State maintains registration information online
The City Council recently scrapped condo and townhome association registration fees it has charged since the mid-1970s.
The city had required condo and townhome associations to register so housing inspectors knew whom to contact to fix code violations, such as a fence problem or subpar siding, said Janine Atchison, district supervisor with Housing Inspections Services. The fees ranged from $20 to $100 a year per building, depending on size.
It turns out the Minnesota Secretary of State's office already collects the same contact information accessible by the city for $3 to $6 per request.
The Council was set to vote to on a new fee structure Feb. 13 when City Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward), a condo owner herself, moved to eliminate the fees. Her motion passed 12-0 after she told her colleagues the state already had the information.
City Inspections staff had proposed to make the system fairer by charging per-unit instead of per-building. (So two complexes with the same number of units would pay the same registration fee regardless of how many buildings each had.)
The staff-proposed change generally would have increased condo registration fees, decreased townhome fees and decreased total city revenue from approximately $16,000 to $12,000 a year. (The city has also begun to license rental units in condos and townhomes. The new rental license fees were expected to close the gap.)
Councilmember Dan Niziolek (10th Ward) authored the change, and Goodman fought it from the outset.
Goodman said she asked Niziolek the day of the vote if he would agree to eliminate the fee if she could find another way to get the same information -- and she said he agreed.
Goodman said she asked her aid, Doug Kress, to check the Secretary of State's Web site for condo registration information.
Within 5 minutes, Goodman said Kress had a copy of the form all nonprofit corporations -- including condo and townhome associations -- must file annually with the Secretary of State.
It has the name and address of the corporate president and relevant contact information.
Eliminating the city's condo and townhome registration saved taxpayers $12,000, Goodman said. "I know it seems like a little victory, but it is a big point," she said. "The city doesn't always have to do everything and regulate everything, when other units of government are doing similar things."
Goodman and her staff had not looked into the details of how the city would get the information, she said. "Now, obviously, the [city] staff will be more motivated and look into it."
Atchison referred questions to Ricardo Cervantes, a district manager in Inspections. Cervantes said staff is regrouping.
"We will also look at the information that is being provided to the state, seeing if that information will satisfy our needs in regards to what we need for registrations."
The Secretary of State's Web site provides some corporation information for free. For instance, a search of the site for 1200 on the Mall gives a file number, original date of filing, and a few other details -- but no contact information.
Kent Kaiser, communications director for the Secretary of State, said the information is available online or by mail for a $3 to $6 fee. The state does not waive the fee for local government, he said.