Monthly Archives: May 2018

Should I Rent or Purchase a Second Condo Parking Space?

S.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My husband and I want to buy a new condo. We would need 2 cars. The condo comes with one parking spot. The second parking spot is $23,000. Or, hopefully there will be a spot to rent, but that wouldn’t allow us to park next to each other. We don’t know if we will live there for 6 years or it could be as little as 1 or 2 years. This is the only time that we can decide to get adjacent parking spots. Is it worth the risk?

Mister Condo replies:

S.K., I am not sure I understand what the risk is. It sounds like you will be allowed to park both of your vehicles on the association’s lot as long as you secure a second spot. Purchasing the spot is a better idea, in my opinion as you should have no problem reselling it when you leave the community. Renting a second spot could prove a bit riskier because you do so at the desire of the parking space’s owner, who could sell it or decide to no longer rent it to you at some point. If it were me, I would purchase both the condo and the second parking space. My guess is you will have no problem selling both when the time comes to move out. All the best!

Former Condo Board President Feeling Threatened by New President

W.R. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I been having serious issues with the new president and other board members since I stepped down a year ago. This position went to the new president’s head to the point where she put all my neighbor’s business out in the community and when my neighbor addressed her via email she then called the management company to tell them she felt threatened by her. Then we were going back and forth via email about some of the bylaws & rules and as well as rumors that she was talking trash about me, she turned around and falsely accused me of threatening her and called the cops. The officers could not find any evidence of me doing that. Life for me has never been the same since. She doesn’t like to be told what to do and put my personal business concerning my email address in an email that went out to the entire community instead of addressing me only. How do I have her removed or handle this? Can I file a harassment charge against her and the board?

Mister Condo replies:

W.R., I am sorry for your troubles. As you know, I am not an attorney nor do I offer any legal advice in this column. If you are serious about filing charges against the President or the association, I think you should speak with an attorney to see if you have a case. As far as having her or any other Board member removed from office, you need only to vote them out at the next opportunity. Board members are democratically elected by all unit owners. If they aren’t serving the needs of the community, there is no need to return them to office. Of course, that means you will need to have other candidates willing and able to serve. You say that you just stepped down. You know what the commitment to serve is like. Perhaps you should run again or encourage a fellow unit owner to run. If you don’t replace these folks, you will very likely get more of the same. If they violate the rules of governance for your association, you can take action. Again, this may require the services of an attorney. I hope it doesn’t come to that. All the best!

Repair Costs to Condo Limited Common Elements

R.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When an HOA is paying for repairs of limited common elements that vary by unit (eg decks) and it must be paid by special assessment, can this be imposed based on actual cost of work per unit or must it be equal in % to the common elements. In our case it’s set up as 1/12th – equal for all units even though we are smaller and have less decks.

Mister Condo replies:

R.B., without being able to review your governance documents, I really can’t offer you a specific answer here. Typically, common elements are handled by the association in accordance with how the governing documents dictate. If the item in question is not mentioned, in your case “decks”, then the repairs are handled the way all other repairs are handled, in common. If the documents call for the decks to be maintained by the unit owners, then it is their responsibility. Special Assessments have their own rules for how they are levied. Again, your documents specify the terms. Typically, an assessment is levied in proportion to the percentage of unit ownership formula but there are exceptions. My advice is for you to review your condo documents about common and limited common element repair and maintenance. I think you will find your answer there. All the best!

Condo Owner Acting as Unofficial Landlord

C.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

One of the condo owners in our complex does not reside in her unit. Instead, she lets “various friends??” use her condo for periods of time ranging from a few weeks to several months. There have been several residents in her unit and lots of problems, ie: drug overdoses, excessive drinking, police in and out. She claims these people are guests and therefore does not have to abide by the condo rules or town rules regarding rentals. Therefore, she avoids having her place inspected by the local Board of Health and paying the fee involved. No leases exist and the people staying at her place are supposedly “guests” and paying nothing. Everyone in the association knows the whole setup is bogus and we would like to put an end to it. Any suggestions.

Mister Condo replies:

C.P., there are solutions to every condo problem, in my opinion. In your case, it is a job for an attorney. If your current governance documents do not have enough definition of who can live in a unit with or without a lease, it is time to stiffen the rules and the penalties for violating those rules. Any competent community association attorney in your area should be able to help. Once these rules are in place, residents without a lease will no longer be allowed. Keep in mind that these new regulations will have to be observed by ALL unit owners and residents. You may limit guests to no more than a day or a week of residency, for instance. That might affect unit owners who have family come visit for extended periods of time. Understand that once these rules are enacted, all unit owners will be affected. That is why I recommend you work with an attorney to draft the right regulations, properly vote them into the by-laws, and then enforce them evenly. I am confident that you can get this one unit owner to start playing fair and get your vagrancy problem under control. Good luck!

Upstairs Condo Neighbor Needs Downstairs Condo Neighbor’s Cooperation

P.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My neighbor upstairs wants to renovate their bathroom to make it more accessible to their elderly father. She wants to change the plumbing and needs to come through my unit to do so. I am not really comfortable with this as my ceilings have recently been painted and plastered and I do not want a patch up after they drill holes in my unit. Not sure what to do.

Mister Condo replies:

P.K., I feel your pain. You want to be a good neighbor but you also want to protect your home and investment. There is no right or wrong answer here. If the governing documents don’t prohibit the type of modification your upstairs neighbors are seeking, this will largely come down to how cooperative you want to be. I guess my best advice is to ask yourself if the situation were reversed, how would you want your neighbor to respond. Typically, you can stipulate that the ceilings in your home will need to be left in the same condition they are currently in. In other words, if a patch job isn’t going to suffice, you can explain that you just had all of this work done. While you are willing to accommodate the construction, you expect more than just a “patch and paint” at the end of the project. If your neighbors are serious about needing/wanting their modifications, they may be willing to agree to you terms. After all, being a good neighbor works both ways. All the best!

Condo Owners Creating Eyesore By Using Patios as Storage Areas

J.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have concrete patios in front of basement doors. We now have homeowners leaving all kinds of stuff (sand boxes, gas grills, coolers, etc.) on their patios which is seen from the pool area and making it look very sloppy. Looking for regulations on what can be left on Patio area in front of each homeowner’s unit.

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., I am sorry that your fellow homeowners have decided to use their patio concrete slabs as storage areas, creating an eyesore for the community. Have you looked at your existing governance documents? It is quite common for there to be rules and regulations about how common and limited common elements can be used by unit owners. It may be as simple as having these rules enforced. If the documents are silent on the use of the space, it is time to ask the Board to consider new rules to keep the property looking great. If the Board refuses or there isn’t enough consensus to enact such rules, there may be nothing you can do. If there aren’t rules against using a common element like a patio in a certain manner, it is typically up to the unit owner to use the space as they see fit. Hopefully, between existing or future restrictions, you can get the eye appeal of your association back up to snuff. All the best!

Condo Board Lax in Enforcing Leasing Covenants

S.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

There are 17 out of 80 condos that are rented or have rooms rented out with no permission or application submitted by any of these owners or tenants. I have a list supplied by the former maintenance man. I got this when he still worked there. They have refused by request to rent mine out. I am recently widowed and am hoping I can arbitrate based on selective enforcement rules. Also, there seems to not be a census though president claims to mail it in. Do I have a good chance to win?

Mister Condo replies:

S.A., typically, condo governance documents require landlords to disclose who their tenants are and to provide a copy of the lease to the Board or Property Management Company, acting as the Board’s agent. Like any governance provision, it is only as effective as it is enforced. From what you are telling me, your current Board is uninterested in enforcing the regulation. Therefore, chaos rules and it puts unit owners such as yourself in a precarious situation with regards to leasing their own unit. When your case comes to arbitration, it will force the issue with the Board as to why there are so many undocumented rentals in the community and why are they choosing to enforce the regulation only against you. This could put them in a potential discrimination lawsuit position and they may be eager to see it your way and allow your lease. However, when it comes to Boards, attorneys, and arbitration, it is difficult to predict which way the wind will blow on any given day. I would encourage you to seek the arbitration and I wish you the best of luck. I do think that if what you have told me is true, you have a very good chance of prevailing.

Condo Owner Seeks Conversion of Handicapped Parking Space

K.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I purchased a painted and marked handicap parking space in my new condo. I was told that since no new owner needed that parking spot it was up for grabs. I now want them to take down the sign and paint over the handicap decal. They refused saying “that is still a designated handicap spot”. Can I press my issue to have all handicap designations removed since I am the deeded owner of this space? Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

K.S., you can certainly press the issue but I am not certain you will prevail. There are a few key terms here that need clarification before I can offer you any advice. First off, a phrase like “I was told” raises a flag with me. By whom? If the spot was “up for grabs” how is it that you now claim it is deeded to you? Typically, the Board controls the parking lot and the parking lot is common ground. The Board can designate spaced to be for handicapped use, which it sounds like they have done. They are not under any obligation to convert a commonly owned parking space to non-handicapped just because you request for them to do so. Conversely, if, in fact you do own the space and it is part and parcel of your deed, you may have every right to convert the space back to non-handicapped use. This is likely a matter for your attorney to discuss with you to see what, if any, legal rights you may have in this matter. All the best!

Condo Radiant Flooring Failure Creates Big Problem

J.G. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo had radiant floor heating. The heating split in the floor and is unable to be fixed. I have requested quotes from several different HVAC installers and they all have come up with a heating system that requires an outside condenser. My question is if the association says no to the condenser outside my unit what are my rights to having an affordable working heating system in my unit?

Mister Condo replies:

J.G., I am sorry to say that you would have almost no “rights” to installing a new HVAC unit on the association common grounds as it is owned by the association and not you. I have to question the lack of repair available to you and I would strongly suggest you contact other repair people who specialize in radiant floor heating. You are certainly well within your rights to petition the Board to allow for an HVAC installation outside of your unit. Are other units in your condo heated or cooled with external units? If so, you can argue that the precedent has been set and that you are simply doing what other unit owners have already done. In my experience, Boards aren’t likely to get in the way of an HVAC unit being installed where other units are already present. However, they may dictate that your new unit be like kind and model as others already on the grounds. This is their right under architectural compliance. My guess is you will either find a different repairman to fix your radiant floor heating system (ideal) or you will have the Board tell you which type of heating system they will allow or they will ask you to provide the specification for your installation and will either approve or deny based on the architectural compliance guidelines established for the association. All the best!

Seasonal Condo Landlord Faces Pushback from Year-Round Owners

S.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I bought a condo as a vacation home in Maine. There are five units. As I live in Massachusetts, and still work full-time, I am only able to use it intermittently in the summer, and then I rent it out November – May. There is another owner that rents hers year-round, and a third that comes intermittently in the summer and closes it up for the winter. That leaves two other units that are owner-occupied year-round. One of them is proposing that the non year-round owners pay an extra percentage or dollar on the monthly condo fees “for months when owners are not here to cover all the management/maintenance issues that fall to those who live here full time”. Can they do this? I would agree that the year-round owners are the ones who have to call the repairman, or may sweep up between cleaning lady visits, or admit inspectors to our units if required, but should they/can they be compensated through additional fees?

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., unless your governing documents allow for such a fee (unlikely), then the only way to add one would be to modify the documents. Since three of the five unit owners would likely vote against such a rule, it is unlikely to pass. That being said, there may be some validity to what the other year-round unit owners are asking and since it is such a small community, you might want to find an agreeable solution to keep peace and harmony in the community. Personally, I would argue that the year-round unit owners are benefitting by being the ones making the calls to repairmen and keeping their homes in good working order. If they need additional “sweeping up” between cleaning lady visits, perhaps it is time to schedule more cleaning lady visits, an expense shared by ALL unit owners, even those not there year-round to benefit directly from the additional cleaning. Other than that, I think they should review the governance documents and realize that the real estate purchase they made entitles them to the common services as outlined. Anything above that is an unreasonable expectation on their part. Good luck!