B.F. from New Haven County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I have an unusual story, at least for here in Connecticut. In front of our condo building are two beautiful, decorative fountains. Every once in a while, a local prankster will put laundry detergent in the fountains and turn them into giant soap bubble machines. That’s annoying, but pretty easy to clean up. Last week, someone put a pet alligator in one of the fountains! We don’t know who did it but the community got stuck with an exotic animal removal bill of $2500! I think these fountains are more trouble than they are worth. So do several of my neighbors. What can we do to protect ourselves from having to pay for these pranks and keep ourselves safe from alligators?
Mister Condo replies:
B.F., finally a condo story with teeth! I don’t mean to make light of such a serious subject but an alligator in a community fountain at a Connecticut condo is a first, even for me. You didn’t say if the alligator bit anyone so I am assuming no one was injured in this incident.
Decorative accessories such as a fountain are part of the community’s common area. As such, there isn’t too much you can do about the actual fountain. Maintaining it and protecting it is tantamount to keeping curb appeal and property values at their best. That being said, if enough of your neighbors feel as you do that the cost outweighs the benefit, you might be able to have a vote on the removal of the fountain placed on the agenda of the annual meeting. It won’t be an easy task though. Not only Board members but also a significant number of your fellow condo owners will have to agree with you that the fountain needs to be removed.
A simpler solution might be to ask for security cameras to be installed so that the culprits of these pranks can be caught and arrested by local police. I am not an expert but releasing an exotic and dangerous animal like an alligator must have legal consequences. I hope you can find a happy ground where your community can still enjoy its fountain and not have to pay money every time it is tampered with. See you later, alligator!
M.B. from Fairfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
What happens if not enough unit owners volunteer to serve on their condo’s Board?
Mister Condo replies:
M.B., that is a great question and one I hear more and more from condo associations, especially ones where financial issues make it unappealing to serve on the Board as homeowners can quickly turn ugly when being asked to part with monies for repairs. However, the business of the association must be conducted and that requires volunteers to come forth and serve.
The first order of business is to know how many Board members are required by the condo’s governing documents. Once that number is known, it is incumbent upon the current Board members to make sure that minimum number is met. If they perform their duties, there is no problem. But your question is about what happens when they don’t find enough volunteers.
Technically, without a Board, the association cannot function. It cannot collect dues. It cannot pay contractors. It cannot govern the association. The next step is for a creditor to commence a lawsuit. At that time, the courts could appoint a receiver, at the association’s expense, to handle the business that would likely be handled by the Board. That could be truly disastrous for the association’s members. Common fees and special assessments would likely be on hand and would continue until such time as the community provided enough volunteers to create a Board. Delinquency rates would likely skyrocket leading to increased foreclosures and market devaluation of all units. Truly, it would be a terrible situation for any condo to sustain.
I don’t know if you are asking this question theoretically or if your community is facing a lack of leadership volunteers. If it is the latter, you need to spread the word that a lack of volunteerism will cost the community dearly, up to and including its very existence. If civic leadership for its own sake doesn’t motivate people to volunteer, perhaps the thought of losing their home to financial hardship will. I’ve enclosed a motivational item you should print in your community newsletter. Good luck!
Why volunteer to be on the Board?
- To protect your property values and maintain the quality of life you expect in your community.
- To correct a problem within your community. Perhaps parking is an issue, or maintenance has been neglected.
- To give back to your community and neighbors.
- To be sociable, meet your neighbors, and make friends.
- To advance your career and build your personal resume by including your leadership capacity and community volunteer service.
- To have fun accomplishing things around your community together with your neighbors. Being on the Board doesn’t always have to be negative.
- To get educated on the many facets of running a community association such as; the many laws and regulations, maintenance and repair, and understanding financials.
- To express yourself and be creative while offering your opinion on solutions to your communities day to day problems.
- To earn recognition from your peers for your contributions to the community.
- To advance the ‘givers gain’ mentality of improving society as a whole while assisting your neighbors throughout the community.
R.M. from New Haven County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Is there any free assistance to help me with the fact that my condo HOA and property Management is not rendering the services needed?
- Communication is always unhealthy.
- There is a problem with leaking roofs from a roof that was poorly installed in 2002. Contractor was not held responsible and the expense of repairs has been passed on to homeowners.
- The Property Manager was a “Mr. Fix-it” for the community. He is a virtual one man operation and not very professional. He hires the cheapest labor and insists it is the HOA’s fault if the work is completed poorly.
- The leaky roofs have caused mold to which I am very allergic.
- The HOA and Property Manager speak to me like I am an enemy. They have been defensive and insulting. They act as if I am too fussy or unreasonable.
- I have been trying to sell since 2005. I have a sloppy neighbor who violates every condo rule but is never required to comply. I am a “live and let live” sort, but have had to endure that property devaluating circumstance.
I AM STUCK HERE! Is there help for me? Thank you.
Mister Condo replies:
R.M., I had to abbreviate your question a bit as you went into great detail about the various maladies at your condo. Let me try to give you some advice that might ease your pain and get you some relief. Free assistance is a bit of a misnomer. Most of the assistance you need is at your disposal but will require some effort on your part to engage it. For starters, if you’ve been trying to sell since 2005 without success, you need to speak to a qualified realtor about what is stopping the sale. It could be price; it could be curb appeal; it could be something else. List with a qualified realtor and follow their advice on how best to market and sell your condo. If you sell your unit, you can leave all of these worries behind.
I am sorry to hear about your HOA and Property Manager not showing a willingness to address your concerns. It is also troubling that you have a neighbor who is abusing the rules and not being asked to comply. Have you spoken with other neighbors about the situation? If others are as unhappy as you are, I suggest you organize a new group of people to run for the Board. Vote out the problem people and bring in some problem solvers. As a rule, the Property Manager reports only to the Board. By electing the right people to the Board, the Property Manager will reflect their efforts at maintaining the property and hiring skilled contractors for repairs. The Board, not the Property Manager, should be deciding who to hire for these jobs.
Finally, The CT Department of Consumer Protection has taken action against Property Managers who perform their duties unethically or hire contractors illegally. You can learn more at their website – http://www.ct.gov/DCP/site/default.asp
With all of these resources available to you, R.M., I trust you will persevere. I hope you sell your unit quickly and have a more positive experience in your next home.