Monthly Archives: October 2015

Parking Lot Abuses are Out of Control at this Condo!

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R.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Nice site. I enjoy the questions posted!

I myself have served on the Board of Directors for our complex on and off for some 13 years now. Our MAJOR issue is lack of parking. We have sent out numerous Newsletters, talked one on one with residents, and rewritten Rules & Regulations. We have even hired a Parking Control vendor. We’ve tried everything short of using a 2×4 to get residents to use their garages for parking and NOT for playrooms, extended living rooms, man caves, etc. We even have residents with 2 drivers in their household that have 4 vehicles parked on site taking up valuable space.

Residents do complain to us about the lack of parking within our complex, but we are very limited in property space so we can not add any additional spaces plus no one feels they are part of the problem with their hardwood flooring, large screen TVs and couches in their garages. Do you have any ideas as to how we can solve this dilemma?

Thanks.

Mister Condo replies:

R.B., thank you for the kind words about the website. It is a labor of love for all those involved in providing answers to the excellent questions we receive from visitors like you. The parking problem you are describing is all too common in condos, apartments, and other high density housing areas. You’ve actually mentioned a few practical solutions but I suggest that what is truly needed is resolve and follow-through on the part of the Board, Property Manager, parking control vendor, and even residents who are truly interested in solving the problem.

You start with your condo docs that should detail what parking areas are under the association’s control. If your units have garages and one space in front of the garage as assigned parking then all units theoretically have two guaranteed parking spaces. These spaces may even be deeded to the individual unit owners so the association has no control of these spaces. Also, be sure your by-laws don’t prohibit garages for being used as anything other than garages. That leaves the general use parking lots and areas.

The simplest solution I know of is to limit the amount of guest cars per unit to one and require a Guest Parking pass (showing what unit the car is a guest of) to be displayed on vehicles parked in your parking lots. You can mail these passes to unit owners (one per unit owner, for instance) and tell them that their guests MUST display the pass when parked on association grounds or they will be towed. Be sure to put up plenty of “Permit Parking Only, Violators Will Be Towed” signs and hire a local towing contractor to enforce. This assumes that all of your on site parking is private property and that the association is willing to take this action. It may need to be voted by the Board of Directors or even the unit owners depending on your rules for passing such a rule. Also, keep in mind that towing is an extreme measure and you may need to also coordinate with the local police who will need to be notified any time a car is towed so they are ready to handle the “stolen” car phone call from guest or unit owners who find their cars have been towed.

The funny thing about having one’s car towed is that it tends to send a message that you are serious about enforcing your parking rules. You seldom have to two a car twice as the fees to the offender to the towing company and the inconvenience of having to retrieve a towed car usually get the point across that the offender shouldn’t do it again. My guess is that you can completely eradicate your parking problem in just a few months. But the Board must be resolute in their action. You cannot “kind of” implement a program like this. You must be consistent and steadfast. Your association grounds and parking lots are private property. The Board is the caretaker. It really can be that simple. All the best!

HOA Denies “Reasonable Accommodation” for RV for Disabled Resident

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G.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I need to park a small RV in our driveway to accommodate our severely disabled daughter. The HOA has refused to grant the accommodation since the CC&Rs prohibit RVs parked for more than 24 hours. Do you have any fair housing cases where families have been allowed to park an RV on their lot?

Mister Condo replies:

G.K., I am sorry that your HOA has decided to enforce a rule that affects you and your disabled daughter. These are the types of stories that tend to give HOAs a “bad reputation”. I am not an attorney so I cannot offer legal advice or case history for you to draw from. However, I will tell you that I think you are on to the right approach of how to make the HOA back down. The FHA does require community association to make “reasonable accommodation”. From what you have told me, your request is completely reasonable. If it was causing the HOA a hardship by allowing your RV then I might have different advice but you don’t mention anything like having your RV parked in your driveway prevents other homeowners from being able to drive down the street. It sounds like the HOA is simply trying to prevent any homeowner from parking RVs on the property, which is their prerogative. However, it is also their prerogative to handle your request properly and make sure they are providing “reasonable accommodation”, which doesn’t appear to be the case. Cite the FHA rule if you need to and hire an attorney to make sure you have solid legal ground. The attorney will be familiar with cases similar to yours. My guess is you will prevail. Good luck!

Multiple Deeded Claims to Condo Parking Spaces

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V.L. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The condominiums I live in allow residents to rent an additional parking space. Recently, my “assigned” parking was taken by my neighbor. He said my “assigned” parking space belong to him since it was on his deed.

On his deed it says “exclusive rights and easements to spaces 90 and 91.”

On mine it says “exclusive rights and easement to spaces 70.”

However, in the master deed it said that each unit has only one spot. My first question is, how could someone have another parking if the master said that each unit could only have one? My second question is, which document is more powerful? The master deed and by-laws or the unit deeds?

Thanks so much for your help!

Mister Condo replies:

V.L., I am sorry that this confusion has cost you your parking space but it would appear that the individual deeds spell out which of you has exclusive rights to which parking spaces. The wording in the Master Deed is generic enough for the purposes of describing the property as a whole and detailing some unit owner’s deeded rights. You could make the argument that the duplicity between the Master Deed and the Individual Deed creates an issue for you and you could challenge it in court but I think it is unlikely that you would prevail. As long as you have exclusive rights and easement to Space 70, you have what you are entitled to. Now, if your neighbor is keeping you from Space 70, that is a different story. Also, if you have paid the association for use of one of your neighbor’s deeded spaces (90 and 91), you may have cause to ask for your money back as they had no right to rent out a space that wasn’t under their control. Good luck!

Non-Unit Owner Wants to Be Condo President or Property Manager

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L.M. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do I have to be the owner of my condo unit to be on the condo board and be president? My condo is under my husband’s name and I want to run as president/property manager.

Mister Condo replies:

L.M., I am glad that you are interested in serving the association where you live. The condo’s governing documents should give very clear directions on who is eligible to serve on the Board. As a rule, Board service is limited to the unit owner of record, which in this case is your husband. You may need to have the deed amended to show you as a co-owner for your Board service to be possible.

I am a bit confused by your use of the phrase “president/property manager”. Property Managers are not volunteers and are usually hired by the Board to conduct the day-to-day business of the association. While some might argue that hiring you is a conflict of interest because you are a resident and also the spouse of a unit owner, as long as you are completely above board and let your circumstances be known to the Board and fellow residents, I would think the Board is free to hire you to be there Property Manager. I am guessing you would do a yeoman job seeing as you also live in the condo. Keep in mind that in Connecticut, you will need a Property Management license to practice. Otherwise, you would be in violation of the Property Manager Licensure law. Good luck!

How Does Condo Unit Owner Bankruptcy Effect Common Fee Collection?

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J.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If a condo owner files for bankruptcy, does this mean the unit owner will never ever pay the condo fee as long as s/he resides in the condo? Or is there a time limit?

Mister Condo replies:

J.A., when a unit owner files for protection from creditors through bankruptcy, the association is at risk of losing some or all of the unpaid common fees. Further complicating this issue is the fact that each state has its own set of laws on how much of the delinquency can be collected in other methods than suing the unit owner. Most states allow for a liquidation of the unit once the bankruptcy protection period is over and the dues remain unpaid. That means that if the association follows proper procedures, the state’s court system may allow an auction with the association receiving its share of the proceeds. Again, state laws vary so the actual amount that the association can recoup may be limited to a number of months (6, 9, 12, etc.) and reasonable attorney and collection costs. Some states grant a priority lien (the association gets paid first) while others grant the association simple creditor status and give priority to mortgage holders first. That is why it is typical for a mortgage holder to foreclose against a unit owner instead of an association. However, when real estate prices are lower than the mortgage amount, many banks are not motivated to begin the foreclosure process. This can leave the association quite vulnerable as month after month of common fees go unpaid. My best advice is that should your association find itself owed common fees from a delinquent unit owner, the association should always work with a collection professional. This may be a trained collections agent or the association’s attorney. It is in the best interest of all unit owners that strong collection efforts are taken against the delinquent unit owner. All the best!

Who Is Responsible for HOA Roof Damage Repair?

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S.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a townhouse that is part of an HOA with bylaws originally written similar to a condominium association. Our roof is clearly considered a common element and is maintained and repaired by the association. I recently had to replace my unit’s air-conditioning line set that runs from the roof (compressor) to a utility room on our ground floor (evaporator coil and fan). There were some repairs that were required at the site where the line set penetrates the roof. Is it clear how this sort of roof repair would be handled? I assumed this would be taken care of by the association but I am being told otherwise. Thanks in advance.

Mister Condo replies:

S.H., it really depends on who is responsible for the air conditioning line and associated maintenance, which I am guessing is you, the unit owner. If the damage to the roof was caused by excess run off from the line, the association could argue that the resultant damage is a direct result of the air conditioning line being placed on top of the association-owned roof. When governing documents are silent on such matters, it is usually time to get the attorneys involved. Your attorney would argue that the roof is the expense of the association. The association’s attorney will argue that your air conditioning line caused extra wear and tear on the roof so it is your expense. Unless the money is significant enough to warrant this type of legal battle, I think I’d pay for the roof and be happy I had air conditioning. Keep cool!

Who Pays for “Handicapped Parking” Sign at Condo?

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S.Z. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I know that we need to allow handicap-accessible parking. My question is who is responsible for the cost of the sign and installation cost?

Mister Condo replies:

S.Z., unless you have state or local laws that say differently, any allowed modification to association-owned property, such as a parking lot, is usually done at the expense of the requestor who also agrees to maintain and upkeep the sign. Many associations simply pay for this themselves but it is not generally required. Also, the federal law requires that “reasonable accommodation” be made. There are times when there is no reasonable accommodation available, in which case the association may not be able to offer the accommodation because it is too expensive or difficult to do so. All the best!

Is it a By-Law or a Rule We Need to Change?

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R.G. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can you please explain the difference between a By-Law or a Rule and Regulation? Our condo allows one dog of a certain height, temperament and has a leash rule. If we want to allow two dogs, keep the same height and temperament and leash rule, is this a by-law change or rule and regulation change about the number of dogs? It would seem allowing dogs is already in the By-laws, we are just changing the rule and regulation on of how many.

Both require different steps and it would seem the rules and regulation change would be easier and less costly than the by-law change.

Mister Condo replies:

R.G., that is an interesting question. By-Laws typically outline the corporation and describe the operation of the corporation. They generally get into who is eligible to serve on the Board, what their duties are, how they are elected (or removed) and so on. They are typically about the corporation. Rules and Regulations are generally about what is and isn’t allowed and often gives further detail on key concepts outlined in the Declaration. Collectively, these items are often referred to as the “condo docs”.

Your example would appear to be a rules modification. I am not an attorney so I would suggest you speak with your association attorney to confirm this advice but I would think that as long as you follow the rules for modifying a rule, you should be OK with your additional doggy rules. Good luck!

Is That Furry Condo Companion a Service Animal or a Pet?

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P.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is a service animal considered a pet?

Mister Condo replies:

P.M., for the most part service animals or Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are not considered pets as they are deemed medically necessary and condo associations have been forced to allow these animals residency within units as “reasonable accommodation” in the eyes of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Many associations have made the mistake of classifying service animals and ESAs as pets and have tried to enforce their “no pet” or “one pet” rule only to be taken to court by the unit owner with the service animal or ESA prevailing. So even though two dogs may look the same, if one is a service animal or ESA, that dog can pretty much live in any condo his owner desires, even one that doesn’t allow pets, because that dog isn’t a pet. All the best!

Third Time is Not The Charm With Condo Burst Pipe!

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S.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

This past winter a pipe burst in the unit above mine. Needless to say, I got the majority of the damage. Drywall of my entryway, part of my living room, and my daughter’s room were damaged. I took pictures and documented what I could. The association, had contractors to come out and put up new drywall but I purchased the paint and I repaired my wood floors. However, I lost a lot of items in the clean up. I ran out of money. I asked the Association if they would reimburse me since this is the 3rd time this has happened to me. Of course I was denied, what steps should I take next?

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., I am sorry for your misfortune. The fact that this has happened three times is equally unfortunate but it may have little effect on your final outcome. Burst pipes usually bring several insurances into play at condominium associations. Additionally, since I am not sure what state you are in or what additional protections may be offered to you under your state’s laws, my ultimate advice will involve you getting in touch with a locally qualified and knowledgeable attorney to assist you in any recovery of assets you may be eligible for.

As a rule, the association is only responsible for the damage to the common areas of the association. Your own homeowner’s insurance policy is meant to cover your individual belongings and help you mitigate your losses. If you do not have your own homeowner’s insurance, may I strongly suggest you purchase some for the next occurrence? If the association is unwilling to compensate you for damage that you can document came from the burst pipe that they failed to properly insulate or prevent from freezing and bursting, you may have a case for a claim. However, only a locally operating attorney would be able to give you a fair assessment of what your chance for success in suing for damages may bring. Good luck!