Monthly Archives: February 2018

Condo Electronic Key Deactivated by Property Manager

O.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The property manager disconnected my electronic key because I authorized a person HE DOESNT LIKE IT to enter to my property as desired.

Mister Condo replies:

O.P., I am sorry that your electronic key privileges were revoked. Without knowing the rules of how your electronic keys are allowed to be used, I am not certain if sharing it with anyone is allowed, let alone a person disliked by the Property Manager. I doubt the Property Manager can simply disable a key without having to report such activity to the Board, to whom the Property Manager must answer. If you feel your key was deactivated inappropriately, complain to the Board so they can take action. On the other hand, if you have violated the rules of the electronic key use by sharing the code with someone who you shouldn’t have shared it with, I would advise you not to do it again. I assume the reason there are electronic keys in the first place is to provide building security. They are convenient to be sure but must be protected if they are to be useful as a security measure. All the best!

Too Little Deeded Condo Parking

L.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I understand the condo board controls and manages the parking lots. Our particular lot does not have overflow like other lots within our complex. So, we have assigned parking. Our lot is also very active because we are next to the pool. Without fail, people ignore the “no pool parking” sign and still use our only three extra unassigned spots. On top of that an overflow lot that is separate from our lot but the closest gets full easily during pool season. This all makes parking a huge inconvenience for residents. We live in a three-bedroom unit. The other units are one and two Bedroom. In other areas of our condo property, there are three-bedroom townhouses with two assigned spots. We have requested a second assigned spot in the past before noticing the town house spots. We were shut down. How should parking be assigned in an equitable way? Is it a fair argument that our three-bedroom condo is comparable to a three-bedroom townhouse in regards to parking? They are designed to house the same number of people unlike the two and one bedrooms we are being compared to and being given one spot. Condo is about 1375 square feet and townhouse is about 1600, if square footage matters in this. Any advice on how to respectfully request a second spot is appreciated.

Mister Condo replies:

L.L., I am sorry for your parking conundrum. It sounds to me as though the “No Pool Parking” needs better enforcement if unit owners sharing that parking lot are to have any true Visitor Parking. That being said, I can’t see any reason for the Board to grant your request for additional assigned parking. Neither square footage, number of bedrooms, or any other factor determine or influence assigned parking decisions. When you purchased your unit, you knew exactly what was included for assigned parking. That is really the end of the story. You can ask and you can cite square footage and bedroom similarities to other units that came with more assigned parking but my guess is you will not succeed in your quest. In fact, from what you have told me, the pressure to provide parking spaces is so great, the Board would really have a hard time justifying any decision that removed visitor parking. Put yourself in their shoes and I think you will see it just isn’t to the community’s advantage to give up a parking space. Good luck!

HOA Repairs Handled in Untimely Fashion

T.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I made a request to repair flashing and downspout to our townhome exterior? How long should it take for the repair to be completed? Unit owners are now responsible for exterior insurance coverage.

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., responsiveness to unit owner requests for repairs is a function of several items at HOAs and condominium associations. If the association is professionally managed, there is usually a process of issuing a work order and then the order being fulfilled, either by the management company or the contractor hired to do the work. In self-managed associations, the process is similar although there may not be as robust a response if the work coordination is handled by volunteer Board members who may need time to bid out the work, hire a contractor, and actually get the work done. In both situations, there needs to be ample money available to pay for the work and there may be some bureaucracy that slows the process. For instance, if the repair cost exceeds a threshold for spending that the management company does not have, say $2500 or more, the repair may need to be approved by the Board at the next Board meeting. Depending on how frequently the Board meets, this could be a significant delay. The job may have to be sent for bid, another process that could delay the repair by months. Finally, if the association is cash-strapped and doesn’t have enough money to pay for the repair, the project could be delayed for quite some time. Your job doesn’t sound too complicated or expensive so my guess is you just need to keep on top of the folks who handle the repair. The squeaky wheel usually gets the grease but be polite when you inquire about the delay. My guess is that the repair should be handled within a few months of the request. If not, write to the Board and ask for an explanation of the delay. Keep on top of them until your repair is made. All the best!

Property Manager Purchases Condo in Managed Association

B.S. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Wondering if you see any conflicts for a Florida CAM to purchase a unit to reside in and still remain as the onsite property manager. The Board sees no conflict of interest but some owners are questioning if there is a conflict, as the onsite manager may have some inside information that other owners may not be privy too. Your thoughts on if you think there are any conflicts?

Mister Condo replies:

B.S., I do not see any conflict of interest but I do appreciate the concern of some owners for the potential for a conflict of interest although as a unit owner who would be affected directly by insider information, I would also think the conflict of interest might even go in the direction of the association. What unit owner wants to see his/her own association make financial mistakes or poor decisions? Not only does the property manager need to worry about his/her job performance but also has a personal interest in the success of the association. On the flip side, if the property manager’s unit gets preferential treatment, unit owners would be right to call foul. My advice would be to allow the property manager the ownership of the unit and to keep a vigilant eye on how the unit is treated. The Board keeps an eye on the Property Manager by default. They might need to make sure there is nothing unusual going on but I really doubt the manager would risk his/her job over abusing their power to give themselves preferential treatment. Good luck!

Fairness of Condo Common Fees Questioned

A.L. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Mr. Condo, how should HOA fees be calculated in a condo association in the State of Connecticut? Is it fair that everyone pay the same fee every month even if all the units are not the same size?

Mister Condo replies:

A.L., common fees are typically defined in the condo governing documents and usually are derived using the percentage of unit ownership formula which does take square footage into consideration. However, neither the state nor the governing documents require the use of this formula and there are many other perfectly legitimate methods of determining common fees. The only universal rule is that the governing documents dictate the formula and that formula can only be changed by very strict rules for doing so. It is extremely uncommon for the formula to be changed and typically requires a full consent vote of the unit owners and, many times, even the mortgage holders of the units. Some of the other factors that I have seen that determine common fee allotment include: water-view versus non-water-view, top floors versus middle and bottom floor units in a high-rise, and end units versus middle units. Some associations like yours use a simple “everyone pays the same” common fee, which may not be fair, but is certainly not illegal and is well known before anyone purchases into the association. There isn’t too much you can do about it, A.L., as changing the common fee schedule is a major legislative ordeal. You can talk to your Board but I doubt you will see things change. Good luck!

Muffled Condo HVAC Sounds Heard in Unit Owner’s Home

J.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live on the 2nd floor of a condo. From beneath my living room, I hear a low rumbling/clanking noise. Beneath me is a yoga room and in between my floor and the yoga room is some ventilation system that is housing some machines related to AC/Heating. The level of this noise is not loud but it is very noticeable and I can hear it from my entire place, even from the bedrooms. Isn’t any noise penetrating my condo unacceptable no matter how subjectively low the sound may be? And at what point is outside noise from building infrastructure deemed a problem which requires action by management? Thank you for your consideration of my inquiry!

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., I am sorry that you are having to put up with noise inside your condo unit. Do your governing documents indicate what is and isn’t acceptable levels of sound intrusion? Many documents state that unit owners and residents are entitled to peaceable enjoyment of their units. Some go further and elaborate levels of sound in either decibels or typical activities (running a vacuum cleaner, for instance). My guess is that the level of noise you are describing either isn’t mentioned or isn’t included in the restrictions. If that is the case, you may be stuck living with the noise. Have you contacted the Board of Directors of the condo to state your case? HVAC units may need some fine tuning. The hours of operation of the yoga studio may offer you some relief. You may also be able to install some sound deadening material on your floor that might mitigate the noise, at your expense. Other than that, your best bet may be to sell your unit and be much more selective about ambient sound in your next unit. Good luck!

Unhappy and Unsatisfied Condo Owner Moves Out

J.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I been having a problem at my condo where I used to live. I left because they were always harassing me and my daughter. I’ve been towed because my car on my parking spot and the back tire was on line of the other parking spot. I have been trying to find out for 3 years where money is going because we have Reserves but we have no amenities but a pool.

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., I am sorry you have had such a trying experience living in a condo. Following parking rules can be challenging but managing the parking lot so all unit owners can enjoy the amenity is even more challenging. If you parked where you shouldn’t have you really can’t be too upset if your car got towed. How else could the association parking lot be available for all of the other unit owners who have also paid for unobstructed use of the parking lot? Understanding where your common fees go can be difficult to understand. Just because an association has a Reserve Fund (all should) doesn’t mean they don’t need your common fees for other budget items. All of the common amenities and services are paid for out of the common fees. Everything from the lights in the parking lot to the trash removal to the management of the association and so much more are paid out of your common fees. If you feel you were harassed in any way by your association, I would encourage you to speak to an attorney to see if what you experienced meets the requirements for harassment. Towing your car for parking improperly and insisting you pay your common fees certainly doesn’t qualify but I am guessing there is much more to the story than you have relayed to me here.  Good luck!

Rules for Condo Special Assessment

R.F. from Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

In Connecticut, can a special assessment be levied, with a vote by homeowners to paint buildings, repair buildings, labor and material? Can the Board of directors create a special assessment, by vote from homeowners for capital improvements which is patently a capital expense?

Mister Condo replies:

R.F., the rules for levying special assessments are determined by a few things, including the association’s own rules and state law. If the homeowners were allowed to vote, then, typically, the assessment would be deemed valid. Of course, all of the rules for giving proper notice of the vote would have to have been followed and all of the rules for conducting the vote would have to have also been followed. It sounds to me like that is what happened. The underlying issue is why was there a need for a special assessment for a capital expense that has likely been known about for years. You might want to suggest the Board conduct a Reserve Study and then present a plan for funding the Reserve fund so future capital expenses can be paid for out of Reserves and not via special assessment. All the best!

Condo Neighbor’s Leaking Air Conditioning Causes Moldy Nightmare!

B.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi Mr. Condo! I hope you can help me. I’m an owner of a condo in an apartment style building. Last week, I discovered a leak from above into my AC closet which shares a wall with my linen closet. My AC is non-operable (since 2012) so I know it isn’t mine. I checked my linen closet and found the back wall covered in mold. I contacted the property management company right away. They said they would contact the above tenant/owner to stop the leak so I can begin repairs. I’ve since sent several emails and called twice. For the past 5 days I have not received any response. I even went so far as to call the tenant myself. No response there either. What are my options?

Mister Condo replies:

B.L., I am sorry for your problems. Leaks caused by neighbors are bad enough but mold problems are quite serious. You did the right thing by contacting the Property Manager. You should also document the mold intrusion with lots of photos in case they are needed down the road. The association is responsible for getting involved and making the repairs. Unfortunately, it sounds like the manager is off to a slow and ineffective start. You need to be persistent and write to the Board along with your documentation showing what is going on and demanding they make the repairs. The other unit owner’s lack of cooperation may be a problem for you but the Board can take legal action against them to make them comply. You should not need to contact them at all, email, in person, or otherwise. If they are responsive to you, you can certainly speak with them to ask them to be more helpful but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Board needs some time to get this situation remedied and you may wish to be patient for a few months while they get this straightened out. However, you may also wish to speak to an attorney if things are moving too slow for you. Mold can be deadly and you need to have it removed quickly. You may even need to vacate your unit if it is found to be toxic. In that case, you would turn to your own homeowner’s insurance to see if you have coverage that would pay for your temporary relocation while the mold is abated. Ultimately, you want the neighbor’s A/C unit repaired so it stops leaking. You want your unit dry and you want the mold removed. Once all that is done, you’ll be back in business. Be persistent and apply the right amount of pressure to make sure you aren’t forgotten. Your problem is there problem and it needs to be taken seriously by all involved. Good luck!

Condo Board Leaves Leaky Roof in Place for 8 Years!

K.P. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live on the fourth floor of a 4-unit condo. The roof is damaged to the point that when it rains it pours inside my apartment. It has been more than eight years and the condo association will not fix the roof. I stopped paying condo fees and informed the condo association that I was going to save the money to pay for the roof. I have not paid the condo fees for four years. The condo does not call for regular meetings. Two of the other owners had some funds on the condo and they spent it on things that they needed to fix without a voting from the condo association. Now they have a lien on my condo. I have damages in my apartment. Is it legal to not pay for the condo fees and save it for the roof repairs as the condo association has not fixed the roof after eight years of discussion? Can I request that the condo association pay for the damages in my condo?

Mister Condo replies:

K.P., I am sorry for your problems. If you read my column with any regularity, you will see that I never advise any condo owner to withhold common fees for any reason. As you are seeing first-hand, the Board will sue you for those fees and they will win. If you can’t make good on your arrears, you could have your unit foreclosed upon by the association. I hope it doesn’t come to that for you. Assuming you don’t lose your home in this debacle, let’s discuss what you can do to get your unit repaired. First off, hire an attorney. After 8 years, let’s face it, it is long past time to sue the association for dereliction of duty in maintaining the roof. There will undoubtedly be a Special Assessment to make the repair but a lawsuit and judgment against the association will force the issue. Keep in mind that this will cost you as well as the other unit owners a financial hardship but you really have no choice. Hopefully, the threat of the lawsuit will be enough to motivate the association to make the repair to the roof. If not, a lengthy and expensive legal battle will likely ensue. This is a “lose/lose” situation for you and the other unit owners but their ridiculous mismanagement of the roof has lead you all here. Once the repairs are made, I would strongly consider selling and getting out of this potential money pit. If they let the roof go for 8 years, I can only imagine what other nightmares await. There are better places to live. Good luck!