Monthly Archives: March 2017

Right to Inspect Condo Employees’ Salaries and Benefits

B.B. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do the unit owners of a condo village in Connecticut that pay the salaries of their employees through their common charges have the right to know what the salaries and benefits of those employees are? We do not have a management company. We have our own manager and maintenance department, and office staff.

Mister Condo replies:

B.B., the answer is “yes and no”. The employees of the association work for the association, not the individual unit owners. The democratically elected Board of Directors has full access to all of this information and acts as the employer in this situation. Technically, all association records can be inspected by individual unit owners but the private information of the employees cannot be disclosed due to privacy and security concerns. That being said, you can inspect the budget which should have line items for salaries and benefits. While your common fees are used to pay their salaries, this is no different than saying your taxes pay the salaries of city employees. As a taxpayer, you have no right to inspect individual city employees’ salaries or benefits. The same concept is in play here. You have had a say in the election of the Board members, whose duties include all business functions of the condo. In this case, that includes keeping an eye on the salaries and benefits of the association’s employees. All the best!

Consequences for Parking in Someone Else’s Condo Parking Space

T.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What consequences can an HOA do to people who park in spot that is assigned to someone else?

Mister Condo replies:

T.H., the consequences to a unit owner or guest for parking in an assigned parking spot that isn’t their own can be as severe as the governing documents and local and state law permit. For most associations, the first offense is a warning, followed by a fine, followed by towing of the vehicle at the owner’s expense. Some associations waive the first two procedures and proceed directly to towing. Seeing as most condominiums and HOAs are private property, vehicles are only allowed to be parked where the association says so with the exception of deeded parking spaces which are owned by the individual unit owners. Either way, it is commonly known that parking in HOAs is tightly controlled. Unit owners and residents have the responsibility of informing their guests of where to park when visiting. If they don’t, a warning letter, fine, or vehicle towing usually gets their attention and help them avoid future offenses. Good luck!

Condo Owner’s Insurance Pays for Deductible on Master Policy With No Claim

J.R. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I had water damage in my condo from my washing machine. I called my personal homeowners policy and they inspected and quoted $8000 worth of damage. But because my condos master insurance policy has a deductible of $5000, my personal insurance will not be moving forward and gave me a $5000 check to give to the condo association and have them put through the claim under there master policy. But now the property manager is telling me he doesn’t want to put through a claim and wants to pay for the damages out of pocket. Is this okay? Do I tell him about the $5000 check? Do I give it to him? Do I tell my personal insurance? Am I going to get in legal trouble for not putting the $5000 check towards a deductible? Are the repairs going to be of less quality? Do I have a right to tell the property manager that I don’t agree? Please help. Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

J.R., I am sorry you had damage inside your condo. I am not quite certain of why the condo’s Master Policy has come into play here. Was there damage to a unit other than your own? Typically, damage inside your unit is covered by your policy. Damage to the common grounds and/or neighboring units may be cause for a Master Policy claim but not necessarily, especially if the association has published maintenance standards for typical wear items such as laundry line supplies that do fail over time. Regardless, unless the association is making a claim on their policy, the repair can be handled however the association sees fit if they are claiming to have responsibility. Depending on the agreement made between you and your insurer, you may be committing fraud by not letting them know how the true cost of the repair. I wouldn’t be as worried about the quality of the repair as I would about what happens if your insurer finds out. In a worst-case scenario, they could drop you and come after you for any monies that were allocated for the $8000 repair. In this case, they have paid a claim for $5000. Their expectation is that the Master Policy will pay the difference between the cost of the repair and the deductible. Whether or not they ever find out about it is largely up to you and the repair company. Let your conscience be your guide. Good luck!

Mixed Use Condo With a Mixed Up Business Owner

D.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo of three units, 2 homes and 1 business. We had a meeting and we were discussing installing compressors for new central air conditioners for each unit. The business would be replacing an existing compressor which was located under my stairway to my front door. My front door is actually located on the backside of the house. The other units’ front doors are in the front. We agreed to have them installed in a new location under a different stairway so as not to hurt anyone’s value or change the look of the grounds. The business owner who was replacing his could not leave his in the same place due to a change in building codes because it was close to meters. Without my knowledge or the other home owners’ knowledge the business owner had his compressor replaced and had it installed next to my front staircase in a common area. He has violated the bylaws because he cannot place anything without a 25-day advance notice in a letter format and must have our consent on it. He also went against the association who had agreed we would locate them under another deck. I have written him emails and told him he has violated the bylaws and such but he will not relocate it and basically is playing dumb to everything. Me and the other home owner hold 51% of the vote together so even if he lies now and says he didn’t agree it didn’t matter he would still be out voted. He has devalued my unit also by installing it next to my stairs and if I can’t get it moved by him I will have to put up with the noise. I have the backing other the president of the association but even when she tells him to move it he is carefully in his responses and just says he doesn’t understand even though we have spelled it out clearly to him. If I get a lawyer what will that get me, if they write a letter. Can I make it pay for my lawyer’s costs through the condo so how to get my money back? Do you have any suggestion what steps to take next and what should I expect to see in a letter written by a lawyer? Please tell me your thoughts am I stuck with this unit near my stairs devaluing my investment.

Mister Condo replies:

D.L., from what you have told me, you need an attorney to sue the business owner for violating the by-laws of the association. When you speak with an attorney, be sure to ask that the legal fees are incorporated in the settlement. You may be able to settle this through arbitration if the business owner is willing but it doesn’t sound like he is being cooperative or even acknowledging that he has violated the rules for installing a new air conditioner. Mixed use condominiums such as yours can be tricky but the rules are in place to protect all owners from something like this happening. Your association could also decide to foot the bill for the lawsuit seeing as the rules of the association were violated. In fact, the attorney will better let you know who has the better case. The business owner didn’t install the A/C unit on your land; he installed it on association property. As such, the association may be the aggrieved party. This is what attorneys are for. It’s time to get one involved.

Does Condo Basement Owner Have to Pay Common Fees?

J.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own a Basement in a condo unfinished, no electric plumbing just a concrete box for storage. Do I need to pay common charges? Is the board able to make me pay?

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., when you say you own a basement in a condo that is unfinished, I first have to ask how that is possible. You don’t own a unit in the condo as well? Is the basement a unit? Without knowing a bit more information, let me give you the best answer I can with what you have provided. Ownership in any condominium means ownership within the association. If you won any real estate that is part of the association, then you have a common interest in the overall association and you need to pay your portion of the expenses in the form of common fees. So, yes, if you own a basement within an association, you are a member of the association and you have to pay common fees. Hope that helps. Feel free to write back with more details so I may be able to give a more thorough answer.

Is Condo Landlord Liable for Illegal Actions by Tenant?

M.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is the condominium unit owner responsible for their renter’s theft of property of another unit owner’s unit?

Mister Condo replies:

M.J., thanks for writing and I am sorry that your tenants have put you in this position. The short answer is “it depends”. What it depends upon is local and state law that govern such issues. As a landlord, it is generally held that you are not responsible for anything that your tenant does. However, if you don’t have a proper lease in place or if you have housed a known felon you may have some liability for their actions. You should really speak with an attorney to determine your liability based on local laws. Also, if you are named in a lawsuit by the neighboring unit owner who was the theft victim, you may have no choice but to defend yourself. My guess is that as long as you have a valid lease to show that you were not the unit occupant but merely the landlord, it is unlikely that you will be found responsible for the actions of your tenant. However, I would advise against renewing the lease of a tenant that is found guilty of such a crime. All the best!

Purchasing a Condo Parking Space

B.W. from Tennessee writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I currently own two condos in Knoxville. The building is adjacent to a university and I purchased the condos for my kids to live in while in college. Each came with one deeded parking place. When the building was originally sold, buyers could choose to purchase an additional parking place. One owner who did so recently sold his unit and wants to sell his extra parking place. We have agreed on a price and I need to find a bill of sale. Also, I need to find out if there are any tax assessments on the parking spot. Any advice would be most appreciated. Thanks so much.

Mister Condo replies:

B.W., congrats on the kids heading off to college and congrats on the purchase of the two condo units. You would need to check with the local real estate records office to see what this unit owner actually owns before you negotiate a purchase price for the parking space. Generally speaking, if there are no improvements on the space (garage, carport) the parking space may be owned by the association and sold to the unit owner. Have there been any sales of such spaces since the original unit owners purchased? You might want to check with the Board or Property Management company to make sure these “parking space purchases” are transferrable or that the Board doesn’t have the right of first refusal on the sale. There should also be a title, and, just like any piece of real estate, a local land record can tell you more and you can likely check the tax status once you have the land record. Bottom line is to be careful. Just because someone sold you a bridge doesn’t mean you own the bridge! Good luck!

Condo Parking Space Reassigned After 17 Years!

C.E. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

In 1999, my mother purchased her condo and was assigned her parking spot. We have never had any issues with our personal parking spot. The only issue many condo resident have is lack of parking or abuse of parking spaces. Well we now are being told after 17 years that the spot was not assigned correctly and they are switching it with one of the other owners. I’m am super upset. Can they do this? Really? After so many years!

Mister Condo replies:

C.E., wouldn’t you and I love to get inside of the minds of the Board folks who determine that the best course of action is to reassign a unit owner’s parking space after almost 20 years? You would think they have better things to do and more important things to worry about. However, you have mentioned that this is a “mix-up” that has only recently come to light. Check your deed. Unless the exact parking space is deeded (part and parcel of the deed to the condo), the parking lots are owned and maintained by the association. As such, the Board is the governing body that makes any and all decisions with regards to association-owned parking lots. Your question is: Can they do this? The answer is that they most likely can. Should they do this? My answer is not unless absolutely necessary. You might want to look into why the decisions was made. It should be in the Minutes of a recent Board meeting. Did a neighboring unit owner request a handicapped accommodation? Was the lot repaved and spaces lost elsewhere? There may be a legitimate reason for the action. If you can’t find one, you are well within your right to request the space be given back although the Board is under no obligation to do so. Also, were you the only unit effected by the parking lot reassignment? If you can find enough other disgruntled unit owners, you might just want to mount a campaign to get some new folks on the Board who will return the parking spaces to the way they were. Bottom line is the Board very likely had the authority to reassign the space. It would be nice to know why they did it. All the best!

Fire and Feces Smearing Attack on Neighboring Condo Unit Owner!

J.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

This week a condo owner set her neighbor’s condo door on fire but, fortunately, the man inside was able to get out unharmed. The previous week she smeared her feces on his door, and 2 days later smeared cat poop on his door. When a police report was made, she would not open her door to the police. A few weeks before that she trashed her own condo and then called the superintendent and was very upset, claiming she came home to find her condo trashed and jewelry stolen. The police arrested her after the fire. There was white powder all over the door and on the floor which the police are trying to identify. Can she be charged if shown to be mentally unstable?

Mister Condo replies:

J.P., I am sorry for this troubling series of incidents at your condominium. When residents behave in such manner, the police are your best call to help alleviate the problem. I am not a law enforcement expert nor am I a legal expert by any stretch of the imagination. However, you should refer to your condominium’s governance documents about disallowed use of certain activities at your association. You may find some terminology about setting fires or illegal activity that may give the association the ability to take legal action against this resident and effectively have them evicted from the property. This is not a simple process and you will most certainly need assistance from the association’s attorney to determine if it is even possible or worth pursuing. Other than that, my advice is to stay vigilant. Unless this person is arrested or given the treatment they apparently need, they are a danger to themselves, fellow residents, and the association itself as any fire set by this person is likely to damage association property. I hope you and your fellow residents get a handle on this problem in short order. Good luck!

Condo Owner Resident Surrounded by Renters

A.C. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am in Florida and one of 2 owners in a 45-unit building. The other owner has turned the building into rental units what can we do to get out of our mortgage and make him pay?

Mister Condo replies:

A.C., thank you for writing and I am sorry you find yourself in a less than desirable situation. I am not 100% sure I understand your predicament. If there are only two owners in this building and an investor has purchased the remaining units, there isn’t too much you can do outside of reviewing the association’s governing documents to determine if any rules or by-laws have been broken by the owner who is renting out his units. It is possible that there is a limit or cap to how many units can be rented out at any one time but I doubt there are any restrictions on the owner that forbids him from renting units in general. As for your mortgage, that is between you and the bank who holds your mortgage. Mortgages are not the business of the association so you are on your own there. As for getting the multiple unit owner to pay, that sounds unlikely in my opinion. You may wish to speak to a community association attorney in your state for additional clarity but unless rules have been broken, you may just need to either put up with the renters (who still need to follow the rules of the community) or sell your unit to get out of your mortgage and out of the community. Good luck!