Monthly Archives: January 2017

Converting Condo Parking from Handicapped to Visitor

B.S. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a board member of a small Florida condo. There is currently no visitor parking available except for 2 handicap spaces (that were converted from originally planned 4 visitor spaces). The condo does not have any public facilities. Can the association decide to use handicap spaces for visitors if there are no residents with disabilities requiring accommodations?

Mister Condo replies:

B.S., as long as there are no public facilities on the property and the association owns all of the land, the parking area is under the control of the Board to do with as they see fit. Apparently, at one time, there was a request for handicapped parking and the Board agreed to convert the four existing spaces into two handicapped spaces. If there is no current need for handicapped spaces, I see no reason the Board could not convert the parking spaces back to how they were originally intended. If you have an association attorney, I would make a quick call to discuss the plan before you implement it. I am not an attorney nor am I an expert is Florida State law governing community associations or federal law on handicapped parking so please consider my advice as friendly and not legal. From my experience, I can tell you I don’t see a problem with what you are proposing although I would certainly have the parking spaces repainted and new signs indicating “Visitor Parking” installed just to avoid any confusion for future visitors who might be seeking handicapped parking. All the best!

Ups and Downs of Condo Elevator Special Assessment

S.P. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I just received word that there is a planned assessment being prepared to repair 1 of the 2 elevators in my building. The assessment payment schedule is spread out over 5 months and if you can’t pay it you are being told to finance the loan. The assessment has not been presented to the owners and was approved only by the 4 board members. Can this be challenged?

Mister Condo replies:

S.P., as long as the rules for levying a special assessment were followed, challenging the special assessment will likely be unfruitful. 4 of 5 board members constitutes a majority so if the rules for passing a special assessment for your association state a majority vote of the Board members is all that is required, then I don’t see where you have grounds for a challenge. Check your condo governing documents to determine if the rules were followed. You might also wish to seek a legal opinion for a more legal response than what I can provide here. However, if those elevators need repairing and enough money has not been saved, there will be a special assessment necessary to make the repair. Challenging the method of assessment may delay the assessment but it will still come eventually, and the association might even need more money to defend against a legal challenge to the assessment. Good luck!

Hyper-Local Social Network for Condominiums?

C.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do you know of any hyper-local social network that’s available for condo buildings? We have NextDoor in this neighborhood, but it’s not possible to concentrate that into just one building, and I don’t think the surrounding area needs to know about our every blocked drain, or squeaky elevator. The ability to post notices, or ask questions of our building-mates would be really beneficial, I think, but so far I haven’t found any system to facilitate the process. Thanks for your help with this.

Mister Condo replies:

C.B., thank you for your question. There are many software tools to assist in condo governance and management. I am not sure that any qualify as NextDoor (https://nextdoor.com) does as a hyper-local social network but I am guessing some will have the features you are looking for. I have been looking at Condo Ally (https://condoally.com) recently and I was quite impressed. Have you looked at any others? I know of associations that take advantage of commonly used social media, like Facebook, and create pages for their communities. Of course, the open dialogue nature of Facebook means folks can pretty much post anything on the page and that can be just as bad as it is good. I would think that a moderator-controlled environment is the best for condo associations. I’m not sure the exact product you are looking for exists but I’d like to hear from you or any of my other readers what is working for them. All the best!

Condo Exterior Modification Sought

J.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I serve on the Board of our Condo Association. Recently, an owner has requested approval for exterior remodeling. Our condos are townhouses that are attached. The request entails adding a window to a basement that must provide legal egress. We, as an association, desire to approve the remodel but do not want the resulting remodel to create expenses, now or future, for the Association. We desire a generic form that provides ease of defining who is responsible for what. We desire as well to be able to provide documentation of the definition of who is responsible for what to a future owner. Does such a form exist? Thank you for your assistance.

Mister Condo replies:

J.A., I do not know of any such form in my library but I have seen some at Property Management companies that deal with such issues. Have you asked your own property manager? I found one you might wish to look at here: http://quality1propertymanagement.com/Bishops%20Bequest%20Architectural%20Change%20Form.pdf I commend your Board for trying to accommodate the request but you are also correct in stating the concern about future expenses being passed to the association because of this modification. Even if the Board likes the proposal from the homeowner and there are no concerns from neighbors, the future impact on the association must be considered and is a valid reason to deny the request. For the most part, condo buyers know what they are getting when they purchase. In fact, the uniformity of exterior appearance is usually a strong selling point for condo buyers. They are buying a good-looking unit within a community of similar, if not identical, units. When the Board starts approving exterior changes, that uniformity can be compromised. If new materials are introduced (fiberglass instead of wood, stone instead of brick, etc.) that uniformity can be lost. Also, new building materials may not age the same as previous materials, creating an issue when future maintenance is needed. I am not saying that the modification cannot occur or that it should be denied because of these issues, I am only saying that the Board needs to fully understand that it has an important role in maintaining architectural compliance standards. If it approved any exterior building changes, it should do so judiciously. All the best!

Condo Treasurer Resigns and Takes Checkbook!

K.B. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The treasurer resigned two days ago and has so far has refused to turn over the checkbook, financial records, etc. to the association president or the newly appointed treasurer. What recourse does the Board have?

Mister Condo replies:

K.B., I am sorry for the turmoil at your association. A recalcitrant Board Member can be a real challenge for any association. Even more so when that Board Member is the Treasurer and the keeper of financial records and the checkbook. Did this person resign as Treasurer or fully resign from the Board? For purposes of my answer, I will assume both. If they have been asked politely and refused, it is time to either involve the association attorney, who will ask not so nicely and threaten with a lawsuit, or the police. If any of the funds of the association are misappropriated by the Treasurer, resigned or otherwise, it may be time to call the police. At the very least, I would terminate the checking account and start with a new account that this person cannot access. Protecting the association funds is no laughing matter. Getting the association attorney involved is worthwhile as you are treading into potentially costly waters here, K.B.. The other records are important, too, but not nearly as costly to the association as theft of funds could be. Good luck!

Condo Owner Pays for Roof but Doesn’t Get It!

D.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I paid for a roof that never was installed. Is there anything I can do?

Mister Condo replies:

D.C., yes, there are lots of things you can do. Let’s start with who you paid and what type of agreement you entered into. Since you live in a condo, I am going to have to assume that the roof is a common element owned by the association. Common elements are owned jointly by all association members and are governed by the actions of the Board. Common elements are paid for out of the operating fund and Reserve Funds for the association and are usually collected over time as part of your monthly common fees. Since you have stated that you “paid for a roof”, I am going to assume that you and every other unit owner were issued a special assessment to cover the cost of a new roof as there wasn’t enough money in the Reserve Fund to pay for one when it was needed. Is that correct, D.C.? What you actually paid for is the funding of the new roof in the form as a special assessment as opposed to actually paying for the new roof. If this were your home, you would simply hire a roofer and pay for the work as agreed. That’s not how it works in a condominium. The Board hires the roofer and pays for the roof out of commonly held money. If the special assessment hasn’t been fully collected (perhaps some of your fellow unit owners haven’t paid yet?) the Board may still be considering how to pay for the roof. In fact, if the first assessment turns out to not be enough, you could be subject to another assessment before the work can begin. Needless to say, special assessments are an ugly way for associations to pay for repairs. It is a better plan to raise common fees years in advance of when the money will be needed. Otherwise, folks like you are left footing the bill for all of the years of wear and tear that occurred before this roof needed repairing. To boot, you have already paid your assessment and the work is still not getting done. Ask your Board what the delay is. And do speak up at a future meeting. Ask what the plan is for future expenses like this. It may be time for your association to conduct a Reserve Study and start funding the Reserve Fund at an adequate level to avoid future disappointments like this one. Good luck!

FHA Certification for Condo Lapsed and Sought Again

J.S. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are an over 55 condo complex with 39 individual homes. We were FHA certified several years ago. We missed the recertification period. Nobody knows who completed the original certification application. Where do I find the application/forms in order to submit for certification? We meet all of the requirements. Thank You!

Mister Condo replies:

J.S., I am glad your association is seeking to recertify itself with FHA approval. This will make it possible for unit owners to finance or refinance their mortgages with FHA-backed loans that would otherwise not be available. The FHA and HUD have published a guide that you can find online at https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=11-22mlguide.pdf but be forewarned that it isn’t as simple as reading the guide, downloading a few forms, and getting certified. From my experience, it is almost always in the association’s best interest to hire an expert in this area as the guidelines have shifted over the years and that it can be money well spent in avoiding headaches and hassles for the association. I realize that with 39 homes, it may seem simpler and more cost effective to tackle the certification on your own, and you are certainly able to try, but I would be prepared to hire an expert to take you through the process and make sure the association maintains its certification once it is granted. All the best!

Condo Landlord Concerned for Safety of Tenant Due to Water Intrusion and Mold

M.S. from North Carolina writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I need some guidance. I have a tenant renting my condo. There have been a series of leaks into my unit due to leaks coming from the roof. There were three or four different leaks that my HOA repaired, as this is the HOA’s responsibility. I have documentation from emails and work orders placed with our community’s management company. I also have pictures and video of leaks coming into my unit from the tenant and pictures I have taken myself over a three now going into four-month period. There have been no more leaks to date and the HOA Board sent a ” handyman” to assess the damage to my unit. This handyman was told he needed to give a quote to The HOA Board to ” patch and paint”, needless to say this was not acceptable to me as the owner nor for my tenant. The handyman sent two quotes to the management company and HOA. The cost difference of the two were dramatically different. I have a copy of the quotes with all other documentation. I now have concerns due to the amount of time the HOA Board let the leaks continue into my unit and their refusal to do any repairs until now. My primary concern is the well-being and health of anyone in my unit and the cost of remediation and restoration. How do you suggest I proceed in order to get my unit restored to original condition and protect myself and tenant?

Mister Condo replies:

M.S., I am sorry for you and your tenant that you experienced damage and loss from water intrusion events. It happens quite often and how the Board and management company respond is different in every community. However, the governance documents of the association describe your rights and your local or state law may also have something to say on the matter. The fact that you have documentation is critical to you getting better results. Also, mold and mildew that can result from such a water intrusion event may not appear for quite some time. This can create a serious health problem for anyone residing in the unit should that happen. If the Board fails to take adequate action, you really only have one option and that is to talk to an attorney to see if you have a case against the association for failing to honor the condo docs with regards to proper upkeep and repair of the unit.

Condo Board Dictates Which Vehicle Can Be Parked in Owner’s Space!

J.Z. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can my condo association stop me from rotating which car I park in my space? Can they stop my wife and me from rotating our cars in our space? They want to assign only one car to my space. We can’t swap when it is not being used. Is that right?

Mister Condo replies:

J.Z., that sounds like micromanagement at its finest to me but regardless of why they want to do it, you should look at your condo’s governance documents about parking to get your answer. My guess is that there is nothing in the documents that gives the Board the power to dictate which car you park in your parking space. That being said, I have to ask why they would care. If one of your cars is an oversized vehicle or a commercial vehicle, there may be some rules about that. Also, if you have some type of a permit/sticker program and they need to assign a marker to the vehicle in the space, I can see where they might want to control which vehicle you park there but the question you have is “can they”? Since I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here I have to suggest to you that my gut is to tell you they don’t have the power to control which vehicle you park in your space. However, before you go defying your Board and racking up fines and parking violations, why not speak with an attorney from your area who can give you a legal opinion. Once you armed with that, you should feel free to follow the advice of the attorney and enjoy your parking space as you see fit. All the best!

Marital Problems Causes Unit Owner to Miss Condo Payments; Now What?

J.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We live in a 9-unit condo association. We need to have a special assessment for a new roof. In one unit, the people are having marital problems, not knowing what is going to happen. Wife is moving out, husband is not paying bills, and so on. What can we do as an association if the unit owners say they cannot come up with their share of the special assessment?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., I am sorry that your association finds itself in need of a special assessment and I am certainly sorry that you have a unit owner who will likely be unable to pay that assessment but I am reminded of an old saying: What has that got to do with the price of tea in China? The two items are unrelated. The association’s interest always supersedes any unit owner’s financial problems. The association will levy the assessment and the unit owners are expected to pay. Any that do not pay will face collection actions by the association, up to and including foreclosure. Your bylaws should be perfectly clear on what happens when fees aren’t paid. Typically, a collection letter is sent and a notice of demand for the amount in question is sent. If the monies aren’t submitted ion timely fashion, the association uses its lien against the property to bring suit against the unit owner which often leads to foreclosure. It isn’t a function of being cruel and uncaring about the unit owner having marital difficulties and financial difficulties. That is none of the association’s business. Collecting the monies due to the association is the only item of concern for the association. Good luck!