Condo Unit Owner of Record has the Voting Privileges

L.S. from New Haven writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When a unit owner turns ownership of their unit to a son or daughter but still lives there with life use. Who gets to vote on budgets or elections for that unit, the owner or the person still living there under life use?

Mister Condo replies:

L.S., typically the unit owner is the one who holds the power to vote. You need to look at the association’s governance documents for further qualification but most would state that the vote is assigned to the unit owner of record. It is also possible for the unit owner (son or daughter, in this case) to give proxy to the resident to vote. It is really at the discretion of the unit owner of record at the time any vote is taken. All the best!

Which Condo Governing Documents Take Precedence?

K.W. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What do you do when you have conflicting master deed, bylaws, and R&R’s? Which one would take precedence?

Mister Condo replies:

K.W., that is a very interesting question and one which I have heard before. However, since I am neither an attorney nor an expert in community association law in your state, I must refer you to local counsel, preferably an attorney who specializes in community association law. It is most typical that the Master Deed would take precedence but if your by-laws are part of the Master Deed, there is a conflict within the Master Deed as well. As you can see this is a matter for legal minds to sort through. I think it would be a good investment for the community to get this matter settled with legal help as soon as possible. All the best!

Paying the Price for Years of Low Condo Common Fees

A.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in an 85-unit condo complex that was built in 1970. Many of our residents have lived here since the 80s. Unfortunately for us, the Reserve Study we reviewed before buying listed the HOA health as good and properly funded. The Reserve Study issued a month after our purchase brought to light a number of upcoming expenses to maintain the buildings due to age. What many of the new owners are discovering now is that for years the association kept unit dues very low and avoided large repairs until needing emergency repairs. Now they are increasing dues rapidly to help pay for aged repairs- such as replumbing of the buildings. Our dues have increased by over 50% in a few years. Dues increases and assessments are incurred based on % of ownership, but is there a legal option (perhaps through a change to by-laws) that would allow for a special assessment based on years of ownership to place some of the financial burden on those that enjoyed years of rock-bottom dues at the expense planning ahead?

Mister Condo replies:

A.C., I am sorry that you and your fellow units are left paying the bill for previous unit owners. The sweetness of low monthly fees is often replaced with the vial reality of special assessments and higher common fees for future owners. There is currently no laws that allow for associations to go back and recoup additional common fees or assessments from previous unit owners. All that you can do as an association is to buckle down, address the reality of the situation and base future common fees on a properly funded Reserve Fund for when these common elements will need replacing next time. Otherwise, you will very likely find the next generation of unit owners feeling the same way you do now when there is no money available to them to make the repairs and replacements for the common elements you are about to replace and use for decades ahead. It is a vicious cycle but, with planning and proper budgeting, it can be managed. Good luck!

Previous Condo Unit Owner Had No Right to Modify Attic

S.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I bought my condo in February of 2015. On the mezzanine floor, the previous owner had extended in to the attic a sort of storage room. Basically, there is a door and it leads in to the roof attic for extra storage. I now received a registered letter to close up this area as per it being part of the common ground and is not entitled to me. What’s more is that I was never told by the inspector, the agent, nor the previous owner that it did not belong to me. This extra storage room made my decision for actually purchasing this unit. What can I do? Can I ask the board committee to keep this extra room or am I to close it up? Can I sue the previous owner, agent or/and inspector for not disclosing this room to me?

Mister Condo replies:

S.S., I am sorry for your predicament. The foul was created by the previous owner who had no business commandeering common space and modifying the unit without Board approval. You can certainly petition the Board to allow the modification but I don’t see why they should do so. If they allow it for your unit, they open themselves up to allowing similar modifications throughout the complex. You should comply with their request to return the unit to the condition before the modification was made. As for lawsuits, etc., I am not an attorney and I offer no legal advice here. You should speak with a locally qualified attorney to see if you have a case against the previous unit owner. My guess is that you might have a case but I am not sure how you could prove any damages to yourself that would be worth pursuing. All the best!

Conflicts of Interest Arise as Condo Board Member is Hired to Serve as Property Manager

B.B. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo manager is also a resident in our association. Is he permitted to serve on the condo board? Our condo board allows him to sit at their table and speak freely at the board meetings while making other residents wait until the end to speak. Aside from the obvious conflicts of interests, are there any laws/rules about this sort of thing?

Mister Condo replies:

B.B., I am not aware of any laws or rules that would prohibit a resident of your association from serving as the condo manager. Obviously, any unit owner can serve on the Board if elected. Unless your governing documents forbid it, there is no reason a unit owner could not be elected to the Board and also serve as the condo manager. Your point about the conflicts of interest is valid and any Board that decides to hire a unit owner, and especially a Board member, to serve as the Property Manager has to be extremely aware of the possible conflict of interest. I have written about this extensively in this website. You can read the previously addressed issues here: http://askmistercondo.com/?s=conflict+of+interest. In a world where it is not necessary to hire unit owners to work for the association, I contend that there are always better ways to find and hire a property manager that protects the association from these possible conflicts. That being said, I am now aware of any laws or rules that are being broken. All the best!

Licenses Required to Work at Connecticut Condo or HOA

S.D. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I work for a Property Management company that is based out of Texas. The property is owned by one company but managed by another. Its located here in CT. The property is split with both condo-owned units along with rented units. Our HOA side is managed by someone separate who holds their CAM license. My question is, what licenses do I need to have if any while working onsite at our CT property? I do show and rent units along with leasing. Thank you for any enlightenment on this situation.

Mister Condo replies:

S.D., unless you are actually managing a community association in Connecticut, I am unaware of your need for a Connecticut Community Association Manager license. The type of work you are actually doing while in the state would determine what license(s), if any, are required. It sounds like you are functioning as a real estate agent, which does require a license. If you are uncertain, you can check the state’s website at https://portal.ct.gov/DCP/Agency-Administration/Division-Home-Pages/Licenseswhere you can research the work you are doing against the state’s licensing requirements. Other than that, check with your employer. I’m sure they don’t want you doing any work on their behalf without the appropriate license that would make them vulnerable to being sued. All the best!

Condo Unit Owner Seeks Legal Recourse for Poorly Maintained Roof

D.N. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

After living in my condo unit for many years, the roof recently came off during a rainstorm. The Association’s master policy is paying for the property damage which means they will put the home back to the state it was sold to me. However, do I have any legal recourse against the property management company and the board for not maintaining the roof in good order in addition to what the insurance will cover. The roof was originally scheduled for replacement in August. My roof came off in July. The state of the roof of my unit as well as the other roofs in the building unit I am in was in very poor shape. It appeared as though the roof should have been replaced or maintained quite some time ago. I was wondering if I had any recourse against either or both parties for not maintaining the property at the level it should. I have always paid my condo fee in full and feel I deserve to have my property maintained.

Mister Condo replies:

D.N., poorly maintained condos are almost always the result of “deferred maintenance”, the polite term for not collecting enough common fees to make adequate Reserve Fund contributions over the years. I am sorry that you had a such a direct impact from such a poorly maintained roof and I am glad that you have had the benefit of insurance to help you rebuild. As for your ability to seek additional damages against the association, I am doubtful. That isn’t to say you couldn’t try but the reality is no real crime was committed here. The Board is democratically elected by the unit owners like yourself and has likely changed over many times in the years of neglect involved. The Property Management company does the bidding of the Board so they are not at fault. Who exactly would you sue? The association paid to replace your roof after it failed so they fulfilled their obligation as well. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. My friendly advice is to be happy that you have been made whole by insurance and that no one was injured by the failed roof. You might ask the Board what steps they are taking to start saving for the next roof now that the current one is new. My guess is your common fees need to increase 20% or more to properly reserve for future repairs. As you can imagine, that won’t be popular with unit owners who are unlikely to want to pay more today for tomorrow’s repairs. Yet, that is the right solution. Good luck!

Condo’s No Parking Rules Ignored by Unit Owners Including Board President

K.J. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

There is a spot near my garage which is marked “No Parking”. If someone parks there, it is very difficult if not impossible to maneuver my car into my garage. Additionally, it narrows the driveway in our parking lot so that other cars have trouble going around the lot. Sometimes a neighbor will have a guest park there because the guest is too lazy to park in visitor parking which is about fifty feet away. One of my neighbors parks there weekly because it’s just more convenient than her garage. That neighbor is president of the condo complex. I have complained to her about “people” parking in that spot and she says “You’re right they shouldn’t” and then the same day SHE parks there. What should I do?

Mister Condo replies:

K.J., all you can do is complain loudly and often each and every time the “No Parking” rule is violated. The president of the Board is not exempt from the rules of the association and should be reported for each and every time she violates the rule as well. Presidents who feel they do not need to follow the rules of the association have no business serving as officers of the association and I would not hesitate to point that out at the next election cycle when she is running for reelection. If she isn’t going to follow the rules how can she be expected to enforce the rules, a primary duty of the Board? Other than that, it sounds like you have a series of unit owners and guest who just don’t care about the parking rules and how their violation of those rules inconveniences other community members. The world is full of rude and ignorant people; sounds to me like a fair number of them reside in your association. The rules are on your side; well-mannered residents are not. Keep complaining. It may get better; it may not. All the best!

Poorly Maintained Condo Grounds Becoming a Swamp!

J.M. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo managed by a professional management company. The grass is not being cut and the property is turning into a swamp. What are my rights?

Mister Condo replies:

J.M., the management company works for the association, governed by the Board of Directors or Trustees. If the management company is underperforming, it is incumbent upon the Board to pressure them to perform properly or be fired. If your Board isn’t doing their job, it is time for a new Board. Have you been attending Board meetings to hear what is going on? Have you complained directly to the Board about the poor property maintenance? You need to be vocal to have your issues heard. This isn’t an issue of your rights, this is a simple issue of property maintenance being performed as outlined in your governance documents and the management company agreement with the Board. All the best!

Condo Unit Owner Doesn’t Want to Pay Assessment to Cover Lawsuit Costs

C.O. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

One owner is suing the condo so now the condo wants each owner to pay $500 to pay the legal fees to defend against the suit. I have no problem if it was for something to improve the condo that the budget couldn’t cover but not legal fees. They have also threatened us with a collection agency if we do not pay. We live pay check to pay check as it is and do not have this extra money. What is your opinion?

Mister Condo replies:

C.O., I am sorry for your financial worries. Lawsuits against the association are serious business and the Board is right to hire an attorney to defend against the lawsuit. As a unit owner, you are a member of the corporation and have a vested interest in the outcome of the lawsuit. If the association decided to not defend itself and the plaintiff won the suit, the association could find itself owing a great deal of money to the unit owner bringing the suit. The end result of that would be an assessment to unit owners equal to the amount of the award. You could end up paying much more by not paying to defend against the suit. The bottom line is that you are the association and you are being sued. You want to defend yourself and the legal fees incurred are part of being in the association. You must pay them or the association will act against you with full legal authority to do so. My opinion is that you should pay these fees and keep a close eye on the lawsuit. Hopefully, the money invested in the defense fees saves you from having to pay far more. Good luck!