The right of condo unit owners and co-op shareholders to inspect their building’s books and records and obtain lists of the names of their neighbors has existed for many years. Until recently, it was not a hotly litigated issue.
That all changed with the 2016 decision in Pomerance vs. McGrath, which expanded the rights of condominium unit-owners not only to inspect books and records but also to make copies of them – provided the unit-owner is seeking the information for a goodfaith purpose and agrees to sign a confidentiality agreement. That 2016 decision reaffirmed a 2013 finding in the same case that a condominium board is required to provide a requesting unit-owner with “a list of unit-owners and their contact information.” The scope of what constitutes “contact information” has not been addressed by the courts. As an attorney for many years, I have been involved in several disputes that have arisen with respect to the disclosure of unit-owners’ email addresses.
On the one hand, email is probably the most common form of communication today, and if the underlying intent is to give owners the opportunity to communicate with their neighbors, then it would seem that email addresses ought to be included in “contact information.” On the other hand, unlike mailing addresses or phone numbers, email addresses are not public records. When they’re provided to a managing agent, they’re given with some expectation that they will not be freely disseminated to third parties.
Work emails in some industries are regulated and occasionally monitored. Even if a unit-owner’s email address is not subject to such limitations, there might be a fundamental desire on the part of the unit-owner not to be bombarded with emails from a disgruntled neighbor who doesn’t like the color of the new hallway carpeting. Moreover, there is a danger that once email addresses are provided to a unit-owner who requests them, that person can be the victim of cybercrime, and the email address could fall into the wrong hands.
These competing interests require a balancing of the equities – at least until there is some judicial or legislative clarification of the issue.
Robert Braverman is a partner at the law firm of Braverman Greenspun.