Monthly Archives: January 2018

Condo Owner’s Guest Flagrantly Violates Parking Rules

L.W. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our parking rules state that “no vehicles may be stored in common parking spaces when not in use. Vehicles that are not operable or that will not be utilized for 15 days or longer should be parked in the Unit Owners garage or driveway.” The live-in boyfriend of a unit owner has parked his beat up pickup truck in a parking spot in the common area for more than one month. It has not budged in a month. I requested our Management Company ask that he move the truck weeks ago, but it has not moved. The owner of the truck is NOT an owner in this complex, just a friend of one. The truck owner has a new truck which he parks near the old one, indicating to me that he is merely storing this unused truck in one of our common area parking places. It is infuriating that they are being allowed to do this. What do you suggest?

Mister Condo replies:

L.W., the use and management of the common parking areas is the purview of the Board. It is up to them to enforce the rules of the association. Your duty is to report those parking violations that you observe to the Board. It is then up to the Board to take the appropriate action. You can follow up with the Board to see what they are doing but that is the limit of what you can do. The Property Manager can only do what the Board empowers him or her to do. While your by-laws state the intended use of the parking lot they may not say what, specifically, can be done to unit owners or guests who do not comply. Typically, fines are issued after warnings are given. In extreme cases, the Board may have the authority to tow the vehicle off property. Whatever the rules are, all you can do as a resident is to report the offense. It is up to the Board to deal with the problem. All the best!

Condo Board Divided Not Getting Work Done

R.G. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My board can’t agree on replacing security cameras. Meanwhile we have no cameras. Our pool is also closed since November for structural repairs. Five members can’t agree on anything or even get a quorum. I want to know what can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

R.G., other than running for the Board yourself or electing folks that work better together, there isn’t anything you can do. Board members are volunteer leaders from within your community and are democratically elected by you and the other unit owners in your association. They are charged with conducting the business of the association but they don’t have to get along or agree on anything, kind of like members of Congress! Unlike members of Congress, they aren’t compensated for their work but that doesn’t mean they can ignore the wishes of their constituents! My advice is to look at the Minutes of the Board meetings this past year and find out how the members are voting. If you don’t like what you see, organize more like-minded candidates to run for the Board. Perhaps you should consider running? That way, you’ll have a ringside seat to see what is causing these delays. Otherwise, my guess is you can expect more of the same. Good luck!

Condo Sheetrock Project Creates Dusty Nightmare for Residents

J.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 65-unit owned condo. Our manager refuses to clean the hardwood laminate flooring until the plumbing project is complete. It is covered in sheetrock dust and tracking everywhere in the common areas. What can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

J.T., there isn’t too much you can do as a resident other than complain to the Board to apply pressure to the Property Manager and/or the contractor doing the work. Sheetrock projects generally create dust and a better plan for the project would have included dust control measures. That component was either overlooked or the Board decided to take a cheaper route and not include it. The end result is the messy situation you have right now. Not all projects are as simple as hiring a contractor to do the work. Sometimes you need to think about the side effects on residents. This is a great example of how that lack of foresight lead to a bad living experience for residents. The good news is that “this, too, shall pass” and that the project is likely already over and the repaired area looks great. Remind the Board that future projects should include a plan for dust remediation, even if it costs a little extra. All the best!

No Elections Held for Years at this Condo!

P.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What if no new elections have taken place for several years? Can board members just keep voting selves in?

Mister Condo replies:

P.A., unchallenged, a seated Board can do a lot of things, including behave outside the rules of governance for the association. Your documents clearly state how elections to the Board are held. Most require annual meetings of the shareholders (unit owners) at which time two very important things should happen. The adoption of the Annual Budget which sets out the common fee schedule and how the money will be spent throughout the year and the election of Board members are the two things that generally must happen. If there are no unit owners coming to these meetings and no unit owners looking to serve, guess what happens? The seated Board is free to do just about whatever they want because there is no one to stop them from continuing to serve on the Board. As long as the association’s bills are getting paid and no one is pushing back on the common fees it would appear as the other unit owners are content to let things be. This is an incredibly dangerous situation and a condominium association I couldn’t get out of fast enough but it does happen. When you purchase into a condominium association you are actually purchasing into a corporation. If you don’t care what happens to your investment you don’t have to pay attention to how the corporation is run. The same is true in a condominium. If you and your fellow unit owners are ready to challenge the sitting board, I would suggest you all attend the Annual Meeting this year and get ready to run for office. It is an unpaid, volunteer position but it is vital to the healthy running of the association. Even if you are not elected to serve, the fact that unit owners like you are paying attention may be all this Board needs to offer more transparency. Shame on any association member who doesn’t care enough about how the corporation is run to not pay attention to something as important as this. They will have no one to blame but themselves if the association is poorly run or money goes missing. Good luck!

Cantankerous Condo Renter Unhappy at Condo

B.C. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The condo president is a nightmare. The Board is a nightmare. This condo is intentionally making it difficult for guests to get in and out of the building. The intention is increased security but it is just increased harassment. If a nurse or CNA visits every day, calling the gate every day is absurd. They get too many phone calls and don’t have time to make parking passes for the number of visitors we have during the winter. Disabled parking is not required for condos in FL — but they have a sign saying that if a resident parks in a guest spot (even with a handicap sticker) the car will be towed. There is a sign saying I can be fined for drinking water while swimming. Funny thing is….they have no one to enforce any rules or call the tow company so the folks who rent here ignore the rules and the board and work everything out with the parking amongst ourselves. I cannot be evicted by a condo board and my landlord will never evict me. They can’t “put pressure” on the landlord because he will ignore them. I have spoken with the President of the Rec Center and he sees my side but refuses to hire his incompetent manager who is the cause of ALL problems here. I never agreed to follow any rules. I don’t even have a written lease anymore….because my landlord trusts me. If the Board of this condo refuses to let in my guests, I will either have a panic attack and call the police or I will insult someone who will then hit me and then I will file battery charges. Can I file a law suit against the Condo Board for discrimination against the disabled? The manager is hated here…how do I get her fired without ending up in jail myself?

Mister Condo replies:

B.C., I can’t for the life of me understand why you would live in a place that is so out of touch with your living needs. A condominium is not an assisted living center and the association is under no obligation to change its rules to suit your needs. You, and everyone else, need to follow the rules of the community. The Board, democratically elected by all unit owners, including your landlord, conducts the business of the association as it sees fit but does have to answer to unit owners at annual elections. If they aren’t doing their jobs they are likely to be voted off the Board. That doesn’t seem to be the case from what you have told me. Your lack of lease agreement with your landlord does not exempt you from the rules of the community. In fact, my guess is that your landlord is in violation of the rules for renting units by not having a written agreement with you on file with the association. You claim you can’t be evicted by the association but without a valid rental agreement to defend yourself, I am not so sure you are correct. You would be unwise to do anything illegal such as verbally assault any of the Board members or Property Manager at your condo. You would do well to speak with your own attorney and see what, if any, legal rights you have. From what you have told me here, I don’t see where any laws are being violated but I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. You might consider moving to a more suitable community when your lease ends, whenever that is (who knows with an unwritten lease?). Whatever you decide to do, I wish you a happier condo life experience. All the best!

No Enforcement of Condo Parking Rules Leads to Chaos for Condo Resident

L.T. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have requested for past 5 years to move my parking spot. I rent (by choice) and I am allowed 1 marked spot and 1 visitor spot. I have the only spot parked under a tree. My car gets ruined every day by bird droppings it has ruined the paint on my car and is costing me a small fortune at the car wash. This is not my original spot as you can clearly see on the pavement it was changed. I drive an SUV and I am boxed in by car in front of me and one behind me. Almost every day I come home and someone is in my spot. It clearly should be visitor spot with the one behind me. Gas Co., Comcast , pizza delivery. etc.. So, I park in my visitor spot instead of honking my horn. I also take photos to document. I receive “fines” from condo board for parking in visitor spot. Clearly someone has nothing else to do. Nor have they asked “why” am I supposed to run out all night to check if they left. And it seems to only apply to renters. I also am disabled suffer from migraines. All this exacerbates my condition dealing w/ this every day. Seems there is one set of bylaws for owners and another for renters. I am now submitting a reasonable request. I cannot get an answer why this is such a problem? Just switch my spot. They did it for previous owner. I can go on and on example nobody parks in front of their garage as the bylaws state, parking spaces are not the same length, etc….

Mister Condo replies:

L.T., I am sorry you are having such parking difficulties at your condo apartment. Residents of condominium associations are supposed to voluntarily follow rules such as parking rules because they wish to live in an orderly community. Clearly, your fellow residents have no desire to do so which means the Board needs to intervene and enforce the rules. Sending you fines for violating the rules is one way in which they can attempt to impose order. However, they need to fine all offenders, not just you. If you are being unfairly singled out, you may have a case for a discrimination claim against the association. You should seek the advice of an attorney to see if that is plausible. Other than that, there isn’t too much you can do as an individual. You a should complain to the Board each and every time a parking violation is observed. The Board is under no obligation to move your space although you are free to continue to ask. My guess is this is a classic case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. Be thorough, be consistent, and continue to document the parking violations and report them in timely fashion to the Board. Appear at the Board meetings to voice your complaints. If the Board is unable to fulfill its duty and provide your parking as it does other residents, you will be left with only two other options. Again, you can speak with an attorney to see if there is a legal case to be made or you can move to another apartment where parking may not be such an ordeal. Good luck!

Condo Resident Refuses to Stop Smoking!

J.H. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am president of the Board for my condo. The son of a unit owner and his girlfriend living in the unit are extremely heavy smokers which is causing the unit owner next door great consternation as the smoke seeps through the common block wall between units. We have been dealing with this for some time, and have sent letters to the owner and offending parties, but they are addicted and won’t cease.

The offended party is tearing off walls to try and smoke proof the area and wants to send the condo association the bill for perceived indifference. We are limited in what we can do about this. We have by-laws that cover being a nuisance to your neighbor, but are unsure of how to enforce them given that these people are very addicted and I doubt simple fines will be the answer. In your opinion what is the next step?

Mister Condo replies:

J.H., smoking is a very serious concern for many condominiums around the country. You need to speak with your association attorney to determine what legal steps you can take to make your community “smoke-free”. I am not an attorney but I do know of several who are quite knowledgeable about this subject matter in your state. Two of them have published articles that you need to read:

https://www.goldmanpease.com/secondhand-smoke-and-your-condominium-how-to-navigate-the-changing-legal-landscape.html

https://meeb.com/uncategorized/condominium-smoking-war-heats-up-in-massachusetts/

The bottom line is that second-hand smoke can be considered a nuisance. Clearly, for your non-smoking unit owner who is battling this fight first-hand, nuisance barely begins to describe what he is living with. I find it unlikely that he can charge the association for repairs and changes he is making to his own unit but, in court cases where laws are often interpreted, you never know. I think it is more likely that your association can ban smoking, which will protect the association. Further, beyond fines, it may be possible to evict those who repeated refuse to follow the rules. In some states, smoking in a high-density housing area where smoking is prohibited can be considered a crime. I am not saying that you will have the local police come out to get your smokers arrested but you can make their decision to smoke a lot less appealing. There is no constitutional “right to smoke” so if the association passes a “no smoking” rule, it would very likely stand up to a legal challenge. My hopes for you would be that the smokers would realize this is not the community for them to live in and that they should consider relocating to a “smoker friendly” environment, such as a private home. Best wishes!

Previous Condo Trustee Allowed Unit Owner Delinquency to Go Unchecked!

M.C. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our trustee just sold her unit making me the new trustee. After she left, I found out one of the Unit owners wasn’t paying their HOA fees and that the former trustee had used funds I put in the Reserve Fund for my share of assessments to front for them. We were about to hold off on a planned assessment because of this when the city slapped us with a fine so now we have to move forward or rack up more fines! I asked a lawyer for a consultation hoping he could give us some advice on how to proceed and he practically laughed me off the phone saying the situation wasn’t worth a lawyer. But the unit owners still aren’t paying and the city is expecting us to move forward with the assessment! What do we do?

Mister Condo replies:

M.C., for starters, you get a new lawyer! I don’t know of any lawyer committed to community association law that would “laugh you off the phone” for such a potentially serious and clearly legal matter. You have three very separate matters to attend to here. The city slapping you with a fine is likely your biggest fish to fry. Get your association in compliance with the city so no further fines result. The city likely has powers to make your life quite uncomfortable depending on the nature of the offense. If they find your buildings are uninhabitable due to a safety issue, they could actually forbid people from living in your units. You certainly don’t want that and I am hoping that the fine is for something easily remedied. If a Special Assessment is needed to bring the association into compliance with the city’s requirements, it may be time to levy that assessment. Be sure you do so in accordance with your association’s governance documents and state law. Second, you need to take legal action against the unit owner in arrears as allowed by your governing documents. Typically, this is the work of an attorney or collection agency. Do not take matters into your own hands. Collections is a delicate and legal process best handled by professionals. Collection efforts may even lead to a foreclosure action by the association against the unit owner in arrears. This is not a matter to be taken lightly. Finally, the previous Trustee has acted inappropriately and, perhaps, even illegally. The decision to let another unit owner to forego paying assessments was very likely outside the scope of their authority. At the very least, it was a dereliction of duty. An attorney can best advise you if it is worth seeking criminal or civil charges against the previous trustee in an attempt to collect the delinquent common fees. Once you get all of these problems behind you, M.C., you can focus on running the association like a business, as it was intended to be. Good luck!

Condo Board Unwilling to Maintain and Upkeep Common Grounds

J.W. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The association refuses to repair muddy spots in my lawn. They are from the clay dirt and require maintenance.

Mister Condo replies:

J.W., maintenance and upkeep of common areas are the purview of the Board. I assume the area you are describing as “my lawn” is, in fact, common ground. The Board is not actually under any obligation to do anything although most would want the association landscaping to be in good shape so as to increase curb appeal and unit owner enjoyment of the property. If your Board has no interest in the maintenance or upkeep of the property, it is time for a new Board. Perhaps, you would like to serve? Ask the Board to make the repair, not just to the portion of the common grounds that abut your unit but to all of the common grounds. If they are unwilling, find better candidates to serve on the Board and vote the current Board out at your next election. All the best!

Noisy Condo Neighbor Serves On the Board and Doesn’t Follow Rules

W.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have been having a problem with the owner of the Condo above me. I have asked him several times to try and cut down the noise on his floor (walking, dropping heavy objects, etc.t) which makes noise come down into my condo. He also has a Doberman dog that sometimes barks 30 or more minutes at a time. Yesterday, I talked with him and asked if he would try to cut down on the noise. I have done this before with some results. Yesterday when I asked the question, he came unglued, telling me not to speak to him again and a few other choice words. I feel that if he continues to make excessive noise, I should be able to ask him to try and keep the noise down. What else can or should I do? Also, this person is one of our directors and the other two goes along with him.

Mister Condo replies:

W.T., I am sorry for your problems and for your inconsiderate upstairs neighbor. I am going to give you two answers for your consideration. The first is to write to the Board with as much supporting documentation to describe the noise and the rules violations being committed by your upstairs neighbor. Almost all condos have rules about noise and the rights to a peaceable environment for all residents. Further, almost all have rules about pets and the acceptable noise level and noise curation that other residents have to tolerate. A 30-minute session of any dog barking is sure to be a rule violation. In the past, you have taken a neighborly approach with some success. Speaking with an agreeable neighbor is a great start but that is no longer an option. Your neighbor has made it clear he has no intention of keeping the noise down. Your recourse is with the other members of the Board, his fellow Directors. If they are reluctant to take action against your neighbor, you have two practical options. First, you can sue the Board for neglecting to enforce the noise covenants of the association. Your second option is to move out of this community. It is unfortunate that it has come to this but having a jerk for a neighbor is not only annoying, it can be downright dangerous. Having a jerk like this neighbor on your Board is equally dangerous, especially if his fellow Board members are reluctant to enforce the rules against him. I am sorry I don’t have better news for you. Keep me posted and good luck!