Monthly Archives: November 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

All of us at AskMisterCondo.com would like to wish our readers a Happy Thanksgiving. We are thankful for all of your great questions that keep us busy and engaged with you throughout the year.

We’ll be relaxing with family and friends today and hope that you are able to do the same. New questions and answers will appear again tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Condo Parking Blocks Sidewalks

P.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own the upper condo with a renter in the lower condo. She threatened me with police and association complaint of me parking in my parking slot in front of sidewalks. 95% of parking slots are in front of the sidewalks. Does she have a leg to stand on?

Mister Condo replies:

P.D., I am sorry that you and your neighbor are at odds over the parking in your condominium. Surely, there are rules from the association as to what is and isn’t allowable. I can’t imagine the police getting involved on what happens on association property that the local municipality has no control over. If you have somehow blocked the entrance to her unit with your parking, she may have reason to call the police but other than that, this is an association matter. If you are violating association parking rules, then, yes, she has a leg to stand on and you may be fined and/or towed for violating the parking rules. If not, this is just an unfortunate situation between neighbors. If you can’t work it out amicably, you may be in for a contentious relationship with your neighbor but that may say more about her than you. Good luck!

Property Manager Running Condo Board Meetings

K.M. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can/should a manager chair Board of Directors meetings. The Board of my Condo in Florida asked our manager to chair the meetings because they believe he can do it more efficiently.

Mister Condo replies:

K.M., that is a good question and I could go either way with my response. First and foremost, it is clearly the role and responsibility of the Board President to conduct and preside over the Board meeting. Governance documents require it and it is usually right in the description of duties for the role. However, perhaps the Board president is not familiar or comfortable with Roberts Rules of Order, has no interest in becoming a parliamentarian, or just isn’t comfortable actually chairing the meeting. I can see no reason that the manager could not assist the President by taking on the duties of running the meeting without actually having any authority or ability to cast votes. The authority is granted to the Board. The ability to vote is a Board right, not a Property Manager right. So, while I would be careful to keep a close eye on the situation, I have a hard time telling you the practice should not be allowed. It is quite possible that the Board could not properly carry out its duties without the Property Manager’s assistance and guidance at the Board meeting. However, if there is any sign that the Property Manager is influencing vote outcomes or doing anything else that is preventing the Board from truly functioning independently, I would suggest ceasing the practice. Additionally, I would hope the Board President is learning from the Property Manager’s leading of the meeting and can, at some point, resume the duties of running the meeting. Running a Board meeting is such a rudimentary duty of being Board President that I would have to question the long-term leadership ability of a Board President who wasn’t eventually up to the task. All the best!

Former Board Member Making Life Difficult for New Board and Condo Contractors

M.M. from Windham County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

A resident is prone to harassing our contractors for landscaping and snow removal. He is very resentful that he is no longer on the board and sends us lengthy emails about their shortcomings. Years ago, he used to enjoy kickbacks from contractors who no longer work here. He also removes branches, shovels snow and blames us for his hernia. Our manager reminded him that he is not to do work on the common areas, and he is livid. So far, our new board is calm, but he is accusing us of horrible crimes, threatens to expose someone’s DUI arrest and demands to see contracts under CT’s FOI rule. We know FOI does not govern this, but what is the specific law that does govern a privately-held condo association? How do we protect ourselves?

Mister Condo replies:

M.M., it certainly sounds like you have your hands full with this unit owner. The Common Interest Ownership Act is very likely the law that gives him the right to inspect any and all association records, which includes contracts that the association has entered into. I am not an attorney so please accept my advice as friendly and not legal. While the association does need to provide information as requested, it does not need to do so for free. Reasonable fees for preparing and copying the documents can be charged. Again, there are limits so check with your association’s attorney before deciding how much to charge for the record copies. As for protecting yourselves, you simply need to practice good governance and realize that you are officers in a not-for-profit corporation. You are bound by your own governance documents and state law. I always recommend that Board members receive adequate training and in our state, the local Chapter of CAI offers an excellent program called “Condo, Inc.” where Board members can learn the basics of good community governance. In fact, there are three programs offered this next year. You can lean more by clicking the following link: http://www.caict.org/events/event_list.asp?show=&group=&start=10%2F31%2F2017&end=&view=&cid=18225 Good luck!

Condo Association Not Paying Bills!

H.F. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Help! My condo association is not paying its bills! What can be done?

Mister Condo replies:

H.F., that is shocking! If your condo association is unable to pay its bills, it is likely a sign of a very large problem. The annual budget should take into account all of the likely expenses for the year and offset that expense with common fees and assessments if needed. If many unit owners default on their common fee or assessment payments, the association could find itself out of money when the bills come due. That can lead to many problems for the association, especially if a vendor sues the association. A court of law could order the association into receivership, where a court-appointed receiver (usually an attorney) takes over the finances of the association and will issue assessments and take other actions to get the association back on solid financial footing. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Ask to see the books of the association and see if you can figure out what has gone wrong. Encourage the Board to raise the funds they need to pay their bills. The alternatives are dire. Good luck!

Can the Board Temporarily Restrict Use of Parking Spaces?

S.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have 8 parking spots on the side of our units. We need them to be vacated for snow removal and sometimes for landscaping. We give them notice about having the work done or that the snow removal is coming to move snow. Those units are getting upset that they are the only spots that are always affected. One of the units stated they are going to sue the board. Can they?

Mister Condo replies:

S.L, in the litigious society in which we live, just about anyone can sue the Board. Whether they will prevail or not is the question. My guess is that they would lose if it came to that unless they actually own the parking spaces, which is highly unusual in most condos. Assuming the parking spaces are commonly owned by the association and under the direct control of the Board, they can be used or taken out of service as the Board sees fit. Check your governing documents to be sure but my guess is that the Board is correct to use the parking spaces as they see fit. All the best!

Noisy Neighbor Making Condo Life Unbearable for New Owner

A.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I know you get a fair amount of questions about how to deal with noise in condo living situations. Here’s another one. I just moved into a unit in a rather large building, back in February. On the night of the walk-through I noticed that in the master bedroom I could hear the next door neighbor’s television. The former owners joked at the closing that the neighbor was fond of westerns and classical music (meaning they were familiar with the noise). Said former owners slept in the guest bedroom and used the unit as a weekend home, so they were not here very often nor did they sleep in bedroom with noise.

I do sleep in my master bedroom. The neighbor is an eighty-five-year-old man who has owned here since the seventies. (I know this because on the only occasion I have had to actually address my concern about his loud television in the middle of the night, he told me that he had lived here for forever and that I should sleep in my master bedroom…) I expect quiet, to the degree that I can get it. I had not expected that I would have to deal with loud television sounds in the middle of the night. The neighbor is pretty deaf and perhaps unaware (?) of how loud is his television. He definitely has a sense of entitlement because of his length of ownership. Are there tools that can assist an elderly person with knowing if they are going above a certain decibel level with their noise?

I am in communication with the management company. So far, they have done nothing about the issue. Instead, they suggest that I have someone come into my unit to ascertain if I am truly hearing something. Considering that I am a light sleeper and have really good hearing, and that their suggestion is based on a truly subjective meter, I’m pretty sure I will not allow someone in my unit at 1:00 a.m.. So, mostly I write emails that don’t get a response and call the door person and don’t get relief.

Any suggestions?

Mister Condo replies:

A.M., I am sorry that you find yourself in this position within your own home. Some condo governance documents are quite specific on acceptable noise levels; many are silent on the subject and simply call for peaceable enjoyment of the premise, which leaves a lot of wiggle room for both the Board and the unit owners. The vast majority of unit owners live by the Golden Rule: Do Unto Others as You Would Have Done Unto You. However, if you have neighbor that is hard of hearing and is unresponsive to your requests to keep the noise down, you now have to look at other options. While your Property Manager may not take action, your Board doesn’t have the luxury of ignoring your formal request to take action and enforce the association’s rules on noise, whatever they may be. Start with reviewing your condo documents to see what they say about acceptable noise levels. Make a formal complaint to the Board, in writing, and site the by-laws that support your complaint. Then, follow up with the Board to make sure they do take action. If your neighbor is violating rules, they can fine him. He will resist and play the “I’ve been here forever” card but that has no legal importance whatsoever. If the Board thinks he is violating the noise rules, they can take action to correct his behavior. You need to continue to document each time he breaks the noise rules and report to the Board when he does. In other words, be a squeaky wheel. Make your problem their problem. If you still get no relief, speak with an attorney to see what other legal actions may be available to you. My guess is it won’t come to that but that would be your path to relief. Good luck!

Condo Owner Can’t Get Copy of By-Law Changes

S.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 6-unit condo with 2 units on the market. There have been updates made to the by-laws in the last couple of years, but no formal version has been shared. I’ve tried to call a meeting to find out what is being shared with prospective purchasers, but I can’t even get a reply to email. Are there any options available?

Mister Condo replies:

S.G., updates to by-laws need to be published and distributed to unit owners as called for in your by-laws. If these updates happened in the last couple of years, you should have been served notice. It sounds like that didn’t happen. As for requesting an association record such as a by-law change, you have every right to do so and the Board must comply. However, in a small association like yours, things don’t always go as they should and you have run up against an unresponsive Board. Are there options available? Sure! Will you want to spend the money to sue the Board to force them to produce the documents? Probably not. The good news is that with 2 of the 6 units on the market, there is about to be a 33% change in ownership. This is a great time for you to run for the Board so you can have a first-hand look at what’s going on. Don’t be surprised if there are no formal records from this previous Board. Sound to me like they are flying by the seat of their pants. Good luck!

Condo Manager Turns Off Unit Owner’s Furnace!

A.H. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can my association manager turn off my working furnace because it makes loud noise when kicking on without notifying me first? This furnace is known for this and we’ve been having this same furnace for over 15 years without any complaints or issues…overall, it’s a working furnace. Please help!

Mister Condo replies:

A.H., I am sorry that your association manager took such a drastic measure as turning off your furnace and gave you no warning. As to whether or not he should have done that and without warning is really a question of who owns the furnace and what the rules say about it. I have to assume someone complained about the loud noise and the manager took action to address that complaint. Now, it’s your tune to complain about the lack of a functioning furnace. You will want to involve the Board as they are the folks responsible for giving the manager his marching orders. Ideally, the furnace will run and the noise will be abated. However, that may require a new furnace to be installed and the Board may not want to do that. Work with all the parties involved. I am sure you can find a happy ending here. Stay warm!

Condo Rental Blues

A.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I rent a unit in an 8-family condo building. The day I got my keys, three neighbors knocked on my door and told me the previous tenant moved out because they called the police on her four times for noise. They proceeded to list noise complaints and told me they could hear me already (I was cleaning! I had not moved in yet). They told me the previous tenants talked on the phone loudly after 10pm, banged the water off and on, and slammed the cupboards – this is why they called the police.

Now I’ve been living here for two months and I can hear everything the complaining neighbor (below me) speaks – clearly – and I can hear her snoring. I don’t think there is sound proofing if I can hear her talking through my floor. Then this morning at 6:00 am the neighbor across the hall had a fight with an unknown woman on the landing outside my door and I was a bit frightened.

I told my landlord about their initial complaints. Should I tell him about the fight? He lied to me as to the reason the previous tenants left (he told me they broke the lease because they had financial troubles) when the real reason was the downstairs neighbor called the police on them four times and they were essentially forced out. I am in a year lease and I am thinking I made a mistake moving here. Advice?

Mister Condo replies:

A.B., I am sorry that your new rental is looking less than ideal. The reality is you are a new tenant and a new member of this close-knit community. They have already shown you some of their quirks and you may or may not fit in with this group of folks. The good news is that you will know in short order if you will want to stay there more than 12 months. If you enjoy your experience, you’re good to go. If you find it unenjoyable, there is no need to renew your lease. If you let your landlord know you aren’t planning on renewing your lease and that you are even willing to leave the lease early, your landlord can begin marketing the unit sooner and may find a renter to replace you before your lease ends, which sounds to me like that is what you want. If you voluntarily break your lease without your landlord’s agreement, you may still be on the hook for your rent and lose your security deposit. That isn’t what you want. My advice is to give it a try. If it doesn’t work out, try working with your landlord to end your lease early. If that doesn’t work out, don’t renew your lease and hope for a better group of neighbors next time. Good luck!