Monthly Archives: March 2018

Resigning Condo Board Members Creates Quorum Vacuum

D.L. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 26-unit community. The Bylaws state that 5-people are elected to the board annually. The property manager called the annual meeting to be June 21st however, prior to setting the date, 3-board members resigned, leaving only 2-board members.

How can the property manager call a meeting with only 2-board members approving the date? Also, since there are only two (2) board members, how can the annual meeting take place when there is not a quorum?

Mister Condo replies:

D.L., resigning Board members create a challenge for any association. It puts the burden of maintaining and governing the association on the remaining Board members. Most condo documents allow for interim appointment of Board Members by the remaining Board members so that the association can continue to govern itself until the next scheduled elections. Your Annual Meeting should be open to all unit owners. The two remaining Board members should run the meeting, with one functioning as President of the Board until the elections are held at the Annual Meeting. In a small community like yours, there are only 21 unit owners left to consider for service on the Board, assuming the three that resigned are no longer interested in serving. With such a small pool of potential Board Members, it is quite possible that you will have a vacancy or two on the Board until volunteer leaders come forward. Your existing Board will suffice until then. The alternative is to have an ungoverned association with no authority to pay the bills or make decisions on behalf of the association. That could lead to a very expensive dissolution of the association or a possible court-appointed receiver to handle the business of the association. You don’t want that! My advice would be to encourage other unit owners to serve and for you to consider volunteering to serve to help get your community back on track for good governance. All the best!

Common Fee Determination Seems Unfair

B.P. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 55 and over condo community and they charge by square footage. The townhouses pay more than the ranches which I don’t think is fair because all of us receive equal services such as plowing, mowing trash pickup, clubhouse use etc. I don’t believe assessing by size of the units is proper. Any comments on this and what we can do to change it?

Mister Condo replies:

B.P., there is very little you can do to change the schedule of common fee assessments and for good reason. The schedule of fees was part and parcel of every unit that was sold in your association. It is a legally binding agreement that both buyer and seller agreed to at the time of purchase. Further, it is an intrinsic part of the condo documents that binds the unit owner to the association. I answered a similar question from a condo owner in Illinois not too long ago. You can find my full answer here: http://askmistercondo.com/validity-of-condo-percentage-of-unit-ownership-questioned/. All the best!

Falling Tree Damages Condo Visitor’s Car

C.B. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I was visiting a friend in the Condo and a tree (huge part of it) fell on my car, cause many damages. Can I have the right to sue the Condo for pay the deductible of my insurance? The general manager didn’t go there to see the damage and, on the phone, he just said that the homeowner’s association does not have insurance so he’s not going to pay for it. The deductible is $500 and my car is 2016.

Mister Condo replies:

C.B., I am sorry that your car got damaged. The right to sue another individual or business is yours if you choose to pursue it. However, the cost of suing this condo association for the $500 deductible on your insurance policy will most likely outweigh the potential of collecting the $500 from the association. This is part of the risk of having deductibles on our insurance. Clearly, this was not your fault but your insurance policy is only going to pay for the amount of damage that exceeds your deductible. The rest is on you. You can speak with an attorney if you would want to see if there is any other avenue open to you but my advice would be to simply pay your deductible. Otherwise, you are likely throwing good money after bad. All the best!

Condo Board Makes Parking Rules That Favor Board Members!

S.D. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our board has set up three classes of owners with respect to parking. 1. Owner that have only one car and a one reserved parking space. 2. garage owners not permitted to used visitors parking at all. 3. Non-garage users with multiple cars that can park any number of cars in visitor’s spots. This third category benefits board members without garages and have multiple cars. A new rule was passed by the board that garage owner must park their car in their garage only and cannot use visitor’s spots at any time. But multiple car owners and park 4 cars in visitor’s spots. This of course harms all owners that have lost their visitor spots. What recourse do owners have to make these rules more equitable?

Mister Condo replies:

S.D., when a Board behaves in a manner contradictory to the wishes of the majority of unit owners, they are usually tossed out of office. This can be done at the Annual Meeting or, if enough people are upset with their decision on parking, via a recall. Or, if a majority of unit owners are OK with how the Board has divvied up the parking, things can continue as they are. The Board does control the parking lots and the rules for their use. However, the Board does not have unchecked authority. The authority ultimately lies with the unit owners and who they elect to represent them. Enforcing parking rules is one thing. Creating rules that favor the Board members is quite another. I would not hesitate to bring this possible abuse of power to as many of your neighbors as possible and start looking for new volunteers to serve on your Board. Good luck!

Condo Association Increases Late Fees and Adds Interest Penalties

C.C. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My Condo Association just sent notification that they are planning to increase late fees on HOA fees to $30 (25 to the association and 5 to the management company). They also plan to assess18% interest rate.

Can I apply both a late fee and an interest rate? Is that legal?

Mister Condo replies:

C.C., as long as the Board followed the rules for changing the assessment schedule and the interest on late fees, I don’t see why they can’t have both late fees and interest on late fees. The bottom line is that timely payment of common fees and assessments is critical to the association’s ability to pay its bills on behalf of all owners. Late fees and interest penalties are really the only tool available to the Board to encourage all unit owners to make their payments on time. Best of all, late fees and interest penalties are easy to avoid. Just make sure every unit owner pays their fees and assessments on time, which is exactly what they agreed to do when they purchased into the association. All the best!

Neighbor’s Smoke Forces Condo Owner to Sell!

J.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a condominium owner who can no longer hack the smoke. I see from this forum that the raging conflict rarely goes well. I AM LOOKING TO SELL THE PLACE. I am not looking for legal advice nor interested in beating a dead horse with the association again. I did all of the polite and never uncivil neighborly discussions, bought all the expensive air cleaners, spent countless dollars and days fixing insulation and ventilation, and tried countless variations of adjusting fans and windows.

The sooner I sell, the sooner my freedom from this. While I am not a Zen Monk I wish to enjoy my life in the here and now, free from resentments and in harmony as much as I can. At the risk of going off on a tangent, it’s not in any control freak power-hungry thinking to want fresh air any more than wanting food. Point being that the cosmic “here and now” talk goes out the window when basic survival needs are in the forefront. You may see an animal with flies around its eyes not even twitch, but if somebody blew smoke at it, it would freak out.

NOW TO MY QUESTION. How can I show the place to potential buyers during hours conducive to do so (nonbusiness hours; evenings weekends). The problem smoking neighbors leave for work during normal business hours and I can get the place aired out. I don’t feel obligated to put anything about neighbors in a seller’s disclosure document because that document is not about neighbors any more than the neighbors’ religion on sexuality or race and I chances are the buyer won’t be as sensitive to smoke as myself. My problem is that all hell breaks loose here when they get home from work, the times most conducive to show the place to potential buyers. I look forward to my newfound freedom after selling a place I really liked everything else about, but now how do I keep the culprit smokers from blowing the deal?

Mister Condo replies:

J.S., as a fellow non-smoker I feel your pain. There isn’t anything you can do about showing your unit to unsuspecting buyers. However, since there are so many folks unlike you and me, who prefer to smoke, why not use it to your marketing advantage. Use words like “smoker-friendly” or “ideal for smokers” in your marketing. In this world of “smokers be damned” I wouldn’t be surprised to see several potential buyers who smoke entering your unit and thinking they found their own Zen Monk experience. Win/Win, my friend. More and more, there are smoke-free communities and states that are outlawing smoking in high-density housing like condos. My guess is that you will be thorough in your quest for your next home. I wish you clean air and healthy living. Good Luck!

Condo Board Closes Pools Versus Maintaining Them

T.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have 2 outdoor pools. For the past 2 years, 1 pool has been closed – no reason given. This year, none of the pools are opened. I was planning on attending the yearly board meeting that was to begin at 7 pm last evening. However, upon showing up for it we were told it wouldn’t be starting until 8 pm as they were “running late”. I have my own theory as to why they were delaying. What recourse do we have with regards to our pools not being opened and not being informed as to the situation? Our maintenance fees go up every single year without hesitation. Aren’t they liable to honor the dec’s & bylaws with regards to maintaining & operating the pools? So FED UP!

Mister Condo replies:

T.K., being fed up is a good start. Now, it is time to take action. I am sorry that you and your fellow unit owners are being denied full use of your amenities. Pools are a major amenity for many associations and you are correct that their care and maintenance is the responsibility of the Board. However, many associations fail to collect enough money in common fees to properly handle all of the fiscal responsibilities of the association. Even though as a unit owner, all you see is common fees that go up every year, that is no indication that enough money is being collected. Ultimately, associations need to have really good budgets and really good Reserve Studies adhered to in order to thrive. Would you be surprised if I told you that your common fees may need to rise 20 – 30% for that to happen? Would you support a Board that raised the common fees in order to meet the financial obligations of the association? The problem is that the Board is comprised of democratically elected unit owners who must run for election and reelection to serve their community. If they raise fees, they may not be returned to office as that is always an unpopular course of action. However, I can assure you, if the association ties their hands by not raising enough revenue to operate properly, you can expect your pools to remain closed. That is likely the tip of the iceberg. Are roofs being properly maintained? How about parking lots? How about walkways? Underfunded associations are easy to spot. The problems don’t all appear at once but they do surface. I would encourage you to have a candid conversation with your Board and fellow unit owners. If there is no money to make the repairs, you might want to be the one who suggest that common fees be raised. Without that extra capital to work with, I doubt much will change. Good luck!

Condo Insurance Won’t Cover Plumber’s Damage to Unit

M.C. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our plumber installed a dishwasher improperly and water leaked under the floor, destroying the laminate and ceiling tiles in lower room. Asbestos was found in vinyl under laminate and must be removed. The plumber is taking responsibility. Our insurer insists that this damage, restricted to inside our walls, and not caused by condo-owned components (such as a roof leak would be) is the condo association responsibility by law and we can’t go to plumber’s insurance (nor to our own). Our condo association denies this and has refused to file a claim. The only law I can find does not seem to say this, but only seems to make a condo association responsible for horizontal surfaces between stacked units. This is a 2010 law. Can condo insurance be held responsible for my dishwasher leak?

Mister Condo replies:

M.C., I am sorry you find yourself in this situation. When insurers deny claims it is the homeowner who gets hurt. Asbestos abatement only adds to the problem. I can see where the association is denying your request as the damage is restricted to the interior of your unit. Until the plumber damaged the flooring, there was no liability. I am not quite sure why the plumber’s insurance would deny a claim of damage caused by his workmanship (isn’t that what his insurance is for?) but it still puts the cost of making the repair on you. Depending on how much the repair will cost, I would advise you one of two ways. If it is expensive (say more than $500), it may be worth speaking with an attorney to see if you can sue the plumber or the association. If the dollar amount is less than that (or if you were thinking of replacing the laminate floor) I would advise you to simply pay for the repair/upgrade and be done with it. I think it stinks that the insurance isn’t paying for this damage but unless the dollar amount is significant, I don’t think it is worth the time to try to sue for damages. All the best!

Service Animals at the Condo Pool!

A.F. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are a pet friendly condo. However, we do have common areas like our pool deck that does not allow pets. I like dogs but more and more residents are turning up on the pool deck with their ESA dogs, its turning into a dog park – the condo management don’t know if they can enforce the pool deck rules and ask the ESA dogs to leave?

Mister Condo replies:

A.F., this is an area where the association needs to tread lightly. Service animals are not pets and, unfortunately for the association, are not subject to the same restrictions that the association can place on pets. There are a lot of lawsuits based upon discrimination of people with ESAs. The association doesn’t want to become embroiled in such a lawsuit. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. However, I would be remiss in my friendly advice duties if I didn’t tell you that you should speak with an attorney verse in both association law and service animal laws in your state to make sure the association doesn’t misstep. There may be reasonable accommodations that can be made that allow the folks with service animals to enjoy the common amenities while not imposing on the rights of the other users. I am not saying it will be a perfect solution but there may be a way to accommodate the desires of all. Get the advice of the association attorney and enjoy your amenities, without creating a lawsuit. Good luck!

Underfunded Condo Association Leaves Common Area Repair to New Owner

S.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

One year ago, an owner financed the sale of condo. Now the new owner says there is a serious drainage problem outside back sliding doors. He asked the HOA to fix the problem but there is no money available to do so. The HOA gave the new owner permission to do the job. Then the new owner got city inspectors involved who do concur that there is a major problem. Could the property potentially be condemned? New owner is telling us to either renegotiate our deal, thereby sharing cost of the job, or he will renege on the deal, putting all of the expense back on us. What can be done?

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., HOAs with insufficient funds often make bad decisions. In this case, a really bad decision is coming back to haunt the association. Exterior drainage problems are the problem of the association and should have been repaired by the association, not the unit owner. Further, the correct way to raise money for such a repair is to raise common fees, levy a special assessment, and build a Reserve Fund for future repairs and improvements. The phrase “no money available” indicates to me that there is also no Reserve Study in place and that the common fees have probably been way too low for way too long. The immediate problem facing the association is the possibility of a city inspector condemning the property. While that is an extreme measure, it is possible of the unit is in such disrepair as to cause the inspector to make such a call. Typically, even if a citation is given, the association has enough time to make the repair and avoid condemnation (unless human life is at stake, i.e. a collapsing roof or broken foundation). Assuming the repairs can be made by the association, get an estimate on the job, levy a special assessment or take an HOA loan (if eligible) and handle the repair. Then, sit down and take a good look at the budget for the association. Chances are common fees should be raised this year and for several years to come until the association gets back on sound financial footing. This may prove unpopular with unit owners but it is necessary for the association’s long-term fiscal health and to make sure the Board doesn’t need to make future bad decisions on needed repairs. All the best!