Condominium owners, who for years have tried to alter aging laws governing how housing associations make records available, brought their complaints to Beacon Hill Tuesday.

Molly Dunn testified that she's spent "quite a bit of money" to force her association trustees and management company to give her access to receipts for work done on her unit.

"It's like pulling teeth to get anything," Molly Dunn testified at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Housing.

In the end, Dunn said, it took seven months and seven legal letters to her community's officials to get the information, which she says the law already stipulates that she should have access to. The bill she supports, S. 723 from Sen. Dan Wolf (D-Harwich,) would make associations pay for an owner's legal fees when found not to be compliant with the law about document access.

This was the third time the bill had been heard by the Housing Committee, according to Meredith Keane, a Yarmouth condo owner has worked for years with Wolf to get the change made law and force condo associations to reveal documents or pony up for the legal fees incurred by complainants.

Keane said the law, first passed in 1952, needs to be brought into the 21st Century.

"The statute, though antiquated, is clear. Condominium records must be kept and available at all times to owners who request them. Period. No exceptions. The fly in the ointment is, there's no accountability to the condo board of managers if they don't comply with the statute," Keane told the panel, chaired by Rep. Kevin Honan (D-Brighton) and Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester.) 

The only recourse owners have to get to the records is to sue, she said.

Keane has an unromantic understanding of the way legislation makes its way to the governor's desk or dies trying somewhere in the Legislature's dark and dusty corridors.

"The last session when we filed it, it reported out favorably. It went through the Senate, it was enacted," Keane said. Then Wolf's legislation got to the House where the bill's progress came to an abrupt and unceremonious end in the Third Reading Committee, where bills that don't have enough support for floor votes - or that are quietly opposed by powerful lawmakers - go to die.

"It had no opposition until it got to Third Reading. I didn't find out why or who, but, obviously it has support because we've gone from 16 cosponsors to 35. So hopefully this time it'll finally get enacted," Keane said.

"Condominiums are like small towns. The owners, obviously, of a condominium elect a board of trustees to run the condominium just like you have your board of selectmen or city council," Matthew Gaines, an attorney from the Community Associations Institute, a national trade organization that works with builders, managers and homeowners of condominium communities, told the panel.

If the owners don't like the policies of the association board, well then they can just vote them out of office.

Gaines argued against holding condo associations to one set of rules mandated by the state because, he said, all associations are unique. Gaines said Wolf's bill should be tweaked to protect condo associations from overly burdensome requests for records from long periods of time and to stipulate in the bill that the prevailing party, not just the unit owner, should be award legal fees in cases of records compliance.

Gaines told lawmakers that survey data suggests the vast majority are satisfied with their condo associations and do not wish to see more regulations added to how they operate. He said that since owners vote for their own representatives within the associations, they, and not the government, are best suited to mediate problems that come up.