Purchasing a Condo Parking Space

B.W. from Tennessee writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I currently own two condos in Knoxville. The building is adjacent to a university and I purchased the condos for my kids to live in while in college. Each came with one deeded parking place. When the building was originally sold, buyers could choose to purchase an additional parking place. One owner who did so recently sold his unit and wants to sell his extra parking place. We have agreed on a price and I need to find a bill of sale. Also, I need to find out if there are any tax assessments on the parking spot. Any advice would be most appreciated. Thanks so much.

Mister Condo replies:

B.W., congrats on the kids heading off to college and congrats on the purchase of the two condo units. You would need to check with the local real estate records office to see what this unit owner actually owns before you negotiate a purchase price for the parking space. Generally speaking, if there are no improvements on the space (garage, carport) the parking space may be owned by the association and sold to the unit owner. Have there been any sales of such spaces since the original unit owners purchased? You might want to check with the Board or Property Management company to make sure these “parking space purchases” are transferrable or that the Board doesn’t have the right of first refusal on the sale. There should also be a title, and, just like any piece of real estate, a local land record can tell you more and you can likely check the tax status once you have the land record. Bottom line is to be careful. Just because someone sold you a bridge doesn’t mean you own the bridge! Good luck!

Condo Parking Space Reassigned After 17 Years!

C.E. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

In 1999, my mother purchased her condo and was assigned her parking spot. We have never had any issues with our personal parking spot. The only issue many condo resident have is lack of parking or abuse of parking spaces. Well we now are being told after 17 years that the spot was not assigned correctly and they are switching it with one of the other owners. I’m am super upset. Can they do this? Really? After so many years!

Mister Condo replies:

C.E., wouldn’t you and I love to get inside of the minds of the Board folks who determine that the best course of action is to reassign a unit owner’s parking space after almost 20 years? You would think they have better things to do and more important things to worry about. However, you have mentioned that this is a “mix-up” that has only recently come to light. Check your deed. Unless the exact parking space is deeded (part and parcel of the deed to the condo), the parking lots are owned and maintained by the association. As such, the Board is the governing body that makes any and all decisions with regards to association-owned parking lots. Your question is: Can they do this? The answer is that they most likely can. Should they do this? My answer is not unless absolutely necessary. You might want to look into why the decisions was made. It should be in the Minutes of a recent Board meeting. Did a neighboring unit owner request a handicapped accommodation? Was the lot repaved and spaces lost elsewhere? There may be a legitimate reason for the action. If you can’t find one, you are well within your right to request the space be given back although the Board is under no obligation to do so. Also, were you the only unit effected by the parking lot reassignment? If you can find enough other disgruntled unit owners, you might just want to mount a campaign to get some new folks on the Board who will return the parking spaces to the way they were. Bottom line is the Board very likely had the authority to reassign the space. It would be nice to know why they did it. All the best!

Fire and Feces Smearing Attack on Neighboring Condo Unit Owner!

J.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

This week a condo owner set her neighbor’s condo door on fire but, fortunately, the man inside was able to get out unharmed. The previous week she smeared her feces on his door, and 2 days later smeared cat poop on his door. When a police report was made, she would not open her door to the police. A few weeks before that she trashed her own condo and then called the superintendent and was very upset, claiming she came home to find her condo trashed and jewelry stolen. The police arrested her after the fire. There was white powder all over the door and on the floor which the police are trying to identify. Can she be charged if shown to be mentally unstable?

Mister Condo replies:

J.P., I am sorry for this troubling series of incidents at your condominium. When residents behave in such manner, the police are your best call to help alleviate the problem. I am not a law enforcement expert nor am I a legal expert by any stretch of the imagination. However, you should refer to your condominium’s governance documents about disallowed use of certain activities at your association. You may find some terminology about setting fires or illegal activity that may give the association the ability to take legal action against this resident and effectively have them evicted from the property. This is not a simple process and you will most certainly need assistance from the association’s attorney to determine if it is even possible or worth pursuing. Other than that, my advice is to stay vigilant. Unless this person is arrested or given the treatment they apparently need, they are a danger to themselves, fellow residents, and the association itself as any fire set by this person is likely to damage association property. I hope you and your fellow residents get a handle on this problem in short order. Good luck!

Condo Owner Resident Surrounded by Renters

A.C. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am in Florida and one of 2 owners in a 45-unit building. The other owner has turned the building into rental units what can we do to get out of our mortgage and make him pay?

Mister Condo replies:

A.C., thank you for writing and I am sorry you find yourself in a less than desirable situation. I am not 100% sure I understand your predicament. If there are only two owners in this building and an investor has purchased the remaining units, there isn’t too much you can do outside of reviewing the association’s governing documents to determine if any rules or by-laws have been broken by the owner who is renting out his units. It is possible that there is a limit or cap to how many units can be rented out at any one time but I doubt there are any restrictions on the owner that forbids him from renting units in general. As for your mortgage, that is between you and the bank who holds your mortgage. Mortgages are not the business of the association so you are on your own there. As for getting the multiple unit owner to pay, that sounds unlikely in my opinion. You may wish to speak to a community association attorney in your state for additional clarity but unless rules have been broken, you may just need to either put up with the renters (who still need to follow the rules of the community) or sell your unit to get out of your mortgage and out of the community. Good luck!

Who Pays to Repair a Water Pipe Leak in Concrete Slab Floor of Condo?

P.H. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo is over 30 years old located in Florida. We had a water pipe leak located under the concrete slab in the kitchen. Who is responsible for repairing and paying for work done? I had to hire a company to locate leak, remove concrete, repair leaky pipe, replace concrete. Total cost was: leak detection $395.00, plumber repair $300.00.

Mister Condo replies:

P.H., I am sorry you had a water pipe break in your unit. The answer to who should pay for the repair lies in your governance documents. If the association owns the concrete slab and/or the plumbing running through the slab, it may be their expense. If you own the slab and plumbing, it is your expense. For many associations, plumbing is considered a common element because it services multiple units. Have you asked your Board? My guess is you should have notified them of the leak and they should have hired the contractor and assumed the expense. Since you did this on your own, you may be on the hook for the cost or the association may offer a partial reimbursement. The good news is that your pipes are repaired and it only cost $695. It could have been far worse. Check your documents and see who owns the plumbing. That should prepare you in case this happens again. Good luck!

Condo Association Wants to Temporarily Take Back Handicapped Parking

L.J. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are a community of 400+ units with no “assigned” parking with a major portion of the homes being secondary homes. Each unit is allowed one space per unit. We have 20 handicap parking spots that were provided to those with handicap permits. The problem is that some of these handicap spots can be empty for periods of time with other full-time residents frustrated that they cannot use these empty spaces for additional family vehicles. Management has offered a solution of providing these spaces to other residents who are here by placing a “temporarily available” sign over the existing sign. When handicap residents are to arrive back, they can simply let us know to remove this sign. Are we breaking any ADA or Connecticut/Federal Laws?

Mister Condo replies:

L.J., to say parking is at a premium in your association would be an understatement. I am not an attorney so I cannot offer any legal advice here. Unless your association is bound by ADA limitation because of public facilities on the grounds, the association may be free to use its parking lot however it sees fit. There are exceptions so please speak with your community association attorney to make sure you aren’t in violation of any laws. The basic concept is that the association-owned common grounds are private property. That means they common grounds, like the parking lot, are under the management and control of the Board. The 20 handicap-assigned parking spots have been provided for the use of unit owners who have requested them and provided handicapped permits to back their request and the Board decided to grant the request. I applaud your Board for doing so, however, it is too bad they didn’t consider the needs of the 400+ non-handicapped unit owners when doing so. There may be no issue with doing what you have proposed. The only problem I can foresee is if a handicapped unit owner can’t find an available handicapped parking space when one is needed, they will likely complain to the Board, local officials, local television stations and anyone else who will listen. Whatever the Board decides it would like to do, I strongly suggest a quick phone call to the association’s attorney before creating a rule that could come back to haunt the community. Parking is and always will be a challenge for condos because too many residents have too many vehicles for too few spaces. Most condos were developed with one or two spaces per unit allotted. The reality is that many residents try to park three or four cars on association grounds creating congestion and frustration. Good luck!

Coast to Coast Damage – Florida Condo Unit Damaged by Neighboring Unit Owner from California

B.C. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in Seminole County, Florida and own a condo which my family and I occupy in a community of 150 units. Many of those units are owned by out-of-state or even out-of-country owners and managed by local property management companies. Our unit was damaged by the unit above us two months ago when that unit’s A/C air handler (original air handler, dating back to 1984) had its drain line back up (horribly clogged and not maintained), overflow and leak a considerable amount of water into our unit’s ceiling, walls and floor below. The unit is owned by someone in California, but it is managed by a local property management company. That company had initially agreed to pay for the damage to our unit, but has since reneged on that promise. Can I sue the management company in small claims court or do I have to sue the California owner? If it is the owner whom I must sue, can I have the process service done on the management company instead of having the owner served in Southern California? Please help if you can! Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

B.C., I am sorry your unit took damage from an improperly maintained air handler from a neighboring unit. I am not an attorney or an expert in Florida state law so I can only offer friendly advice here. Your claim should be against the unit owner. The unit owner needs to be served papers according to your state’s laws on such matters. My guess is that will require a certified letter from you (or your attorney should you decide to use one) and the owner of record according to your local real estate authority. After that, it is simply a question of working through the legal process of a hearing, which, from what you have told me, you would likely prevail. Ideally, the expense and inconvenience of a lawsuit can be avoided by the unit owner simply paying for the repairs or issuing a claim against any insurance they might have to either pay the claim or a portion thereof. In my opinion, you cannot have process service done against the management company because they don’t own the unit. Good luck!

Role of the HOA Board versus the Property Management Company

E.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Grateful to discover this resource! Looking for material that outlines the role of management versus the role of the HOA board. As president, I’m raising it as a priority for this year to seek balance, lessen frustration and increase communication between the two. We have a hi-rise with 24/7 staff. Our largest budget expense is the management contract and salaries and benefits. It’s also our largest source of waste if people aren’t clear on their roles. Direct me to best practices, please!

Mister Condo replies:

E.P., congratulations on taking charge of this issue. I am glad you found this resource as well. The basic information to impart on your unit owners and residents is that the management company acts as the Board’s agent in enforcing the rules and regulations of the association. The Board is the governing body that is responsible for all aspects of association governance and directs the work of the management company. The Board is solely responsible for the policies and rules that the management company enforces at the Board’s request. It is important to note that the Board is made up of democratically elected volunteer members of the HOA. The Management Company is employed by the Board. The best resource I am aware of discussing these roles is the Board Member Toolkit, a free download from the Community Associations Institute. Get the download here: https://www.caionline.org/_layouts/15/download.aspx?SourceUrl=/HomeownerLeaders/ResourcesforHomeownerLeaders/CAI.BoardMemberToolkit_2014.pdf I think you will find it perfect for what you are looking for! All the best!

Developer Delivers New Condo Unit with Clogged Toilet Lines

F.M. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I bought my condo in a development which is still under construction. I closed on and occupied the unit in October 2015. I have had ongoing issues with the toilet in my unit (there are 2 bathrooms, the other toilet is in proper working order). The builder/seller has replaced the toilet, had a “camera guy” inspect (contractor of his choosing) and claims there are no visible issues. In the meantime, the toilet still clogs at least once a week and the flush is hardly ever smooth (lots of non-normal sounding water flow). My question is about what my options are other than continuing to work through the builder and the contractors of his choosing, if any, since the condo is still clearly under warranty. I do not want to pay for service/repair that is clearly some form of issue with the plumbing from the beginning. However, I also do not want to void any warranty. The builder is not wanting to take responsibility for this or other issues that have been raised since I moved in (paint and other accommodations). Because the development is still building new units, the condo association is still under his control. This is a new experience for me so I want to be sure I handle it properly.

Mister Condo replies:

F.M., the developer control period of a condominium is an exciting time as construction is ongoing and brand new units like yours appear and the association takes on new life, new common areas, and new amenities. The developer’s primary job is to get the units built and sold at a profit. That often means saving pennies wherever possible. In your case, that may be with the plumbing that is causing an ongoing toilet clogging issue. You are wise not to attempt any repair on your own because you would void any warranty between you and the builder. Unless you are willing to undergo the expense of hiring an attorney to possibly bring suit against the developer for a possible construction defect claim, there is little else you can do. There is no association to complain to and this would not typically fall under the association’s responsibility. You may be able to hire your own plumbing or building inspector to get a second opinion but, even if you do, you will likely need legal guidance to assist if a defect claim is warranted. Speaking with an attorney to determine your rights is my best advice. During that conversation, bring up any other construction defect issues you are experiencing. Good luck!

Forcing a Unit Owner to Sell to Make Association Fannie Mae Compliant

M.B. from Southern California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

There are 51 units in my building in Southern California. I am aware of a Fannie Mae Guideline that states that no one owner can own more than 10% of the units. In my building, there is an owner who owns 13 units which is 25%+. Because of this, several sales (5 in the last 3 months) have fallen out because the buyers cannot get financing. Question is: is there a legal way for the HOA to sue that unit owner to get him to sell his units until he owns only 5 since he is preventing the sales of any units in the building which, in turn, is also preventing the prices of our units from going up (depressing the building)? Do the other unit owners have any recourse?

Mister Condo replies:

M.B., as you know, I am not an attorney nor am I an expert is California state law so please accept my advice as friendly and not legal. For a legal opinion, you need to consult with a local attorney who is verse in your state’s laws regarding HOA and condo association law. My first blush answer to you is that this owner has not done anything wrong. Unless your by-laws state that no one person may own more than 10% of the units, you likely don’t have a leg to stand on. The unit owner didn’t cause Fannie Mae to set its guidelines. In fact, Fannie Mae could change its rules tomorrow to 5% and then other owners would be effected. Unless you could prove that this unit owner was maliciously trying to prevent sales of other units within the HOA, I don’t think there is too much you can do. Non Fannie Mae mortgages do exist. They aren’t as easy to find and they don’t always have as favorable a rate but that really isn’t the concern of the unit owner who simply purchased units as he saw fit. I am sorry I don’t have more positive advice for you but I don’t think there is too much to be done here. Good luck!