Monthly Archives: June 2018

Condo Board Creates Questionable Parking Regulations

R.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Does the Board of Directors have the authority to override terms and conditions established in our governing documents with a plan conceived and designed at a board meeting that does not have majority approval from the community residents? They want to impose a parking plan and tow cars w/o stickers, yet the community document section has a section that addresses unit owner rights to an assigned spot and a section that defines the responsibility of that section. Defined responsibility does not include the mandatory uses of a sticker.

Mister Condo replies:

R.D., I understand your concern about the Board making plans to manage the parking areas. And you are right to be concerned about the lack of majority approval from unit owners before making such plans. However, the Board members were democratically elected by the unit owners to act on behalf of the association. Does your association have a problem with parking? Most associations manage their parking carefully as it is typically a precious resource. That doesn’t mean that the Board can simply pass rules without following the rules for making rules. As long as they have adopted the rules in accordance with their powers as outlined in the association’s governance documents, they are well within their rights to do so. Keep in mind that the community association parking areas is one of the biggest challenges faced by Boards. Unit owners, renters, and guests can make a real mess of limited parking. These new rules may be the association’s best chance at managing the chaos and keeping the parking lots under control. Like all new rules, there will be an adjustment period. Hopefully, no vehicles will actually have to be towed for order to be restored and all residents to have use of the association parking. Good luck!

Condo Owner Seeks to Install Solar Panels on Association-Owned Roof

D.E. from Maryland writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo in Talbot County, Maryland I made a request for possible installation of Solar Panel on our rear roof which has the best sun. I told them we were having several Solar companies looking at the project and would keep them informed. The next thing I get is a letter from their Attorney stating they own the roof and denied my request. Is there any law that would support me and we would certainly insure our side, etc.. Your knowledge will be appreciated!

Mister Condo replies:

D.E., as you know I am not an attorney nor am I an expert in Maryland community association law. That being said, I am not aware of any law that would allow you as a condo unit owner to install solar panels (or anything else for that matter) on the association-owned roof. Have you asked the Board if the association as a whole would be interested in install solar panels? It is possible that the association could actually make some money on solar panels (after an initial investment) that would benefit all unit owners. However, as an individual owner, it is highly unlikely that you as an individual unit owner can install your own solar panels. All the best!

Poorly Maintained Condo Forces Unit Owner to Lower Selling Price

B.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How do I sell my condo when it hasn’t been kept up by the people who take our condo fees every month? We have a condo repossessed by the bank, people who don’t pay their condo fees for who knows what reason, and in one unit it’s now a rental. Any advice would be helpful.

Mister Condo replies:

B.S., I feel your pain and I am sorry that you have purchased a condo unit in an association that isn’t fulfilling its obligation to upkeep the association. I am guessing that the association upkeep is the tip of the iceberg. As a seller, you will have an additional challenge during the selling process from astute buyers who are likely to notice the lack of proper upkeep. The good news for you is that it may not have too much of an effect on your ability to sell depending on who the buyers are. You may have to lower your price a bit but you may be doing yourself a favor by getting out before the special assessments hit when the avoided upkeep is no longer optional. A roof will fail, siding will fail, parking lots will fail, the list goes on and on. By selling your unit at a discount, you may just be saving yourself from many thousands of dollars in these upcoming expenses. Get out while you can and be open to offers that might not be at the top of the market for similar units in better kept associations. Good luck!

Condo Renter Has Seven Vehicles on Property!

K.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can the condo board make a rule on how many cars a unit can have? A renter has 7 and they say they can’t make a rule!

Mister Condo replies:

K.L., that is a lot of cars for any condo dweller! The association may not be able to make a rule about how many cars any unit owner or renter may own BUT they can certainly make rules about how many vehicles can be stored on association property. Where does this renter keep all of these vehicles? Typically, condo units come with one or two assigned parking spaces and or a garage space. There is also visitor parking in many associations which is typically owned and governed by the Board. I do not know of any associations that allow an unlimited number of vehicles on the common grounds and for good reason. There isn’t enough space! If the association’s governance documents are silent on the use of the association-owned parking lots, it is time to add them. If the association has an attorney, this would be a perfect time to check in with him or her and explain the problem and have him or her draft the resolution so the Board can adopt it. Problem solved. Good luck!

New Condo Owners Challenging Association’s Pet Rules

K.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I purchased my condo in September of 2015. There are 12 units in our association. We read the CCR prior to moving in because we knew we’d be wanting to get a dog. Our CCR states “Owners may have two common household pets which may be dogs, cats, birds or other pets defined in the Civil Code Section and as limited by local City and County ordinances and regulations.”

However, after moving in, our HOA manager sent over a handbook which states we can only have one dog and one cat. The handbook is dated 2007 and the CCR 2015. I would like to get a 2nd dog but am curious to see if the HOA handbook can stand up to the CCRs.

Mister Condo replies:

K.T., thank you for the question. As you know, I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. You may wish to contact a local attorney to see what specific legal rights you have. As a friendly outside observer, I would say it looks like the handbook is much older than the CCRs. It would stand to reason that the CCRs would supersede the Handbook but that is not always the case. However, before I advise you to rush out and get a second dog because you think you are in the right, I have to ask you about other members of the community. Do any of them have a second dog or are they all following the handbook rules? Even if you are right, and there are no other unit owners with two dogs, you risk the ire of your neighbors. If you don’t care about that, and you want to press the issue, speak with an attorney and see what the consequences might be for pushing back against the handbook rules. I would also ask you to think about the welfare of the second dog. If you are not successful in your campaign to take on the association and their handbook rules, what will become of the dog? I wish you and your fur babies a happy journey!

Condo Cannot Enforce Rules on Land it Doesn’t Own

J.J. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo association rules state “No Signs of any kind with the exception of one For Sale sign”. With that being said, since all of our roads are county roads and not private roads, can the association stop me from putting political signs in the county road right of way in our subdivision? This is property that is not owned by any association member but the county right of way that is owned by the county road commission. Thank you! I need a quick answer.

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., quite simply the condo can only enforce rules on land that it owns. If you are certain that they don’t own the land you wish to plant signs on then they cannot enforce their rules on that land. However, the land owner of the land in question may have their own rules about what the public can and cannot do on that land. Have you checked with the county road commission? Violating your condo rules can get you a warning or a fine. Violating municipal rules could get you arrested. Better to be safe than sorry. Find out who owns the land and what the rules are for posting political signs before you take any other action.  All the best!

No, the Condo Reserve Fund is not the Board’s Cookie Jar!

B.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is a Reserve Fund to be used for only the intent that describes the Reserve Fund or can the money be taken and used elsewhere for replacement of an item normally taken care of by maintenance. This item is an accessory item and has no bearing of the intention of the Reserve Fund. It is just that this particular fund has an excess in it therefore has become the resource for the project.

Mister Condo replies:

B.C., thank you for the question. By it’s nature a Reserve Fund should never have “an excess in it”. Reserve Funds are for wear and tear that is occurring on the common elements each and every day. There should always be money in the Fund as the wear and tear occurs daily and the common element replacement is a known future expense of the association. Having money in the Reserve Fund to pay for those expenses is critical and vital to the financial well-being of the association. However, it is tempting for Board members to “borrow” from the fund to pay for other items the association needs now. Such would seem to be the case for your association.

As you can imagine this is a really bad idea. For the most part there are no laws protecting the Reserve Fund. They are an asset of the association and, as such, under the Board’s control. While the Board has a duty to protect the association, which includes protecting the Reserve Fund, they also have to be practical when it comes to the association’s expenses. It is unfortunately quite common for Boards to tap into their Reserve Fund to pay for non-Reserve Fund items. It’s just too easy and too tempting to do so. If the Board has an immediate plan to return the money, there may be no harm and no foul. However, these good intentions are often overlooked when it comes to increasing common fees or asking for a Special Assessment to cover the money borrowed so it doest get replaced and the association’s once healthy and adequate Reserve Fund becomes underfunded, creating a swath of problems for future association members.

The best policy for the reserve Fund is one of custodial guardianship. The Reserve Fund should be used only for the items it was designed to protect and maintain. Any extemporaneous projects that arise should be paid for with other funds, i.e. special assessment or increased common fees. If your Board has no plan to return the money to the Reserve Fund, you would be wise to raise the issue at an upcoming meeting. If your Board members are not willing to perform their fiduciary duties of protecting the association’s assets, such as the Reserve Fund, it is time for some new Board members. All the best!

Condo Parking Space Promised but Not Delivered

S.S. from New York City writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 6-unit new construction condominium in NYC. The builder who I purchased my condo originally told me that even though my unit does not come with parking spot, there was a spot on the side of the building that could be converted to a legal parking spot. Recently I wanted to do this and told the board I would incur all the cost associated with the legalizing that spot.The condominium board of directors voted and denied me a spot. Can I still legally do it without their approval by hiring an attorney or something?

Mister Condo replies:

S.S., I am sorry for your predicament. I can tell you that most questions I get that begin with someone telling you something without you having it in writing don’t end well. The statement that “your unit does not come with a parking spot” is a second telltale sign that this isn’t going to end well for you. You can certainly hire an attorney and see what can be done but, from what you have told me, it doesn’t sound like you will have a case to make the Board release the parking space to you. Perhaps you can rent the space from the association? That might make more sense than spending money on a lawsuit that, to my eye, shows little merit. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. You should certainly speak with an attorney for a legal opinion but if the attorney says you don’t have a case, I wouldn’t be too surprised. Always, always, always get it in writing. Good luck!

Noisy Condo Neighbors Refuse to Be Quiet 

P.C. from Maryland writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a renter who receives a government subsidy. The neighbor above me owns her condo. She is loud. Stomps over my head drop objects constantly. Every night until 1:00 am. I sent an email to manager of association, who contacted the owner of my unit. I complained to housing i really want to break my lease. The owner refuses. The association manager says she’s going to,send a letter. I have a police report. I have to go to court to process my complaint to have a noise ordinance enforced. I have a disability. Should i call legal aid? Get a case going? This association i heard is not good. They have issues keeping up the property. I cant wait to leave next year. It wont come fast enough!

Mister Condo replies:

P.C., I am sorry for your troubles. It sounds to me as though you are doing just about all you can do. If your upstairs neighbor is an inconsiderate person and refuses to obey the association’s rules on noise, your next steps are legal, which it sounds like you are taking. Understand that the association can only enforce its own rules. If you have made a complaint of a rules violation, the next step is for the Board to review the complaint and take whatever action they can against the violator as outlined in the association’s governance documents. This is typically a warning letter, followed by a fine or fines for multiple violations. That is really all they can do. If laws are being broken, i.e. noise ordinances, then you can follow through with legal action, which you are doing. While your disability may impede the ease of making such a complaint, you are free to hire an attorney to represent you if need be. If Legal Aid will handle that for you, by all means, have them do so. Ultimately, I think your plan of leaving the association is a good one. Hopefully, your new home will come with better neighbors. All the best! 

Florida Rental Condo Sold with Previous Owner Keeping Future Rental Deposits

S.C. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We recently bought a condo in Florida. The previous owner has booked rentals through to next year. Is he entitled to keep those deposits even though he does not currently own the condo?

Mister Condo replies:

S.C., it depends on how you negotiated the sale and purchase of the condo. Are you physically living there or is it a rental property for you as well? Are the future leases in your possession or the previous owner? I can’t imagine any situation where an attorney handling this transaction would have let such a potential problem go unanswered during the closing process. If you handled this transaction without the advice of an attorney, you will very likely need one now as the folks expecting the rental property to be available for them will most certainly expect that their deposits will be used towards payment of their rent for the property. My advice is to review the purchase and sale agreement and see what it says about these previous deposits. If it looks unfavorable to you, you should get in touch with a qualified attorney who can best advise you what your next steps should be. Good luck!