Monthly Archives: January 2018

Condo Grease Trap Back-up Leaves Unit Owner Footing Amelioration Costs

K.K. from Illinois writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo sustained water damage from a backup in the sink drain line shared by three units, in a three-story building. My unit is on the first floor, and when the exterior grease trap backed up, water was forced up through my kitchen sink and into the unit. I was out of town at the time, and by my return there was a significant amount of water, slime and mold in the unit. The amelioration bill was $2,300. My insurer covers everything except this, and the condo board refuses to file a claim with the association’s insurer. Also, this happened before to the previous owner of my unit, and to other first floor units. Doesn’t the association have the responsibility to file a claim rather than deny responsibility? The condo is in Illinois.

Mister Condo replies:

K.K., they don’t necessarily have to file a claim but they are likely still responsible for the damage seeing as it was caused by a common element. Your homeowner’s insurance is always your first line of defense and it looks like they paid for the worst of the damage. If your association is refusing to file a claim or pay for the amelioration, it may be time to seek the advice of an attorney. Personally, I would file a suit (most likely Small Claims although I don’t know what your local laws dictate for a $2300 claim). If the association doesn’t want to file a claim, they don’t have to. However, if they are liable, they still have to make you whole. I am sure finding your condo water damaged was stressful enough. Getting the association to pay for the amelioration shouldn’t be. Good luck!

Noisy Condo Tenant May Get Evicted!

N.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have been a noisy tenant in my rental condo. I used to work nights, and I would be unwinding at odd hours. Due to complaints, I even switched my hours to work in the daytime. I still have my night time tendencies. I have been paying tons of fines, but the condo board “will be discussing my issue”. I have been trying really hard to walk on eggshells (keep the TV down, etc…) What can they do to me? Can they kick me out?

Mister Condo replies:

N.A., a noisy tenant is a big problem for a condo association. Unit owners and neighbors complain to the Board and the Board must take action against the unit owner and the tenant of the unit owner – you. Being aware of the problem is half of the battle and you seem to know that you been violating association rules for some time and have paid a “ton of fines”. The idea of the fine is to correct the behavior. In other words, fine the offender a few times and the offender should stop violating the rules. To accrue “tons of fines” means that strategy hasn’t worked with you which puts the Board under pressure to take further action. Without knowing the full details of what options are available to the Board, I will say you and your landlord may find yourselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit seeking eviction. If that happens you will most definitely want to contact an attorney to defend yourself. I have to ask you why you would want to continue to rent in this community where your lifestyle clearly doesn’t fit with the community as a whole? Why not rent in an apartment that doesn’t have as many rules or rent a single-family home where you can live as you see fit. Changing work hours and walking on eggshells doesn’t sound too appealing. You have every right to express yourself as an individual and live as you see fit. However, residing in a condo comes with rules that you voluntarily agree to. If you can’t follow them, you are asking for the kind of trouble you are receiving. I suggest you rethink this particular condo as your home and consider living somewhere more appropriate to your lifestyle. All the best!

Are Condo Trustees Exempt from Association Rules?

S.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Are trustees supposed to follow the same rules that home owners get letters for? And do all condo places have to center their cars from side to side and from front to back but trustees don’t have to?

Mister Condo replies:

S.B., unless your association has some very unusual clause that exempts trustees from following the rules of the association, they most certainly do have to follow the same rules and by-laws as every other member of the association. However, unlike everyone else who resides in the association, they are often the ones who decide if rules have been broken and what action, if any, should be taken to enforce those rules. In other words, there exists a potential for selective enforcement of the rules where they may decide to be more lenient with themselves. The good news is that trustees are voted into office by association members. You and your fellow association members can simply vote them out of office at your earliest convenience, usually the annual meeting. For truly bad offenders, the recall election can also be employed to throw them out of office sooner. The decision to serve as a trustee is an altruistic one. The good of the community and the protection of association assets is at stake; not the ability to supersede rules and practice preferential treatment for one’s self. Of course, you need to also find and elect trustees that have this altruistic spirit. If you can’t find the right people you will continue to have what you have now. Perhaps you will answer the call to server yourself, S.B.? I wish you good luck!

Neighbor Versus Neighbor Over Condo Common Walkway Use

P.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

On a common walkway, I have had a small table and 2 chairs to sit outside of my condo of 25 years. My new neighbor of 2 months, who rents at a highly discounted rate, wants my spot because it is in front of his living room windows and the absentee owner is threatening me with the police. Help! (My door is one foot from the table) it is a corner area.

Mister Condo replies:

P.C., I am sorry for your situation. Without knowing more about the particulars, let me focus on what I do know from what you have told me. Common walkways in most community association are just that, common. That means they are for the entire community’s use, not just any one member. Regardless of how long you have had a table and chair set up in this location, it wasn’t “yours” to begin with. The association, not the neighbor’s tenant or absentee neighbor, is the only entity that can ask you to remove your table and chair as the association is the owner of the common walkway. The fact that the neighbor rents at a highly discounted rate and that the owner is absent does not come into play at all here. The police will have no interest in where you set up your table and chair because you are on private property and aren’t breaking any laws. If the neighbor continues to harass you in such manner, you may be the one calling the police as they are harassing you and have no right to do so. If the neighbor has a complaint against your improper use of the common walkway, he should complain to the Board or Property Manager. It is then up to the Board to take action against you (they would likely ask you to remove your table and chair). Once you comply, you would be well within your rights to complain to the Board if anyone else set up in your previous area. The bottom line is that common walkways are not owned by unit owners; they are the property of the association and, as such, are under direct control of the Board; not other unit owners. My guess is that unless the Board is willing to implement an association-wide enforcement of the rule, nothing is going to happen. If the neighboring unit owner or renter threatens you in any way, call the police. Harassment is illegal. Good luck!

Condo Board Making Rules for Public Road!

D.C. from Pennsylvania writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo association’s declaration and rules require residents to park in their garages and driveways and prohibit them from parking on the public road in front of their unit. This public road serves only the community. Guests of residents may park on the road. Is our Executive Board on safe ground? The condo association is located in Pennsylvania.

Mister Condo replies:

D.C., when you say “public road”, I have to assume you mean a road that is open to the public, not owned or maintained by the association, and subject to local laws. In other words, it is not a private road and the land on which it sits is not owned by the association. If so, the association likely has no jurisdiction over how the road is used. So, if parking on the public road is legal for all, there isn’t too much the association can do about it. If the association owns the road, they are in control of how that road is used and can make whatever rules they wish as long as they are legal. One other consideration for a public road is whether or not it is a local, state, or federal road. I know of association that are built on either side of state highways where not only local laws but also state laws apply. For these associations, it is next to impossible to control how these roads are used. My advice is to find out who owns the road and then advise the association Board whether or not it is in their jurisdiction to make any rules about how that road is used. If it isn’t their road, they can’t make the rules. All the best!

Condo Antenna Lease Renewal Quandary

E.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are looking for an advisor to help us understand the market value of an antenna lease we have with a major carrier. Sadly, the lease revenue is being used to offset operating expenses and not just going to build reserves. Therefore, the homeowners have become used to this “operating subsidy”. The long-term contract with the carrier will soon expire and we need guidance. Any ideas for resources?

Mister Condo replies:

E.M., utilities such as renewing or changing carriers for services like an antenna lease are the purview of the Board. The use of the lease revenue to help fund the Reserve Fund is noble but not likely required. If a previous Board diverted the lease revenue from the Reserve Fund in to the Operating Fund the current Board can take steps to remedy that. However, if there is a desire to keep common fees lower by using the revenue for the Operating Fund, there may be little motivation for the Board to make the switch back. Concerned Unit Owners like you can ask the Board to make the switch. As for renewing the antenna lease itself, the Board does have a few options depending on the competition for services in your market. Their best bet would be to see what their options are and solicit bids, just like they do for any other service they buy on behalf of the association. Good luck!

Condo Board Installs Fence; Damages Unit Owner Patio

G.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo board just put in all new fencing in the back of the units & between our attached neighbors. In doing so, they removed the retainer wall for my patio pavers. When asked why, they said that it was going to be too close to the new fencing. Fencing is done and there is now a big gap between my patio & the fence (so they were wrong). The pavers are now separating because of the rain and they are refusing to put it back. The President of the Board is my direct neighbor. He “volunteered” to help us put it back. We refused on principal. Why should we have to do anything? They caused the damage they should repair it. Am I correct in my thinking? I have spoken to a lawyer, who agrees with us. But I would like for this to be resolved without having to go that route. I don’t understand WHY they won’t just do the repairs. What are your thoughts?

Mister Condo replies:

G.M., I am sorry for your patio problem although I cannot say it is too surprising to learn that the removal of a retainer wall has made for a problem. That is exactly what retainer walls are for. The real question here is who owned the retaining wall? Unless it was actually a part of your unit, it is likely the property of the association. That doesn’t necessarily mean they should have removed it or left if removed once the fencing project was complete but it may make for an interesting case if you decide to take your attorney’s advice to go after the association to make the repair. Keep in mind that you aren’t going to be the only one with an attorney and the association’s attorney will likely argue that the retaining wall was owned by the association and they had every right to remove it. Your attorney will counter with the fact that the removal damaged your patio (again, built on association property). My opinion is that you very likely should have taken the President up on his offer to help you rebuild the retaining wall. At the very least, you might have offered to pay for the contractor to do the job if keeping your patio intact is important to you. If you prefer to stand on the ground that you are right and the association is wrong, you have every right to do so but I foresee a long and protracted battle while your patio crumbles. Always look for a “win/win” situation. Legal solutions are costly and can take a very long time. The time and money would be better spent hiring a contractor to repair the wall, especially since the Board President seems to be on your side. All the best!

Nosy Neighbors Spying on Condo Owner so Owner Spies Back!

M.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,


An older couple (70ish) that lives on the same floor as me (but we share no common wall) is loitering next to my front door multiple times a day. I suspected that they had an issue with me for a while now as a few times I saw them in the hallway in close proximity to my door and they look really flustered. I’ve said ‘Good Morning” and they just look down and shuffle off.

If I see them in person they typically avoid me. If they go out of their door to go to the elevator around the same time as I do and they hear me coming down the hall they will go back in to their condo. Could be coincidence but has happened a few too many times for me to feel that way.

So, they obviously have an issue with me but I’m unsure what they hope to get by listening to my door which I have video evidence of them doing multiple times a day (I bought a wifi door peephole camera after suspecting this happening for weeks).

The camera has motion detection and only records when it senses activity. They walk past my door sloooowly in one direction and then 30 seconds later pass by again in the direction back to their condo, and on occasion they’ll pause in front of my door and act like they are looking for something on their phone and stand there for about 30 seconds. They even look intently at the door as one tends to do when you are trying to listen for something. This happens during the middle of the day and later at night around 10 and sometimes even after midnight when I’ve usually gone to sleep.

My gut tells me they have an issue with me and would prefer it if I were no longer their neighbor and want to catch me breaking some HOA rule. However, I don’t know what rule I could be breaking that they could hear through the door at 4 pm, can’t get a noise violation at that time. Especially if they have to loiter in front of the door and listen intently to hear anything. Also, I own my condo so even if I did get a noise complaint it’s not going to get me thrown out of the building.

I guess my question is what do I do with this evidence? How do I get this annoying activity to stop? I’m reluctant to go to Security with it because they too do the slow minute walk past my door and loiter routine. So, it feels like I’m the bad kid on the block that everyone hates.

Full Disclosure: I’m in my 30s and the majority of the tenants seem to be in their 70’s and up. I did not know this when I bought the place or I might have reconsidered. When I first moved in I wanted to enjoy my nice new condo and had a ‘few’ parties. However, I never got noise complaints from those absolutely bonkers parties and I got tired of things breaking in my new condo and gave up that practice. I also got a girlfriend in November and haven’t had anyone over accept her since. All we do is make dinners and watch Netflix.

Mister Condo replies:


M.S., you’ll pardon me if I tell you this story made me grin and chuckle. The idea of neighbors loitering outside of your front door is amusing. The fact that you have added a video security doorbell system that records them doing so is also amusing. I have a similar video doorbell myself and I have videos of neighbors inspecting the unit which features giant pictures of their faces as they place their eyes within inches of the unit. As long as neither you nor your neighbors are violating and/or reporting any violations of association rules, I really don’t see that anything needs to be done. Nosy neighbors are often part of living in a high-density housing community. You may have found the ultimate in nosy neighbors and I think you have deduced what their “issue” is with having you as a neighbor. Neither you or they are under any obligation to like each other. If you find the complexion of the community is not desirable to you, you may think about selling and buying somewhere with more folks your age. Other than that, enjoy your condominium if not your neighbors. Their antics are likely to keep you entertained for months to come. One serious note: you might want to check to make sure that video recording of folks in the HOA common area (the front hall of your shared entrance condominium) isn’t considered an invasion of privacy issue and that your condo doesn’t have rules against such a device. That could put you at odds with your association and could lead to fines. Other than that, I wish you all the best!