Monthly Archives: November 2017

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!

Condo Documents Offer Confusing Description of Window Ownership

R.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The boundary of the windows says: the plane of the interior face of the glass and the frames mullions and muttons. So, who is responsible for window replacement?

Mister Condo replies:

R.H., without knowing more about your governing documents, I would be guessing who is responsible for your replacement windows. The legalese used to describe your window ownership is the stuff that makes community association attorneys busy for years and years! Sounds like common sense could cause you to argue the case for the ownership to be the association or the unit owner, depending on how the wind is blowing. My first question is what has been done in the past? Has the association paid in the past? If not, they aren’t likely to start paying for them now. If this is the first time through the window replacement project for the association, I would recommend an attorney offer a qualified opinion on the matter. The good news is it sounds like you are going to get some new windows. I hope you enjoy them!

Condo Owner Seeks Association Employee Salary Info

D.U. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a condo owner demand or file freedom of information form to see how much the maintenance people are paid, that work for the management company? Their salaries are set by the condo association in their budget. I know they are paid well and receiving hefty bonus payments twice a year.

Mister Condo replies:

D.U., This is a question I get quite often. You can see some of my previous replies here: http://askmistercondo.com/?s=salaries I can understand your curiosity about how much employees of the association are making, especially since their salaries are paid by you and your fellow unit owner through your common fee contributions. However, I would liken it to the same way your tax dollars pay for municipal employees. Just as municipal employees are employed by the city, association employees are employed by the association and under the purview of the Board. You do have access to the budget, which details certain expenses of the association, including salaries and benefits. Your democratically elected Board of Directors is keeping an eye on the details for you and they do know what the employees are making, including bonuses. They most likely have their reasons for doing so (competitive pay, rewards for work done, etc). You can ask for these records but unless your documents specifically give you the power to review individual salaries, I doubt you will get it. May I ask what you will do with that information? As a unit owner, you have no power to pay employees less or alter their bonuses. If you have an issue with how the Board is handling the salaries and bonuses, you should take it up with them. Ask them how they decide when to offer bonuses. If you are satisfied with their answers, you’re all set. If you don’t like their answers, you are free to vote for other candidates for the Board or run for the Board yourself. I hope that helps.

Must I Reveal Possible Special Assessment to a Condo Buyer?

R.R. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I recently was advised that our Board has started to address and extremely large repair required by the state. It has been mentioned in the Condo Minutes but no formal acknowledgment or assessment has been determined. I would like to run for the hills without telling the buyer and sell my unit before the news if official. Can I do that?

Mister Condo replies:

R.R., special assessments are very official and legal levies placed against the unit owner of record once ratified by the Board and the association. Once levied, they are the responsibility of the unit owner of record at the lime the assessment was levied. As a unit owner, you would receive notice and a payment date or payment schedule depending on how the assessment was levied. A “mention” in the Condo Minutes about an upcoming assessment is not the same as a levy of assessment. You would need to reveal (and pay off) an assessment as a term of your sale. You are not bound to reveal the possibility of an assessment. However, if the assessment has been announced and ratified and is not revealed to a potential buyer, you would very likely be sued for the assessment by the new buyer. If you are using an attorney for the sale, you would do well to explain what is going on and make sure you don’t set yourself up for that to happen. Good luck

Pre-Sale Special Assessment Assigned to Current Condo Owner

K.K. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When I purchased my condo in 2014, I was told no upcoming assessments. Surprise! Last August, I was told assessments for work done will cost me $15k or $155/month for 10 years. Now, I am selling my condo, can the remaining monthly 155 be transferred to buyer?

Mister Condo replies:

K.K., I am sorry you got hit with a “surprise” Special Assessment. In my opinion, there are no “surprise” Special Assessments unless the community experienced an unexpected and/or uninsured loss or a lawsuit that requires an unforeseen infusion of cash. If the assessment were for something as common as a replacement of a roof or to repair old decks or sidewalks, it was no surprise. That being said, the assessment is made against the unit owner at the time of the assessment. That was you. The association has an interest in you making the payments, not the new owner. You will very likely have to pay off the assessment before you can sell the property. It seems unfair but that is how it works. I hope your new home has no surprises like this for you. Good luck!

Condo President Increases Number of Board Members

K.S. from Illinois writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our by-laws read 5 elected board members. Our president through the last few years has increased to 9 without approval of the membership. Can this be right?

Mister Condo replies:

K.S., appointing additional Board Members is not likely a “power” that the Board President has. At least, I am not familiar with condo governing documents that allow for the Board to increase in size beyond the stated number of directors. If your documents call for 5 Board members, then that is all there should be. If the by-laws have been revised through a vote of the unit owners to allow for more Board Members than the stated 5, that is a different matter altogether. You also didn’t mention how these new Board members were selected. Did the unit owners vote them all into office? Did the President simply appoint them? Board Members are meant to be democratically elected representatives of the association. They are not meant to be appointees of the President. If you suspect foul play at your association, you may wish to write to the Board and reference the documentation that states only 4 Board members and allow them to explain how 5 became 9. If you aren’t happy with their answer and you feel they are violating the rules of governance, your next step is a lawsuit to force them to comply. However, I would caution you to only do this if you suspect foul play. If the association is running fine and unit owners seem content, you may simply wish to keep an eye on the situation and make sure the 9 Board Members are being democratically elected. Good luck!

Legality of Condo Board Voting by Email

M.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a condo board vote by email when an issue needs resolving quickly?

Mister Condo replies:

M.H., without knowing exactly where you are from, it is impossible for me to give you a definitive answer. You need to refer to your condo governance documents (many were written before email was prevalent so they say nothing about it) and your state laws on community associations. Many have adopted email as a valid method of allowing votes provided the email records are kept as association records and the results of any votes held between Board meetings are properly documented in the Minutes of the next meeting, As long as that protocol is being followed and no laws are being broken, it is entirely likely that the Board can vote on issues via email between Board meetings. Thanks for the question!