Condominium corporations inevitably collect personal information. This information includes the name, address and phone numbers of owners and residents. Corporations may also collect information related to the lease of units, owner’s arrears or breaches of governing documents. In fact, Condominium corporations are mandated by the Condominium Act to collect such information and in many cases to retain it.
So a question that regularily comes up is whether PIPEDA applies to condominium corporations. For the reasons stated below, I am of the view that it does not.
What is PIPEDA?
PIPEDA is the acronym for the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. It is a federal piece of legislation which “applies to every organization in respect of personal information that the organization collects, uses or discloses in the course of commercial activities”. A commercial activity means “any particular transaction, act or conduct or any regular course of conduct that is of a commercial character, including the selling, bartering or leasing of donor, membership or other fundraising lists”.
The relationship between the condominium corporation and its owners/residents is not of a commercial nature. Moreover, in my view, the condominium’s collection and use of personal information is legislated under its own code: the Condominium Act. This Act fairly exhaustively indicates what kind of information must be collected and for what purpose. It also legislates, in many cases, the period of time during which such information must be preserved. Finally, it also provides for the circumstances in which owners can access such information.
How did the Privacy Commissioner deal with this in the past?
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta ruled specifically on whether the inclusion of personal information in condominium minutes breached PIPEDA. In this particular case, the Commissioner indicated that minutes are used to record the actions and decisions of the condominium corporation. The Commissioner appeared to be of the view that, provided that the condominium is acting within and in compliance with its duties under the Alberta Condominium Act, there would be no breach of PIPEDA. The Commissioner went further, indicating that the owners and the corporation are the same entity.
What is interesting in this case is that the Commissioner stated that his ruling did not mean that condominium minutes were never subject to PIPEDA. The Commissioner rather concluded that, so long as the condominium corporation was carrying out its duties or powers under the Act and provided that it did not include in the minutes personal information which was extraneous or irrelevant to carrying out those duties and powers, the corporation would generally not be in breach of PIPEDA by recording and disclosing minutes.
Discretion is still the key to success
Still, a corporation should be prudent and treat confidential information with the utmost care and sensitivity. Let’s not forget that information pertaining to a specific unit falls squarely within one of the categories which is excluded from general access to other owners.