Monthly Archives: April 2018

Criminal Record May Keep Potential Condo Owner Out of Association

J.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Should I discuss my personal background history with an association member before I decide to place a bid on a unit? I want to be honest and not hide anything or make it be a surprise when they run my background check. I have somewhat of a low credit score according to association approval guidelines, but not that low from what they are looking for as a requirement. In addition, I have a criminal record that is pending and it will soon be dismissed. I am not a murderer nor am I a pedophile. I just took the wrap for my son’s wrongdoing to protect him and now I am feeling and paying the consequences of my actions. However, I do not regret doing what I did for the sake of my son. Your thoughts and answers are appreciated. It just hinders me trying to get approved by an association. Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

J.L., I think discussing those issues that will surface in your background check is a double-edged sword. If the association member that you are telling is a friendly ear and will advocate on your behalf after the background check is complete and the Evaluation Committee or Board will determine your eligibility to enter the community, then I think explaining your situation in advance is a good idea. If the association member is not going to be able to advocate for you, then why bother? The credit check will show that you are eligible from what you have told me. That is very important. The criminal background check is another story and may very well be the reason you are turned down if the decision goes that way. Regardless of your reasons, you now have a criminal history. You may be able to explain it to the Board’s satisfaction but they are the ones who are accountable to the other community members who expect the Board to protect them from criminals entering their association. Keep in mind that these folks are not criminal law experts. They will simple interpret the data and make a decision. They were elected by their fellow unit owners to follow the protocols outlined by the association’s governing documents, no more, no less. If your background makes you ineligible to enter the community, they really have no right admitting you. I hope it goes your way but I am skeptical. All the best!

Condo President Refuses to Relinquish Association Checkbook

T.C. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We recently changed management companies because they violated CT laws. Our President dragged his foot for 4 months before receiving a letter from the state ordering us to change companies. He was given the check book until we found a company. We found a company and he refuses to turn over the check book. Is this legal?

Mister Condo replies:

T.C., I am not an attorney and offer no legal opinions here. If you are asking me what I think of the President holding on to the checkbook and refusing to turn it over to the management company, I would say that is not a very friendly gesture and not stepping off on the right foot with the new management company. Is it criminal? Not in my book but it isn’t very sportsmanlike either. The great news is that your Board President can be voted out of office at the next Annual Meeting. Why don’t you and a group of like-minded unit owners volunteer to serve on the Board? That way, after you are elected, you can determine who will hold the various offices of the Board. If, on the other hand, the Board President has held the checkbook because there is evidence of missing money or such in there, and he has done something criminal, it is time to call the police. Stealing from the association is a crime. Work with your new management company to see what, if any, wrongdoing has occurred. If there is no harm, there is no foul. Either way, it sounds like it is time for a Board President who will act in the best interest of the association. Good luck!

Condo Board Seeks Solution to No Money for the New Roof

P.B. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My Board wants to get a new roof. They set up a meeting for owners to vote on whether to take a 250K loan or not. At the meeting an attorney hired by the board to do the closing showed up and was practically running the meeting and trying to convince owners to give approval for the loan. I objected on the grounds that it was a conflict of interest to have the attorney there running the meeting since no vote was taken and not enough owners showed up for the meeting. Now the attorney instructed the board to go door to door to get proxies filled out. Is that ok?

Mister Condo replies:

P.B., not only is that OK, it may be the only way to get the necessary votes for the loan so the new roof can be purchased. HOA loans or Special Assessments are rarely needed by community associations that plan for the future and build a proper level of Reserves to handle something as common as a roof replacement. But, as is too often the case, the desire to keep common fees low wins the battle for fiscal responsibility. The end result is no money in the Reserves when needed. In this case, the Board has decided to seek out an HOA loan. The reason the attorney is needed is that it is very common that the association’s governing documents do not allow for the Board to take out a loan on behalf of the association. The proxy votes are the Board’s attempt to get the authority to negotiate the loan and obligate the association to the repayment of the loan, which is required from the bank before the loan is granted. As you can see, it often plays out as a comedy of errors before the final vote is taken and the money is loaned. The real question is how will you support the association moving forward? Will you be the one to suggest that common fees are raised 15%, 20%, 25% higher than they are right now? Will you be the one to insist that the association build a proper Reserve Fund and that Reserve Study be conducted so that a proper level of funding can be achieved? Without support for the unit owners, the Board’s hands are tied. If you need a new roof, the money will need to come from somewhere and that somewhere is the unit owners. Whether it comes in the form of a loan, a Special Assessment, an increase in common fees or a combination of any of the three, the unit owners will pay. Good luck!

Condo Management Company Charging Statement fee to Unit Owners

M.N. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo association recently hired a new management company. For the first time in history I was late on a monthly HOA fee and was charged a late fee of $15 and a statement fee of $5. The management company nicely waived the late fee since my check crossed in the mail but refused to waive the statement fee. I told them I want to opt-out of paper statements and they told me they only mail statements. Is it lawful to charge me $5.00 per statement?

Mister Condo replies:

M.N, yes, it is lawful for them to charge you a statement fee. The Board hired the new management company and should have been made aware of the fees and practices of the firm. The late fee was waived but that would have gone to the association’s coiffeurs. The statement fee goes directly to the management company and is a cost of doing business with them that your Board agreed to. If you are unhappy, you need to complain to the Board and ask them to either renegotiate with the management company to have the statement fee removed (unlikely) or find a management company that doesn’t charge a statement fee when their contract comes up for renewal. Or you could just pay the $5.00 statement fee and realize that it is part of how this management company collects its revenues from your association. All the best!

Why Should Condos Implement Maintenance Standards?

R.P. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Why should Condo’s implement Maintenance Standards?

Mister Condo replies:

R.P., there are a myriad of reasons that condo associations should implement Maintenance Standards. First and foremost is to limit the association’s liabilities. Things that routinely wear down and break like water supply lines can cause a great deal of damage which is easily minimized or prevented with Maintenance Standards. Secondarily, many insurers require these standards to be in place or the insurer will not cover the resultant damage. That could lead to huge out of pocket expenses for both associations and unit owners. Finally, many Maintenance Standards provide greater safety and peace of mind for all unit owners and residents. Who doesn’t want that?

Rattling in Ceiling Likely to be Association Responsibility

L.S. from Tolland County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo has these metal strips above my ceiling sheetrock. When the tenant above me walks around, the squeaking noise is so bad – it is unbearable. The condo association is not taking responsibility for this – it is in many of the units at the complex. Being that it is above my ceiling – wouldn’t that be considered structural? I am being told that I have to remove my ceilings – HELP

Mister Condo replies:

L.S., I am sorry for your noisy ceiling problems. Seeing as the condo association did not actually build your unit (a developer did that a long time ago in all likelihood) your squeaking was very likely a pre-existing condition to your unit before you purchased. That doesn’t make it right or better but it may explain your association’s attitude towards your noise complaint. The way I see it, you have a few options here. First off, I am not an attorney and you should very likely speak to one to see if you have a case for a structural defect that would put the association on the hook for the remediation. Since you know of several other unit owners having the same problem, you might be able to join forces and sue the association and force them to take action. They may have a lawsuit against the developer or they may have insurance that would help them pay for it. Or, they may have to issue a Special Assessment to pay for the repairs if they are found liable. Keep in mind that you and your fellow unit owners will be the ones paying for these repairs in that situation but the expense will be equally shared by all unit owners, even those unaffected by the problem. Have you looked into the cost of removing your ceilings? Will your insurance help mitigate the cost? While I am in agreement with you that this is an association problem, if it is a cheap fix, you might want to tackle it yourself just to get some peace and quiet. This isn’t ideal but may prove more practical than the cost and time of a lawsuit. Finally, your other solution would be to simply sell and move. Again, not ideal, but it gets rid of your problem. However you finally solve this this noisy problem, I wish you all the best. Good luck!

Condo Board Dictates Condo Parking Lot Rules

T.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo bylaws include parameters for parking clearly aimed at owners. The HOA passed a rule stating that owners cannot use the parking spaces (the units have garages). Can HOA rules override bylaws? If so, what is legally required for them to do so?

Mister Condo replies:

T.P., the Board controls the common elements. Parking lots are common elements so the Board controls their use and can place whatever restrictions upon them that they see fit. The good news is that you control who gets to serve on the Board through democratic vote. If you and your fellow unit owners don’t like the parking lot rules, vote out the rule-makers and replace them with Board members who see it your way. That is the beautiful part of having democratically elected members of your Board. All the best!

Can the Condo Association Limit My 2nd Amendment Rights?

L.C. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can condo association limit your 2nd amendment rights? If I have a legal permit to own a firearm, can they deny that?

Mister Condo replies:

L.C., no one can limit your constitutional rights. However, the association can ban firearms from the property, meaning if you want to own a gun, you would have to keep it somewhere else. You may see this as a challenge to your rights but it isn’t. The courts have held that condos and HOAs are not governmental agencies and are therefore not violating your right by disallowing firearms on the property. You may see it differently (I’m guessing you do) but unless the courts change their minds, the association can prohibit firearms. Of course, they cannot take away your right to live elsewhere, which might just be the best solution for you if you insist on bringing firearms into a condo that doesn’t allow it. All the best!

Condo Board Not Sticking to Agenda or Rules of Order

D.C. from Texas writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Does a condominium association in Texas have to follow an A-Z or 1-10 process in running the meeting? Or is it okay to run the meeting any way felt best after the meeting is called to order and last month’s minutes are read? Some people think it has to be strict step by step, no altering, all the way to closing the meeting; and, some say as long as the meeting is called to order and there is quorum and the last meetings minutes were read, it’s up to the board to cover the topics required in any order they feel is fit since sometimes there is little or nothing in some areas of the meeting to discuss, like landscaping, or external lighting.

Mister Condo replies:

D.C., when you say “A-Z or 1-10 process in running the meeting”, I assume you are referring to Robert Rules of Orders and a published agenda for the meeting. Most association can dispense with the formality of Roberts Rules with a simple vote of the meeting attendees. The whole point of having meeting agendas is to assist in the order of business and to make sure important topics aren’t missed. Every association is different and the nature of having volunteer Board Members can make controlling the meeting difficult. The agenda gets rid of that problem and keep the meeting on track. My personal experience with Boards that don’t stick to an agenda is that their meetings tend to run long and they don’t always get as much accomplished as they might had they stuck to the written agenda. I am not an attorney nor an expert in Texas law so if you need a legal opinion, kindly seek out someone who can provide it. My friendly advice is to dispense with Roberts Rules of Order unless needed and stick to the published agenda. You’ll get more done and keep the meeting to a reasonable length. Good luck!

Violent Condo Resident Danger to Himself and Others

A.O. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I reside in a 4-unit condominium, all owner occupied, in Massachusetts. We are a self-managed property and three years ago a new resident purchased one of the units; this owner’s Master Deed is both in their name and his mother’s; his mother does not live on the premises.

Since this individual has moved into the Association there have been significant violations of bylaws as well as safety concerns that have involved the police: spray painting the exterior of his door with red spray paint, stating obscenities; screaming for hours on end at night while also causing physical destruction within his own unit; threatening to murder people; leaving pools of his own blood in common area; taking a baseball bat to the fire alarm; and a series of other disconcerting behaviors.

We, and our neighbors, routinely call the police and they have taken him into custody on some occasions and not others. In some cases, unfortunately, association members have not called the police out of fear of escalating the situation (fears include that this individual could hurt himself, others or cause damage to our property). We have attempted to engage the parent, who is also on the deed, who only assures us that this individual is harmless.

While we are not certain that this individual is mentally ill, we assume that the presenting behaviors are indicative of such, so we are at a loss as to how to protect ourselves and our property while also being mindful of the law.

What can we legally do?

Mister Condo replies:

A.O., there isn’t too much that you can do other than what you have already done. There are no laws that prohibit mentally ill people from owning real estate. The police have been called (as they should be) and have taken appropriate action as they deem fit. That takes care of the criminal activity. As for the violations of rules and by-laws, the Board should be taking whatever action is appropriate to protect the association. However, if you have a violent or mentally unstable resident in your building, there is little that can be done by the Board. Ideally, this person would leave your condo and get the help they need. Until then, I am afraid the only other option you have is likely to put up with the behavior or sell your unit. I know which one I would do. Good luck!