal fees. 

“This possibility alone might make your association rethink its failure to comply with its own bylaws (If the association is less than 50 units, the review must be done when voted on by a majority of the unit owners.) You could also consult with an attorney who specializes in condominium law if you prefer to find a way to compel the board to obey the bylaws and have the audit performed. 

“Of course, if all else fails, you can try to get your fellow owners to vote in a new board.” 

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