Monthly Archives: February 2013

Longtime Condo Owner Facing Foreclosure for Unpaid Common Fees

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M.L. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I was served with foreclosure papers for back common charges fees of $4,300.00. Can I still work something out with the lawyer to keep my condo? I’ve been living here for 24 years.

Mister Condo replies:

M.L., $4,300.00 is an awful large amount of unpaid common fees. I am sorry you find yourself so far in arrears and facing a foreclosure notice. You can always offer a repayment plan to the association’s attorney but that attorney would only be able to act in the best interest of the association. With that much money at stake, my guess is that unless you were able to make a large lump sum payment, the attorney would likely advise the association to continue with their foreclosure action against you. After all, the monies collected from common fees are used for a wide variety of common expenses. Without your contribution into that fund, the association is facing the possibility of default on its own financial obligations. Delinquent common fees cause a spiral of bad side effects for both the unit owner and the association to which they belong. Foreclosure is the final tool of the association to create a return of expected revenue from your unit. Of course, if you can make a payment and get yourself current, the association attorney may be swayed to recommend the association give you another chance to remain a member. After all, you have been a part of the community for 24 years. Best wishes!

Upset with CIOA Condo Insurance Changes!

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J.F. from Tolland County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Why isn’t anyone doing anything about the horrible new CIOA laws in CT?  The insurance changes have been awful.  My association is going to go bankrupt trying to cover all these new claims that we didn’t have to cover before.  We have already lost our insurance and now will have to pay more to get new insurance and have a higher deductible on top of that!

Mister Condo replies:

J.F., since the part of the Common Interest Ownership Act provisions you are talking about pertain primarily to insurance, I am going to assume that is the part of the law that you consider horrible. I am not defending the act but there were many provisions in the law designed to protect condo owners and limit the power of Boards and property management firms with regards to governance of their residents. It also updated how Boards can communicate with unit owners among other forward-thinking provisions.

That being said, your association is not alone in facing the many challenges created by CIOA. Lawmakers enacted the provisions based on feedback they had received from individual unit owners who had contacted their local legislators. Very few industry experts were sought out before the initial bill headed to the state legislature. Since the law’s inception, there have been several controversial provisions questioned by these experts and I expect you will continue to see changes and modification in the upcoming years.

The insurance industry was also caught off guard by many of these changes and had to quickly adjust their offerings to community associations who needed to purchase additional coverage as outlined by the new laws. In some instances, the underwriters simply refused to continue to offer insurance coverage based on the new laws. So when condos needed to renew their policies, many found there were fewer insurers to choose from. Increased demand and tighter supply are the two market forces that drive prices higher. Add to that the frustration of individual unit owners who have to pay these increased premiums and deductibles in the form of higher monthly common fees and you have a recipe for disaster.

There is some hope though, J.F.. The CAI-CT Legislative Action Committee (LAC) has been actively meeting with lawmakers to explain the challenges that the new laws have created. Legislators do ask for feedback each year during the Legislative Session at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. The Judiciary Committee is the primary group of lawmakers that craft the bills and proposals that become laws and amendments so that is the group to focus on. You can keep up to date by logging on to their webpage at http://www.caict.org/?page=Legislative
and emailing them your concerns. Of course, there is nothing like answering the call to action when your testimony is needed before lawmakers. Add you voice to your fellow citizens and help make a difference!

Spitting Mad at Condo Fees and Fines!

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J.L. from Ontario, Canada writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo in Ontario, Canada. I recently made a rude choice by spitting on the elevator dashboard. A few days later, I got a letter asking me to pay $50 for “cleaning fees and disinfecting fees” and also that they caught me with a surveillance camera. Are condos allowed to do this? What happens if I do not pay?

Mister Condo replies:

J.L., greetings to you in the Great White North! First off, I think it is fair to say that what you did was completely improper and particularly offensive to your neighbors and even yourself. The fact that is was caught on camera means that there is video evidence of your transgression as well as your own admission that you did, in fact, spit on the elevator dashboard. Cleaning and disinfecting fees should be the least of your worries, my friend. Anti-social behavior like that can lead to a visit from the local police as well. The short answer is “yes”, the condo Board is well within their rights to charge you a fee for cleaning and disinfecting the common element that you defaced and the offense is most likely eligible for a fine as it damaged common property. If you do not pay the fees and fine you could find yourself facing a late fee on top of the fine, truly something to make you foam at the mouth over. My advice is to pay your fine, learn your lesson, and, please, don’t do anything like that again! All the best!

Failure to Communicate Cost Condo Owner $400!

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A.B. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo association imposed a special assessment. We were not notified of the assessment. They sent a letter to our daughter’s address notifying us that we had been referred to an attorney for collection. This ended up costing us $400 in fees. The property management company now refuses to send us anything in writing telling us how much we still owe for the special assessment. We were told that we should have known that it was being sent to the wrong address and that it was not their responsibility to verify addresses for condo owners when they took over from the previous management company. The previous management company had our correct address, so we’re not sure where the current company got the address they are using.

We feel that the Management Company should reimburse us for the fees and they should send us something in writing telling us what our monthly association charges are as well as what the amount is for the special assessment.

Mister Condo replies:

A.B., I am sorry for your troubles. Special assessments are challenging even under the best of circumstances. The additional communication challenge between your association, the management company, and yourself only seems to have compounded that challenge. I can see this issue from the viewpoint of all parties involved and I encourage you to seek legal counsel if you think you have a case. However, in my non-legal opinion, I think it may be less expensive to simply pay the fees and be more careful providing your correct mailing address moving forward. Let’s break down this transaction and see where it might be improved in the future so this doesn’t happen again.

If your condo association imposed a special assessment, money was needed for a major project for the association. Once the assessment is levied, the financial burden is put upon the individual unit owners that make up the association. Notice can be given in a variety of methods but the most common is simply a letter sent out to the unit owners of record when the assessment was levied. Notice was most likely given to you at that time by a letter being sent to the unit that you own and/or any other address that you had put on file with the association. That is the only way the association can communicate with you.

The property management firm is simply fulfilling their duties as outlined in their agreement with your association. Most likely, collection of delinquent fees falls under that job description. Since you didn’t pay your assessment in timely fashion, the collection process was initiated, which includes fees to you based upon the expense of hiring collections personnel to handle the extra work of the association. Additionally, your association likely has a fine schedule in place to discourage late payments. Unlike the association, the folks in collection will be far more diligent in seeking you out to collect the monies owed. In this case, they found your daughter’s address and sent a letter, which prompted you to action. This is what collection agencies and personnel are paid to do. They generally get results.

I have to assume you do not live in the unit in question here nor do you get mail that is addressed to you forwarded from there. That is unfortunate because mail forwarding would have allowed all this unpleasantness to have been avoided. Notify the local post office and instruct your renters to forward all of your mail to you. This isn’t a perfect solution but it will help. You need to contact your association in writing with the mailing address you would like used for any association correspondence. You also need to keep a copy of that written request on file in case you need to refer to it at a later date. If, by chance, you had already done that prior to this incident, then you may have a case for having the collection fees reduced or removed. Without that proof, I doubt you would be successful in pleading your case that you weren’t notified.

As for monthly notification of common fees, that is a discussion between your Board and the Property Management firm. Of course, it is possible, but it is not required. There may be an additional cost to providing the service but I am sure the management firm will comply with the request from the Board.

I have one final question for you. Were you the only unit owners that this happened to? If not, the group of affected unit owners may have a case to appeal before the Board as a group and claim that the lack of communication was the association’s fault. It may be difficult to find out who else faced the same challenge but there is strength in numbers and, collectively, you may be able to bring about a correction in how the association communicated with owners.

Condo Marijuana Questions from Two Different Readers!

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J.T. from Windham County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo and someone on our floor smokes marijuana. Is there something we can do to stop them as the smell bothers me?

G.O. from Windham County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a neighbor who smokes marijuana and the smell comes out into the hall way and it bothers me. I told the property manager and they sent out a note stating that someone had complained and that the person who complained was told to call the police next time they are bothered. My question is can this person get thrown out or in trouble if they keep doing this? And if they do it on the balcony, can another complaint be made?  Please help

Mister Condo replies:

J.T. and G.O., the debate for legalizing marijuana usage has raged for years all across the country. As you know, several states have actually legalized marijuana usage which experts have claimed will likely cause an increase of marijuana smoking. That’s bad news for folks who live in close quarters like condos and have to deal with unpleasant smoke entering their units. Some condos have actually banned all types of smoking altogether. You could petition your Board to see if that is a possibility where you live. No smoking means no second-hand odors polluting your airspace. If marijuana consumption is illegal where you live you could always alert the police to the illegal activity. Your local police can tell you if any laws are being violated and take appropriate measures to restore the peace. Finally, if all else fails, you may simply need to close up your condo and try to keep the odor out. That doesn’t seem fair but it may be your only practical solution. I wish you fresh air and good luck!