Monthly Archives: October 2016

Condo Board Not Reflecting Executive Session Decisions in Monthly Minutes

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R.J. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The board meets in executive session and does not report on its activities or record public minutes. They do not disclose suits in foreclosure either by board actions or joint with mortgage holders. I believe a monthly statement of foreclosure activity by date and number of units is needed, but not the identification of the actual units or the financial standing. Am I correct?

Mister Condo replies:

R.J., while there are many valid reasons for the Board to meet in Executive Session, there should still be Minutes kept of those sessions and results of those meetings published as part of the Minutes from the Board meeting. Privileged content and unit owner names may be withheld from the record but any legal actions taken that will not affect the outcome of any legal action should also be made mention of. That being said, the decision to foreclose is hardly a reason for an Executive Session, especially if the association’s by-laws spell out the collection procedure process. Typically, unit owners who fall 30 or 60 days in arrears are turned over to the association attorney or collection agent for further action. If the arrears are not settled in timely fashion, the collection agent or attorney may ask the Board for permission to begin foreclosure procedures. That isn’t to say that the decision itself can’t be held in Executive Session but I don’t see how the association is further protected by the Board doing so. If a unit owner has gotten so far behind in their dues, the decision of the Board to foreclose against their unit should hardly be a surprise. If they have defaulted on their mortgage as well, the Board is often simply riding along while the bank handles the foreclosure action. Your by-laws may read in such a way that the Board is required to handle foreclosures in Executive Session but I highly doubt it forbids them from publishing a financial statement that all unit owners can see informing them of delinquencies and foreclosures. You may wish to consult with an attorney for a legal opinion but I am in agreement with your opinion. Good luck!

Condo Board Dictates Windows at Owner’s Expense

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J.E. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Why does the condo board dictate window type if the individual homeowner is responsible for windows but not their siding or roof?

Mister Condo replies:

J.E., the reason is architectural compliance and it is a bone of contention between unit owners and the Boards of Directors that govern condominium, coops, timeshares, and other common interest communities. Siding and roofing are generally common elements that are maintained by the association. You couldn’t maintain them on your own if you wanted to as you don’t own them. Windows are often another matter and are one of the few items that are visible from the building’s exterior that are owned and maintained by the unit owner. There are exceptions and some condominiums consider windows as common elements. Clearly, that is not the case where you live. The concept of architectural compliance is fairly straightforward. It is the tool of the association that keep all units uniform in appearance. This is important for aesthetics, curb appeal, and keeping the integrity of the property. If unit owners decided to change their window styles or colors and the Board did not have the power of architectural compliance to help them govern the association you can see where many problems could occur. Everything from deck stain to front door color to replacement windows need to be approved by the Board before the installation occurs. Otherwise, the Board would have little choice but to enforce the standard after the fact, which can get quite pricy for unit owners. Hope that helps!

Creating and Enforcing Condo Parking Lot Rules

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K.M. from Chicago, IL writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What are the rules and regulations of private parking lots for town homes / condominiums? A resident who lives in my complex keeps his car parked in parking space a long period of time without moving the car. The person uses car for a storage area. What can be done about this situation?

Mister Condo replies:

K.M., unless you are aware of city, state, or federal laws about private parking lots, the answer is in the governing documents of the individual association. Further, the enforcement of those provision is under the jurisprudence of the Board of Directors of the association. In other words, the Board is the governing body that enforces the association’s own rules about how the privately owned parking lot is used. Because parking is a common concern amongst common interest community owners, there are often a great many rules about who can use the parking lot and for how long. Units are usually restricted to the number of vehicles that can be on property and parking is often assigned and regulated. If your governance documents are silent on the subject, then the Board can enact parking rules and regulation provided they follow the proper procedure for doing so. If your Board has no interest in either creating or enforcing parking rules, then pretty much anything goes. If any of the parking spaces are deeded (part of the condominium unit by way of the property deed) then those spaces are individually owned. The spaces controlled by the Board are all of those which are part of the common elements. In most associations, that means all of the general use parking spaces. Review your governance documents and speak to the Board about either creating new rules for parking or enforcing existing rules. That should clear up the problem. Good luck!

Condo Parking Lot Fees Mingled with Operating Fund

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R.P. from Chicago, IL writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The parking fees at my condo were recently increased. According to our association rules, the increase in parking money can only be used make improvements to the parking lot. The money is going into the general budget. Is that right?

Mister Condo replies:

R.P., if the funds raised from your association’s rental of the parking lot are earmarked specifically for parking lot maintenance and improvements, then that is where they should be kept and used. However, as a practical matter, the association may choose to mingle the parking lot funds with the regular operational funds for practical purposes. As long as the money raised from parking fees is available to use for parking lot maintenance and improvements when needed, there may be no cause for concern. If the funds are simply being spent elsewhere with no accountability for their use, you have every right to bring the practice to the Board’s attention and ask that the funds be used as intended. Good luck!

Static Noise in Condo Caused by Unknown Source

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T.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a static noise coming from one interior wall in my condo living room. When I apply pressure to the wall the noise stops. It is only happening on the last 4 weekends. Any ideas what it could be or how I can get it to stop?

Mister Condo replies:

T.L., I am sorry for your discomfort. I am not a building engineer or electrician but if what you are describing is a static noise, I would think it is in your best interest to have a building expert take a look, listen, and even a measurement to make sure you aren’t experiencing some type of electrical short circuit that could cause a shock or fire hazard. If the source of the noise or static seems to be from within your unit, it may be on you to bring in a building inspector or electrician to give a listen and pinpoint the source. If the source is an association-caused issue (a faulty sump pump, an overloaded electrical line, etc.) then report the problem to the association for remedy. If it is something else (a refrigerator, a treadmill, other appliance that you own) you should take measures to remove the problem. If the static noise is caused by a neighbor’s electronics, report it to the Board and they should see what can be done to remedy the situation. Be careful, don’t get hurt, and seek professional help to solve this mystery. Good luck!

Condo Unit Owner Turns Common Area Into Work Area!

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D.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a Condo complex, is my neighbor allowed to use power tools outside in the courtyard? I am assuming this is a common area and it is very noisy and shrill. Our association rules state that “No occupant shall make or permit any noises that will disturb or annoy the residents of any of the condominium units or permit anything to be done which will interfere with the rights, comfort or convenience of other owners or residents.”

Mister Condo replies:

D.T., I am sorry that you are having to deal with this annoyance. It would appear that the rules and regulations of your association would prohibit the use of noisy power tools. The question now is who will enforce the rules? If you have made a complaint to the Board or Property Manager, that is all you can do. It is up to the Board to take action, usually in the form of a citation to the unit owner. The owner would be asked to appear before the Board and defend against the charge that they violated the rule. The Board is then free to assign a fine as outlined in the governance documents. As you can imagine, summoning unit owners to appear before the Board and fining them for improper behavior is not the best way to build community and some Boards are reluctant to do so. If this was a one-time occurrence, a warning may be all that is needed. However, it this is an ongoing or repeated offense, the Board may have to take action. Either way, I am hopeful that the peace will be restored in your community. Good luck!

Community Manager Test Specifics

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J.B. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When and Where is the next state test to become a community manager?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., that is a great question! You can always get up to the minute information at the CAI-CT website at caict.org and, in particular, on the Manager Licensure page at http://www.caict.org/?page=ManagerLicensure. You will find a link there to the Frequently Asked Questions about Community Association Manager Licensing at the State of Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection website (the state’s DCP oversees Community Association Manager licensing in our state) – http://www.ct.gov/dcp/cwp/view.asp?a=1629&Q=521982 Everything you need to know is there. I will say that there is not a scheduled time for a particular test and that many applicants simply take an online or onsite computer driven test for the testing portion of the licensure. It all starts with completing the coursework from CAI to become a community manager. Once completed, there are several testing options available to you, including a pen and paper test if there is enough demand for one. Traditionally, these have happened in March and September but there is no formal scheduled event for me to direct you to. Good luck fulfilling the requirements and passing the test!

Condo Unit Owner Wants Permission to Work on Rooftop HVAC

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J.M. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a Florida condo NOT permit you to go on your section of roof to maintain and fix your own owned HVAC system? This condo is located in Pasco County. The HVAC packaged rooftop is unit owned and was owner installed. We have permit and receipt. Association refuses to maintain HVAC , which is fine, BUT they prevent homeowner from accessing roof to do own maintenance and repair. LET me restate: only contractors can access roof of condo: Doesn’t this rule have to be in the bylaws? There is NO state licensing in Florida to work on one’s own HVAC or county licensing only EPA 608 cert to use refrigerant and buy refrigerant. So again, how can an association prevent me from going on my OWN ROOF?

Mister Condo replies:

J.M., thank you for your question. I can sense your frustration with what seems to be a common sense approach to repairing and maintaining your own Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning system. However, I do see at least one flaw in your reasoning that you may not have considered and that is that the roof over your unit is not your own roof unless otherwise specified in the by-laws. Generally speaking, the condominium roof is a common element and is maintained and owned by the association, who also has liability for any injuries that occur while someone is performing work on the roof or anything attached to the roof, like your HVAC unit. While I understand there may be no licensing required to work on your HVAC, a contractor would have general licensing and, more importantly, their own insurance, to protect the association in the event of an injury. I am neither an attorney nor an expert is Florida community association law so you may wish to check with a locally qualified attorney if you require a full legal opinion on this matter. However, my guess is that in a state like Florida with the numerous air conditioning systems in place, you would have no problem finding a qualified and experienced HVAC contractor to perform the work required at a reasonable rate. You’ll have a tuned HVAC unit and the association will not have the liability of having an owner possible fall from their roof and sue the association. All the best!

HOA Board Assigning Parking Spaces

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T.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have 14 units and 28 parking spaces. The HOA is currently talking about assigning one parking space per unit. Is this a good idea?

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., management of common resources and elements like the parking lot is the purview of the Board. 14 units and 28 parking spaces is a fine ratio assuming all unit owners use one space for a personal vehicle and leave the other space for guest parking. However, what happens when one unit has more than two cars parked on the property? What if a unit owner had no available parking for their own vehicle or guest because another unit owner occupied available parking spaces? These problems become the problem of the Board so I think it is wise of them to address the issue before it becomes a problem and before bad habits set in. If you follow my column on a regular basis, you will see that I field an awful lot of parking-related issues. Assigning parking spaces is likely a good idea and will create a better sense of parking rules for residents. Good luck!

Surprise! Your Condo Has Leasing Restrictions!

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M.L. from Washington, D.C. writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo board has updated rules for the building that include: annual fees for renting units, limiting how many units can have renters, and charging for moves in and out of the building. None of these rules were in place when we bought the unit. Had they been we never would have bought it. Can they just up and create these new rules and how enforceable are these fees? I never signed onto them!

Mister Condo replies:

M.L., thank you for your question and I am sorry you find yourself in this predicament. The short answer is that there is more to creating rules and restrictions such as you describe than simply “up and create new rules”. The Condo Board is given certain powers as outlined in your association’s governance documents. As you have stated, the rules and regulations in place at the time you purchased are the starting place. Adding rules and restrictions about renting are at the Board’s discretion provided they follow the rules for doing so. Those rules are also outlined in your governance documents and must be passed in accordance with local, state, and federal law. In many associations, the unit owners must be involved in the vote to add such restrictions although that is not always the case. Provided the new rules were passed properly, they are completely enforceable as are all of the associated fees. There are many reasons associations implement leasing restrictions, including compliance with FHA guidelines on mortgage eligibility for FHA-backed loans to purchase or refinance units within the association. Honestly, the restrictions you have described are quite common, in my experience. Review your governance documents or get in touch with a local attorney who could best advise you of your rights and your options. Good luck!