Monthly Archives: December 2017

Condo Owner Seeks Relief from Mysterious Vibrating Noises

S.J. from Outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We’ve been hearing strange rattling/vibrating noises coming from the bathroom in our unit. It sounds like it’s coming from the pipes from the wall between our bathroom and flex room. It can get really loud throughout the night. The noise can be as short as 30 seconds to as long as 5 minutes. And we hear this all through the night. We’ve contacted our property manager and the board president and have sent a recording of the sound. Nothing has been done to resolve issue. What can we do? Can we legally withhold our association fees until they start taking our issue seriously?

Mister Condo replies:

S.J., NO! You cannot withhold your common fees! Unwanted noises arising from mechanical or plumbing issues can be a real pain in a condo where you can’t always get at the source of the noise. You have done the proper thing by contacting the Property Manager and the Board. They are not under obligation to act immediately but they do not provide a resolution. Ask for a proper response, in writing, from them about what they plan to do to resolve your complaint. If their answer is to do nothing, then you will speak with an attorney and see what your next step will be. At the very least, the Board should acknowledge your complaint and dispatch a maintenance or engineering person to follow up. Have you checked with your neighbors? Are they having the same problem? There is always strength in numbers so the more complaining that goes on, the more likely there is to be a resolution. Be persistent and be thorough. I am confident that you can have this situation remedied. Good luck!

HOA Has No Jurisdiction Outside of Association Grounds

K.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a townhouse HOA. Everyone in the facility is allowed 2 parking spacing, those with more than 2 cars need to apply with the HOA to obtain an extra space as well as pay a fee for the parking permit. To avoid paying the fee and applying to the HOA it seems a majority of the community parks outside of and on the street into the community illegally in some areas. Honestly, it looks horrendous and makes it difficult to pull into and out of the community as it blocks the view of oncoming cars. What can I do about this? Should I call the county about the other owners/tenants parking illegally?

Mister Condo replies:

K.K., I am sorry that you are dealing with a challenging parking situation at your HOA. While the HOA controls much of what happens inside the grounds of the association, they have absolutely no jurisdiction over what happens outside the common grounds. The County officials are your only hope of correcting this problem. If no laws are being broken, there really isn’t anything else you can do about it. All the best!

Disaster Floods Condo; Association Refuses to Remediate Resultant Mold

C.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My niece owns an upstairs condo unit.  Recently, the bottom unit was flooded by rain to the point of 6′ high.  The area has been declared a national disaster area and FEMA is processing claims.  My niece’s unit has mold growing up her walls and her floor is buckling due to the flood.  The owner of the downstairs unit started working to rid his unit of mold, mildew, etc. but stopped for some unknown reason.  FEMA has told my niece that her unit is a health hazard and needs to be vacated immediately. Here’s the kicker:  They tell her they cannot help her as had the downstairs owner took care of his condo, her condo wouldn’t have felt any effects of the flood.  What say you?

Mister Condo replies:

C.D., I am truly sorry your niece’s condo unit was flooded and damaged. Unfortunately, it would appear we live in a time of escalating natural disasters and many condos around the country have been impacted this past year. How a community association or HOA responds to these disasters can be just as damaging as the disasters themselves. Clearly, your niece has suffered a catastrophic loss here and it sounds like the HOA isn’t doing right by her. This could be because they aren’t familiar with how they should handle this disaster or they may not know where to turn to get the money to make the repairs or there may just be confusion caused by insurance companies or poorly written condo docs. It may be that the downstairs neighbor is also to blame and may be sued as well as part of the money recovery efforts. Whatever the reason, my next call would be to my attorney as this doesn’t look like it will be settled by simply asking the association to make the repairs. Also, if your niece has adequate homeowners’ insurance, she might be eligible for housing costs while the repairs are made. Clearly, she should not reside in a mold-infested unit. This is going to take a while to sort out but I am sure she will get the problem addressed once legal action is taken. Good luck!

Condo Board Denies Unit Owner Driveway Widening Request; Owner Proceeds Anyway!

J.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

One of our condo owners asked the Board if they could widen their driveway to accommodate 2 cars. We, as a board, had to deny the request due to the bylaws regulating common areas. We have discovered they are making plans to proceed without our permission. What can we do to prevent this from occurring?

Mister Condo replies:

J.G., this is the second day in a row I have received questions about unit owners feeling they have the right to do whatever they want in their condo, regardless of the rules of the association. Quite simply, the Board is the enforcer of the association rules and it is up to the Board to make all unit owners comply with the regulations of the community. If a unit owner attempts to modify a common element, in any way, the Board needs to cite them for the violation, ask them to return the common element to the way it was before they violated the governing documents. Further, contentious unit owners who show little regard for the rules of the association often need further “encouragement” in the form of a lawsuit, that not only forces them to comply with the rules but also costs them a good deal of money because they are often charged the cost of the association’s attorney to take action against them. It is unfortunate that it often comes to this but I find it is the best way for the association to protect itself from unit owners who probably don’t belong living in a condominium in the first place due to their lack of consideration of following the rules which make the community a desirable place to live. Good luck!

Condo Owner Modifies Condo Interior Without Board Approval

H.R. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our Small condominium, AKA condex, has one and two bedroom units. A new Unit owner has made changes to their unit without seeking the required permission from the board. The seller notified the association of a new rug to be put in. This was approved. Unfortunately, the new owner took out the old carpeting and put in hardwood floors and added additional rooms to a one bedroom unit. They are currently occupying the space as a non-approved three-bedroom unit. They are also paying the condo fee at a one bedroom rate. What is the most effective way to restore the unit to a carpeted one bedroom?

Mister Condo replies:

H.R., while it would be nice for the unit owner who has broken the rules of the association to simply restore the unit to its previous condition and live in the unit as was agreed to in the by-laws of the association, it is very likely time for the association to hire an attorney and sue the owner to make the necessary changes. Clearly, this unit owner has neither read nor lived up to the expectation and requirements as set out in the governing documents. Fortunately for the association, this is a legal document that gives the association fairly broad powers in forcing compliance. Obviously, the first step is to ask nicely that the new owner adhere to the by-laws and restore the unit to its previous condition. However, if nice doesn’t work, there is always the legal option of suing the owner and forcing compliance. I hope it goes smoothly for the association. This could be a long and costly legal battle if it doesn’t. Good luck!

Young Couple Seeks Entry Into 55+ Condo Community

S.M. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are a young couple interested in a condo that at the moment is not an over 55 age restricted community, but the tenants are trying to make it a 55+ community. If we purchase the condo now, and it becomes a 55+community later, what does it mean for us? We live in Florida. Thanks.

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., I would recommend that you speak with a local attorney about what would happen to you if the community decided to become a 55+ association. I am not an attorney so I cannot offer you legal advice. From a practical standpoint, I am not sure why you, as a young couple, would want to live in an age-restricted community. I am going to assume that once you are an owner, any rule or covenant changes such as becoming age-restricted are subject to “grandfathering” of current unit owners, meaning you wouldn’t be forced out of your home just because the age restriction went into place. The bigger challenge for the association may be adhering to Florida’s 80/20 rule which basically states that 80% of the units must be occupied by a person of the stated age group. There are a few other requirements as well, which you can read about in this excellent blog article: http://www.floridacondohoalawblog.com/2010/04/01/55-over-housing-what-is-the-8020-rule/ The bottom line is whether or not you will find life in a 55+ community to your liking. If you think it is the lifestyle you want and there are currently no restrictions in place, you may be just fine in making your purchase. However, you might also consider nearby community associations without these restrictions as you find the lifestyle there more compatible to folks in your age group. Whatever you decide, I wish you an enjoyable new home

When is a Condo Guest More than a Guest?

S.W. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Florida condo provides parking sticker for unit owner that lives in unit plus 2 guest passes. My son visits 3 days a week & stays overnight & hangs the permanent guest pass. Board wants him to lie in tenant form that he lives in unit & pays rent. By laws / condo docs state guest can park for a limit is 30 days, for a period of 4 months, except for family members. Board member stated the car will be towed if just using a guest pass. He is my son, therefore a family member & we do not falsify written documents. What are my rights? Also, sometimes I drive his car that is also registered to me.

Mister Condo replies:

S.W., I am sorry you find yourself at odds with your association over your son’s car. You should not be asked to falsify documents but you should also respect the rules of the association. Obviously, the association feels as though your son’s car being on property so frequently is a violation of the rules. You don’t feel that way so there is a disagreement between you and the association over the interpretation of the rules. Let’s start with the premise that you own both cars and want to keep them parked on association grounds. If what you have told me is correct, that isn’t allowed. You get one parking sticker per unit and that is being used for your car. You also get two guest passes that were designed for the specific use of short-term visiting guests. The association has very specific rules on what defines a guest. I can’t tell you specifically how to interpret those rules because you end the statement with “except for family members”, which clearly your son is. What are the rules for family members? Is there a form to fill out indicating that he is a family member? If so, fill it out and follow the rules for family members. If you continue to use the guest pass and the Board feel you are violating the rules, they may begin to fine you and/or tow his car as they have threatened to do. Many associations have these parking restrictions in place so that unit owners don’t skirt rules about long-term visitors and family members taking vacation within units. My guess is that the association is in the right here but you may wish to seek a legal opinion from a local attorney and see what additional rights you have. It is an unfortunate situation to say the least and I am sure neither you nor your son are seeking to be uncooperative. It would be nice to take a deeper look at your documents to see what you are doing “wrong” in the eyes of the association. If all it takes to satisfy them is filling out a form that says he is a family members and not just another visitor, I would likely advise you to do so. All the best!

Michigan Condo Owner Seeks to Replace Board Members and Access Association Records

J.T. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

This is in the state of Michigan: What percentage of signed owners (in agreement) are needed to release the current board members? And, replace? How does an owner or owners (#) demand to receive current and past (3 years) bills (invoices) for services, including the property management company and accounting?

Mister Condo replies:

J.T., since I am neither an expert in Michigan condo law nor an attorney, I posed your question to a group of friends who do practice community association law in your state. This is not to be construed as legal advice. It is just some friendly advice to guide you on your way. You may wish to seek your own legal opinion and/or hire an attorney to guide you on your path. Here is what my friend had to offer:

In Michigan, the ability to remove a director(s) is typically governed by the association bylaws a/k/a the corporate bylaws. Depending on the age of the governing documents, the condominium bylaws and the association bylaws may be merged into one document. Therefore, the first place to look would be in the association bylaws, which usually has a procedure to remove a director. In addition, most condominium associations are nonprofit corporations and the Michigan Nonprofit Corporation Act also has provisions regarding removing a director. See MCL 450.2511 and MCL 450.2514.

In order to demand current and past bills, the individual would need to send a demand for inspection of records letter. The letter can be sent under the 1) Nonprofit Corporation Act, 2) the Michigan Condominium Act and/or 3) the Condominium Bylaws. As an attorney, my firm routinely handles such requests.

That sounds like solid advice to me, J.T.! All the best!

Upstairs Condo Flooring Creates Downstairs Condo Nightmare

T.A. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can an HOA threaten or sue me to not call or complain about the constant noises from the unit above mine. It’s like hammering or whatnot. They changed their flooring around January or February of last year and it seems like not a minimum adequate sound barrier was put. I’ve had to call the police several times. Now he’s saying I’ve aggressively approached him using profane language. Not true. I’ve approached him civilly twice and the last time I asked him to “please! Stop the noises or I’m going to have to call the police”…he said call them and slammed the door. He’s now “saying in harassing him by calling the police and aggressively threatening him? Whatever the case, I’m in Florida. Can they sue me or threat me to stop calling the police non-emergency number when the noises get unbearable?

Mister Condo replies:

T.A., I am most sorry for your unfortunate predicament. In today’s litigious world, lawsuits abound and just about anyone can sue anyone else for seemingly ridiculous reasons. You and I are no exception so there is always the possibility of a lawsuit. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Let me address the basis of your complaint and what you may be able to do using your rights as a unit owner inside of a condominium. Step 1 is to review your condo documents regarding peaceable enjoyment of your unit. Also, take a good look at what it says about flooring. Many condominiums prohibit the installation of hardwood or laminate or tile flooring in units that reside above other units. If your upstairs neighbor violated that rule by removing carpeting and installing a new floor, this is relatively simple to fix. You write to the Board about the rule violation by your neighbor and the Board will take action to remedy the situation. This will involve the Board, not you, citing the unit owner for the rule violation and the fines they will incur until they remedy the flooring. If your association has no rule about flooring types, you likely have the right to peaceable enjoyment. You are going to write to the Board about the noise emanating from above and the Board should take action. If they don’t and there is no legal remedy available to you, you should consider selling and moving to an association that values peace and quiet. You have an expectation to minimal noise. Living beneath hardwood or other flooring creates a really bad environment for sound intrusion, which is exactly the reason it isn’t allowed in many condos. My guess is that with some proper complaints (in writing, not verbal) to the Board (not your neighbor), you will get the relief you seek. Good luck!

Common Fees Continue After Condo Unit Fire Damage

E.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We recently purchased a foreclosed unit. Just prior to the foreclosure being finalized the unit was badly damaged in a fire, originating from the unit below. There is damage to our unit which is being repaired. Am I correct in assuming that the condo fees will abate until the unit is habitable?

Mister Condo replies:

E.J., I am sorry to say that you are not correct. I am sorry that you have suffered a loss in the form of fire damage but that is what insurance is for. Common fees continue unless the Board has decided it will not rebuild the unit (unusual). Your common fees pay for far more than just your unit. All of the common grounds are maintained, reserve funds are built, and all of the day-to-day expenses of property management and maintenance continue. Your common fees are part of the pooled common fees that pay for all of these expenses. Should you elect not to pay them, the association is then forced to pursue you for collection, up to and including, foreclosure on your property. You certainly don’t want that to happen. You should continue to pay your common fees and encourage the association to get your unit in good working order as quickly as possible. Good luck!