Monthly Archives: October 2012

Condo Voting Laws

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K.C. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a larger condo association. Could you tell me what the law in Connecticut is regarding voting procedures? What percentage of owner’s need to vote on an issue in order for it to pass? Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

K.C., larger condo associations are very likely to have very specific rules about voting and what percentages are required to pass new rules, modify existing rules, elect officers, and adopt the annual budget. While the voting requirements may be buried in your condo documents, they shouldn’t be that hard for you to find. They are also usually written in fairly plain language so common folk like you and I can easily understand. In most situations, a simple counting of votes cast in person or by proxy will determine the outcome of a vote. In some circumstances, absentee votes are counted as favorable votes. This is not uncommon in larger associations where a small percentage of the electorate typically cast votes. In these communities, the challenge to get out the vote inhibits the actions of the elected members of the Board to conduct the business of the association. This practice can be controversial when there is a large opposition to an issue at the actual meeting where the vote is being held. For instance, in an association where there are 2000 members and only 50% of the electorate turned up at the meeting, an issue could still be approved even if a majority of attendees voted against the measure. There was a bill passed last year in the Connecticut General Assembly that would have changed that but the bill was vetoed by Governor Malloy.

Stalled Election Needs to Be Restarted

S.M. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The Annual election of Board members at our condo was scheduled for the end of September but was postponed by a Board member. When we questioned a different member of the board we were told that the reason for the postponement was that we are waiting for the new Management Company to start. Our previous Management Company (4th in 6 yrs!) was fired because a Board Member had a fight with the person working for said Management Company. She convinced the other Board Members to hire yet another Management Company. What does that have to do with our election? I think that this Board Member knows she will be voted off and does not want to give up her power. Many people are afraid of her. What can we do to get the election back on track?

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., democracy delayed is democracy denied! You and your fellow condo unit owners have every right to DEMAND that the election of Board members be held as soon as possible. Regardless of reason, voting for the volunteers that will represent you on the condo’s Board of Directors is a fundamental right guaranteed to you in your condo’s documentation (by-laws and CCRs). The Management Company has nothing to do with the election of Board Members.

 

The Secretary of the Board needs to set the date and call a special meeting for the democratic election of Board Members as soon as possible. Keep in mind that reasonable notice must be given so a two week window may be needed from the time the Secretary is notified and the date of the actual meeting. If the Secretary is unwilling or unable, check your by-laws for the next step. Most likely a unit owner (like you) would call the special meeting; keeping in mind that due process must be followed. If you are uncertain as to the correct steps, consult with an attorney who specialized in community association law.

 

The reality is that the simple act of demanding that your voting rights be respected may be enough to cause the Board to act. However the meeting gets called the rapid turnover of Management Companies and the poor leadership of existing Board Members as you’ve described, I would suggest to you that it is time for a change. You need educated, informed, and involved volunteers to serve on your Board. A person that people are “afraid of” has no business getting reelected. Of course, that means concerned unit owners like yourself need to take action and run for seats on the Board and be sure you have enough votes to vote the wrongdoers out of office. Otherwise, you and your fellow condo unit owners can expect more of the same. Good luck!

Condo Violence? Call the Police!

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D.C. from Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo neighbor threatened to kill me and threw a garbage can at me.  He also swore at me and called me derogatory names. I am a single woman and afraid to even take out the garbage or go on a walk. He complains because my vehicle sticks out a little and the postman can’t get the right angle to reach our two mailboxes. Also, he is angry because garbage collection tosses the empty can and it sometimes lands in front of our two mailboxes. The result is not that the neighbor moves his mailbox or the postman drives his vehicle from the other direction. The result is that I can never use my driveway which I pay for the use of. I feel angry and I hate this bully. What can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

D.C., neighbor versus neighbor violence in condos is the worst type of conflict most condo owners will ever face. The nature of condo living means close quarters and unavoidable encounters with neighbors. Your neighbor’s behavior is amongst the worst I’ve heard of and it would appear to be escalating to a full out confrontation. You need to sound the alarm and reach out for help from several parties. First and foremost, call the police. No one, condo neighbor or otherwise, has the right to threaten you, throw a garbage can at you, or verbally assault you. Be prepared for the fallout of this call in advance because once you call, an officer will be dispatched to hear your complaint and take action, which may include arresting your neighbor. You might also seek a restraining order to discourage further encounters.

It sounds like there are some logistical issues that your Board and/or Property Manager need to be made aware of to see if they can remedy the parking situation. Of course, you have the right to use your driveway. However, if parking a short distance away makes everyone’s life simpler, you might consider doing that just to keep the peace. Cramped parking in condos is an ongoing saga in many condominium communities. Large cars and small parking spaces are a bad combination no matter what you do. My advice is to follow the rules on parking and ignore your neighbor’s complaints. You can always call the police again if he threatens you or verbally assaults you.

D.C., I encourage you to get immediate help from the police to protect yourself from your neighbor. You deserve to have reasonable and peaceable enjoyment from your condominium as do all of your neighbors. I encourage you to lose the anger and hatred and not sink to your neighbor’s level. I hope your neighbor behaves more like a neighbor moving forward and that he realizes you will not hesitate to call the police and have him arrested if his illegal and abusive behavior continues. Best wishes!

Late Fees on Top of Fines: Is This Legal?

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J.S. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Recently, our Association Management Company sent a resident a fine letter assessing a $25 fee for washing their vehicle in their driveway. While the whole washing of vehicles is HEAVILY debated, they are saying if the $25 is not paid within 30 days the late fee will be $25/month of not being paid. So, if my math is correct, a $25 fee in January could cost the homeowner $275 in late fees or penalties. Something about this just seems downright unlawful in CT. Is this practice of levying fines and then charging late fees on those fines allowable and legal?

Mister Condo replies:

J.S., no condo owner wants to be fined or pay a penalty for not paying that fine in timely fashion. However, fines and fees are the primary tools at a condo Board’s disposal for maintaining order and adherence to association rules. How else could they achieve compliance? How else could they cite violations and enforce collections?

That being said let me offer a few observations based on your question. First off, the Association Management Company should be issuing fines at the request or direction of the Board. There is a process that needs to be followed. A violation is observed by the Management Company or reported to the Management Company be a resident. A notice should be sent to the alleged offender along with a request to discontinue the violation. The unit owner being cited should be offered an opportunity to explain to the Board their side of the story. The Board can then decide what action to take. Since you mention that the offense of car washing is heavily debated in your community, I would think people that continue to wash their cars on the property have been previously notified that car washing is not allowed, even if there is an ongoing debate. So the Board may have given the Management Company standing orders to issue fines to any unit owner found in violation of the Association rules. It sounds to me like that is what happened here.

As for the fine not being paid in timely fashion causing further costs in the form of late fees, that is certainly possible. A fine or assessment is no different than a common fee in that it has a due date. Any fees not paid in timely fashion are subject to late charges. It would be unwise not to pay a fee in timely fashion knowing that there will be a late charge compounding that fee. As for it compounding to $275 over time, I assume you mean if it wasn’t paid for an entire year. That sounds outrageous and most folks would pay it immediately so that is not likely to become an issue.

Voluntary compliance with the condo rules is the goal of every condo Board and Management Company. Fines and fees do not better the community or the condo living experience. It is truly unfortunate that a common issue like car washing cannot be clearly decided upon by the community. It should either be allowed or disallowed. Residents may not like the outcome but if they are told definitively that it is not allowed, they will know they are violating the rules and risking a fine if they perform the activity. Most likely, they will simply have their car washed off premise and rinse themselves of the liability. Cleaner cars, better community. Everybody wins!