Monthly Archives: December 2017

Condo Board Commandeers Unit Owner’s Deeded Parking

E.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our water system needs to be fixed. The Board of the Directors makes a construction project in the garage area. The Management just simply posted that all the vehicles needed to be removed before the starting date of the construction without any meeting. After that certain date, all the materials on the deeded garage would be disposal. Do the Board of the Directors have the right to “order” the garage owners to move away from their deeded parking? Can the garage owners ask for the reimbursement of the maintenance fee during the unused period on the parking space?

Mister Condo replies:

E.M., that is a most unfortunate occurrence of events. It sounds like the Board did not do an adequate job of communicating the needs of the association before the project got underway. Deeded parking is owned by the unit owner, not the association. The association has no more right to simply commandeer your deeded parking than they do to take over neighboring land that they do not own. Compensating you for the use of your parking space may be one remedy available to you. However, suing the Board after the fact may hardly be worth your time or effort. I would make a point of finding out what the Board can and cannot do moving forward so this doesn’t happen again. If all of this work was done to update or maintain the community’s water system, I would think most residents would have willingly given up their parking for the duration of the project as the need for clean water trumps the need for a parking space. However, just as you must observe association rules, the Board must observe unit owner’s rights. I hope you can enter into a meaningful conversation with the Board to make sure they do not traipse all over the rights of unit owners like you when the next project comes up where they may need to store equipment or supplies in privately owned parking spaces. If they continue, a lawsuit may be in order. All the best!

Condo Board D&O Dos and Don’ts

C.V. from Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can board members be sued along with the management company? Should board members carry extra insurance other than the standard policy already in force by association? Thank You!

Mister Condo replies:

C.V., that is a great question! I am not an attorney, so please accept my reply as friendly advice. You may wish to pose the same question to your association attorney for a proper legal answer. In today’s litigious society it is quite possible for Board Members as well as the Property Management company and even the Association as a whole to be sued. The association typically holds insurance policies that cover them for a wide range of possible lawsuits. Directors and Officers (D&O) is one of those policies and it covers Board Members for most typical lawsuits they might face in the performance of their duties. For most Board Members, that is enough coverage for peace of mind while serving as a volunteer member of Board of Directors. However, there have been cases where Board Members have made exceptionally poor decisions that can lead to criminal and/or personal lawsuits that are outside the scope of this coverage.  I am not sure if any additional insurance coverage would have helped them but it may be worth a conversation with your personal agent, especially if you are quite well off and concerned that a personal lawsuit would be a burden worth insuring against. I have personally served on Boards for most of my adult condo life and I have never sought additional coverage. Then again, I have never been sued performing my duties as a Board Member and I can’t imagine any of my actions as a Board Member not being covered by the association’s D & O policy. That being said, I wouldn’t consider serving on a Board where the D & O policy wasn’t in place and kept current. All the best!

Outside Condo Stairway Being Treated as Unit Owner Responsibility

J.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I just received a letter stating that I have to replace the rug on the outside stairway of a four-unit condo. The building has a first-floor landing and stairs that go to the two second floor units that are in open air under the building roof. Isn’t the stairway considered a common area?

Mister Condo replies:

J.L., generally speaking, any shared portion of a condominium such as an externa staircase as you have described would be considered a common element, owned by the association. But, just because you and I think it should be a common element, small condos like yours often come with unusual wording in the condo documents which might cast some doubt as to who owns what. You need to look at the condo documents and see if the staircase is described as part of your unit or a common element. If the documents are unclear as to the ownership of the stairs, you would do well to question the cost of the carpet replacement. You might wish to hire an attorney to review your documents and give you a proper legal opinion. I would certainly push back before simply paying for the carpet. Good luck!

Are Condo Unit Owner’s Comments Required for Board Meeting Minutes?

J.P. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our board meets tonight and there is a section for unit owner comments. Are those comments required to be part of the minutes published or is it at the discretion of the board?

Mister Condo replies:

J.P., I am glad to hear you are offering a time and a place for unit owners to make comments at the Board Meeting. That is good governance and shows compliance with our state’s Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA). The Minutes of the meeting reflect motions, votes, and actions taken by the Board as well as a few other housekeeping items such as approval of the previous Minutes, and reports from Committees, Property Manager (if any), and even a President’s Report, if offered. The Minutes are not an item for item reiteration of the meeting and other than acknowledging that there was a Unit Owner comment period as noted in the Agenda, the actual comments made do not have to be included in the Minutes. There could be exceptions, of course, and the Board, at its discretion, may wish to include details of the comments in the Minutes if they so wish. All the best!

Small Condo; Big Governance Problem!

J.P. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a small condo association in Florida. While being a new owner, I have noticed that the whole board and the running of the property is out of control. The President has been in place for several years as I can tell since no one else wanted to be on the board. It is a 55+ community. He also put himself as the property manager. The budget is less than $100K, so no property management company is required. He does not pay any HOA fees as he says that is in lieu of his property manager position. The association never voted for this, he just took this over on his own. He bullies the owners who are old and some do not speak good English. When he gets mad at you, he is very vindictive and knocks on people’s doors late at night. This guy is in his 70’s and a heavy drinker. I voted myself onto the board recently as Treasurer to have a voice and he has yet to hand over the books, check writing, etc. Many people believe he is hiding stuff and he now refuses to answer his door or calls from me. He feels threatened and believes I will expose what he has been doing the past 5 years or so. What do you recommend the best course of action to get control of the situation? I have spoken to the association’s lawyer who says to file a complaint with the state (Florida), I plan to do so in hopes of getting the ball rolling to have him removed. We also have cameras throughout the property which he installed but he is the only one who has control of them as it is set up in his unit. Many people feel uncomfortable as he watches all day and approaches people when they get home. I have to assume that is not legal as when we ask to see a clip he does not allow it. As you can see this place is a mess and would be happy to hear any suggestions you may have before I contact the state. Thank you for your advice.

Mister Condo replies:

J.P., there is very little that I can add before you contact the state, which I hope you have already done. The association attorney can only do as much as the association (the Board) instructs him or her to do. You do need to review your governance documents (or have the attorney review them for you) to see what steps will be necessary to remove the President from office and from the Board. If funds are missing or misappropriated, there may very well be criminal charges as well. Right off the bat, I can tell you that the association should go after the unpaid common fees. Board members are not exempt from common fees and unless there is some kind of formal agreement between the President and the Association for him to serve as a paid Property Manager, he will have to make good on those unpaid fees as well as any late fees. Shame on your fellow unit owners who took no action until now. From what you have said, this behavior has been going on for years. Who knows what financial perils this person has brought upon the association. What about other Board members? Are there none? This situation stinks to high heaven and you are correct to pursue a remedy for you and all of the other unit owners are at serious financial risk as long as this individual has the association checkbook. The time for action is now. Good luck!

HOA Wants to Sell Parking Space to Home Owner!

H.G. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a homeowners’ association buy little stubs that in the past 50+ years have not been used and simply allowed easy access to parking on either side of two beach property homes and were either owned by no one or owned by the association and force the owner of the home to purchase it ($7k) or risk that someone else will buy it and use for parking between your homes and make parking for us nearly impossible?

Mister Condo replies:

H.G., that is a loaded question if I ever heard one! It is a question that would best be answered by an attorney, which I am not. Who owns the parking spaces? If it is the association, they can very likely handle the access to those spaces however they see fit. Even if they haven’t invoked their right to charge a fee for the past 50+ years as you state, it is still their property. If you own the property, that is a different story. If they are selling you the space for $7,000 and it is then yours to use or sell as you see fit, I would think that is a good investment. Otherwise, as you say, who know who else could buy it and prevent easy parking for you and your guests. Good luck!

Condo Board Dragging Their Feet on Renter’s Pet Approval

K.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a new move-in in my condo building. About three months ago I submitted a general purchase application to the condo board of managers, which includes a question about pet information. According to the house rule, upon the board approval, pets are allowed in unit and leashed in common area, so I clearly stated that I plan to adopt a small size apartment dog. However, I haven’t heard from the board for three months. I even heard that they plan to charge a pet fee (and this is after my application was submitted). I want to ask what can I do if the board keeps silent forever and if it’s legal to charge a new fee after the application being submitted. Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

K.L., I am sorry that you are having difficulty getting an answer about your new pet. I am sure you are anxious to make the adoption and also be a good tenant and resident of the association. Until you have the approval of the Board, you would be wise to wait as you would be in violation of the rules of the association otherwise. The Board does have the right to implement pet fees and they are not beholden to any timeframe for that, including your application date. In fact, they could implement the fee AFTER your approval and you would still be subject to it, in my opinion. As for how long they have to reply to your request, it really is up to them. Ideally, it should be at their next meeting or however else they handle the request. Some associations would delegate the job to a property manager; others handle it themselves. As a renter, you need to apply pressure to your landlord to get the Board to take action. The unit owner, not the renter, is the one who the Board must answer to. Hopefully, you can get this matter cleared up in short order. Good luck!