Who Can Enforce the Condo Rules?

S.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Who can enforce the rules?

Mister Condo replies:

S.P., I appreciate a question of simple words. Let me give you a simple answer. The Board of Directors is the democratically elected group of unit owners who can enforce the rules. Unit owners, such as you, can submit violations of rules by other unit owners but it is up to the Board to enforce (or not enforce if they so choose) the rules. If the Board doesn’t enforce the rules, you can always elect new Board members that will enforce the rules. It really is that simple. Hope that help!

Condo Roofers Damage Unit Owner’s Air Conditioner

R.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

In doing work on the roof of my mom’s large condominium, they needed to move the air conditioners and my 86-year-old mother is the only resident out of maybe 50 units whose A/C was damaged. The contractors admit that they dropped materials in it and said they had fixed it earlier in the week but today, Saturday, it won’t cool. It is set at 75 and remains at 80. Who is responsible and how can I best advocate for my mom? The management company calls the contractor and the contractor claims that it isn’t his fault, it’s the unit’s. The unit is over 10 years old… BUT IT WORKED BEFORE THEY MOVED IT AND DROPPED STUFF IN IT! I appreciate your help.

Mister Condo replies:

R.G., I am sorry that your mother’s air conditioner was damaged. Most states require that a damaged product like an air conditioner be replaced at the market value at the time the damage occurred. My guess is that a 10-year-old air conditioner isn’t worth too much, regardless of how well it worked before it was damaged. Clearly, the blame lies with the roofing contractors who moved and damaged the unit. However, the real question here is liability and cost of replacement. You can continue to complain to anyone who will listen but unless you can prove the value of the air conditioner to be significant. I am afraid your best bet will be to simply purchase a new air conditioner. I am sorry I don’t have better news for you. Good luck!

Venting About Poor Condo Ventilation

N.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Could you suggest me to solve my condo problem, please? The problem is that my condo ventilation is very poor. In each room, there is one window, one ventilation fan and one door. The window is the only way of fresh air from outside. The door is connected to a shared corridor which air can’t be ventilated because there is no any window in the corridor. Moreover, the ventilation fan is in the bathroom of each room, and each fan of each room is connected to the same vent. The end of the vent should exhale the bad air to the outside of the building. However, this cannot be done. Instead, the end is closed. Could you suggest me any way to deal with this problem? One way that I can think of is to upgrade my own fan to be more powerful than other rooms’ fan so that the air will be pull out from my room since other rooms’ fan is less powerful than my fan. Is this going to help? Or, is there any better ways? Thank you for your time.

Mister Condo replies:

N.L., poor ventilation is certainly a big problem. Are you the only one in your condo who is having this issue? Typically, ventilation problems are solved by professionals who specialize in Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (more commonly called HVAC). Your solution may be sound but applying it may not be as simple as installing a larger fan. Also, you might want to check with the Board before you make any changes as the HVAC system of the whole building may be outdated and need replacing. My advice is to write to the Board and tell them about your problem. Speak to your neighbors to see if they have similar ventilation issues. If enough of you are experiencing a problem, it may make more sense for the Board to hire an HVAC contractor to come and examine the property and provide a better ventilation solution. If there is no interest on the part of the Board to take the project on as an association, you might want to speak to an HVAC contractor to see how you can maximize your own ventilation for your own unit. I wish you fresh air and good luck!

Must Board Members Attend Condo Special Meeting Called by Unit Owners?

F.C. from New Haven, County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When members hold a special meeting, can they make decisions that override Board, cause Board to do things they do not believe are in best interests of association? What happens if a special meeting is called and no Board members attend?

Mister Condo replies:

F.C., without seeing your community association governance documents first-hand, I can only offer you an overview of what could be going on here. The situation you describe is uncommon. Most associations are governed by their elected Board of Directors. If the Board isn’t doing their job to the satisfaction of unit owners, they are typically voted out of office and replaced with more popular candidates. It sounds to me like you have a group of unit owners who are trying to completely circumvent the Board by holding their own meetings. While there are protocols that allow them to do so, they need to follow the rules for calling a special meeting of unit owners. Typically, those meetings are for very specific purposes, including recalling Board members and electing new Board members to serve in their place. There is no requirement for sitting Board members to attend a special meeting called by unit owners but there may be no grounds for a group of unit owners to call a special meeting and take actions that are beyond the scope of the special meeting. My advice is to remove and replace the seated Board members, either by special meeting as outlined in the association’s governance documents or at the next election. You might also want to consult with an attorney who specializes in community association law to make sure the incoming Board does not make any legal blunders that could lead to lawsuits. Unit owners may want new leadership but there are rules they need to follow. The condo’s governance documents and your local state law will instruct the right way to do so. Good luck!

Condo Owner Harassed by Board President and Other Unit Owners

D.T. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How to bring about a board meeting to discuss being harassed by the president of the condo board and other owners?

Mister Condo replies:

D.T., I am sorry that you feel you are being harassed by unit owners or Board members at your association. Typically, you would simply hire your own attorney and bring a lawsuit or criminal charges against the Board members or unit owners that are harassing you. You don’t have the ability to call a Board meeting but you could attend an upcoming Board meeting and ask that the issue be addressed by the Board. The Board does not have the ability to intervene on legal matters. In other words, if your attorney thinks you have a case for harassment, the matter is settled through legal channels, not community association governance. I hope you have a positive outcome. Good luck!

Movers Damage Condo Elevator; Tenant Being Held Responsible!

H.R. from Fairfield county writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi! I rent a condo in a 3-floor building. I bought furniture and the delivery guys used the elevator and damaged a little bit inside of elevator. The manager made me go after them to pay to fix it, then they paid like $5000 but when somebody came to fix to change the panel on the wall said the panel are part of the whole wall and need change wall recalibrate elevator and the manager call me again asked me $13000 more to fix it or go after them again. All this start happened before my landlord lost the house with the bank so the manager sent him statements of elevator fees before now and somebody told me if he lost the house that problem is of the bank, the bank takes the condo with all debts? But now the board put that amount under my name. I am the tenant. And I told the condo manager that the rules said the landlord is responsible for any damage of the tenants and visitors of the tenants and she told me that rules change because of state but this happened a year ago when she recognized her condo rules. Help me please if she can make pay even the house is bank owner now is in process of foreclosure.

Mister Condo replies:

H.R., I am sorry for your problems and I am sorry I couldn’t get to your question sooner than now. I expect this problem to be resolved by now but, needless to say, since I am not an attorney, I offer no legal advice or remedies in this column. The association is going to go offer you, your landlord, the moving company, even the new bank holding the mortgage in an attempt to collect the money needed to repair the damaged elevator. It is hard to imagine a moving company doing so much damage to an elevator but that is a matter for the courts once the lawsuits get under way. Your question to me is whether or not you can be found responsible. My answer is that you caused the situation that lead to the damage and that may be enough to hold your partially responsible. My advice would be for you to hire an attorney if you are named in a lawsuit so that you can best protect your legal interests. The party with the most responsibility is the moving company, who it looks like has already paid $5000 ($5000!) for the damage they were initially accused of causing. They may be on the hook for the rest of the cost as well but that doesn’t mean you won’t be named if a lawsuit ensues if they refuse to pay. All the best!

Can Condo Owner Park in Guest Parking Space?

R.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Each building has 36 tenants. Each owner has their own parking space. We also have guest spots. One owner has a spot they don’t like and parked in a guest spot nearer to them. Is there a rule against that? Thanks

Mister Condo replies:

R.C., you tell me! Is there a rule against that? A simple examination of your condo’s governing documents will tell you who can use the guest parking spaces. Typically, the spaces are reserved for guests but many condo documents say nothing about who can or can’t park there. In other words, if there are no rules about how the community association-owned parking lots are used, there may be no issue with your neighbor parking there. On the other hand, if there are rules or the Board decides to create rules about how the spaces are used, it is possible that neither he nor any other resident will be allowed use of these spaces. It seems to me that they were intended to be used as guest parking spaces and that is likely their best use. Good luck!

Creepy Crawlies at the Condo!

T.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hello. I am a recent condo owner. I purchased a condo in August of last year. Upon getting things set up in the Condo, I would notice unusual bugs. After a while, I thought that this was too unusual. I have never lived anywhere and encountered the bugs that I saw. I also began to see centipedes. How very unusual in places on the carpet!!! I spoke with my neighbor across from me who also coincidently has the same issue. Upon both of are troubles, we have a damp like moisture smell and see creepy unusual bugs in our condo. We both believe it is from the crawlspace below us. I inform the association last week. She explains to me today; that she had it inspected and found nothing wrong with the crawlspace. She informs me the inspection was done about a week ago. I explain to her that I had my home improvement guy take a look at it this past Saturday; and he inform me that it is wet down in the crawlspace and that a pipe circulating from my laundry room connected to my furnace is dripping water. He also explains to me that bugs are down there. Upon all of this, that explains the earwigs, centipedes and even worms I have encountered in my condo. The condo advisor informed me that she will send the guy back down there to inspect but from this point, I do not believe I am going to get the results I am looking for. It is clear to me that the person the condo advisor sent is either not doing his job efficiently or I hate to say it: A Untrue full Person. My neighbor and I want them to fix the problem. Unfortunately, my neighbor has been dealing with this some years and never got anyone at the time to handle the problem. I am afraid that the condo advisor may come back with the same response: NOTHING IS WRONG. What step can I take to resolve this problem? Unfortunately, I am not authorized to get it fixed myself because it is in a crawlspace. I contacted a few contractors who needed authorization from the condo advisor and the problem with that; they just want to use their own people which are not trustworthy to me. Please help.

Mister Condo replies:

T.P., I am sorry for you and your neighbor’s problems. Infestation of any kind are dangerous, disgusting, and obviously, ruin your condo living experience. I think you are on the right track to having the creepy crawler eliminated, even if the condo advisor turns out to be fully incompetent as you and your neighbor are not going to go away without getting the proper results, which is the removal of the insects and, of course, the repair of the water line that allowed for the infestation and mold problem. Keep on top of the property manager to make sure the work gets done. If it isn’t done to your satisfaction, you simply bring suit against the association. You may need an attorney to assist you but it will be well worth it to go back to enjoying your unit. Hopefully, the infestation can be easily remedied once the leaky pipe is repaired. Good luck!

Condo Construction Defect Loan Cannot be Paid Off Early

W.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Initial construction had problems – BOD suit – went on $2.7M legal fees – won but he filed bankruptcy – urgently needed work done – BOD/Association took loan against common property – $10M – doubled condo fee – was to be provision for buyer pre-pay – never done – demand they do it. Questions: 1) Propriety of binding all condo owners to overall loan – do not allow a owner pre- pay – 2) Isn’t this unusual – As expected, large condo fee has deterred sales.

Mister Condo replies:

W.M., I am sorry for all of your new association’s problems. Construction defects can be quite expensive as can the lawsuits to chase down the developer. In this case, it looks like good money was spent chasing bad to try and recover the funds for the association. As is the case, the unit owners are left footing the bill. You would need to check your association’s governing documents to determine what authority the Board had to negotiate a loan on the part of the association and their ability to limit unit owners’ ability to pay off their portion of the loan at their discretion. You asked if it was unusual and my answer is that it is not. Most newer associations have the ability to enter into a loan agreement on behalf of the association. Depending on how they negotiated the loan, they may not have the ability to pay off the loan early, which would limit the unit owners’ ability to pay off their portion early. In my experience, that particular term of the loan would be unusual but not unheard of. You might ask the Board to refinance the loan with a lender that would allow the association to pay back the loan early if unit owners wanted to do so, However, that is easier said than done as a new loan would carry additional closing fees and costs. My advice would be to simply make your increased common fee payments until the loan is retired or ask the Board to look into refinancing the loan in a year or two, especially if loan rates stay low. Good luck!

Failed Condo Water Heater Creates Question of Responsibility

M.A. from New Haven writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My hot water heater leaked into the condo below me. I had the heater replaced. Am I responsible for the damage caused to the ceiling of the downstairs condo unit?

Mister Condo replies:

M.A., I am sorry for you and your downstairs neighbor’s damage and problems. Whether or not you are responsible depends on a few things. If your association provides and enforce maintenance standards for common wear items like water heaters and you didn’t violate those standards, then the association may have insurance to help cover the cost of your neighbor’s damage. Your neighbor should have his or her own homeowner’s insurance policy which should cover some of the damage, less a deductible, that could be passed on to you or the association. Your own homeowner’s insurance may offer you some coverage against these costs as well. If you didn’t follow any published maintenance standard for replacing your water heater (typically every seven years or so) then you may be on the hook for the damage. I am not sure what you have been asked to pay but make sure all of the players involved have checked with their own insurers before you start parting with any cash. If it turns out you are being asked to pay money that you do not agree with, you may wish to speak to an attorney who can tell you what your legal responsibilities are. Good luck!