Monthly Archives: November 2018

Proper Condo Owner Notification for Passing Special Assessment

K.G. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

in Connecticut, if an association Annual Meeting is held and a Special Assessment is being brought before unit owners to be voted on, does the specific amount need to be disclosed in the notice to unit owners? Our agenda said “discussion of” the project … should it have said “vote on special assessment” for the project? Question 2 – What if the board agreed to a dollar amount to bring before the association for vote and at the association meeting it was increased and voted in favor by the unit owners.

Mister Condo replies:

K.G., as long as the Meeting was properly noticed and the Special Assessment discussion was on the agenda, it is unlikely that the Board did anything wrong with regards to notice. Ditto to the actual amount of the Assessment after the Meeting was held. That being said, your association’s governance documents may provide for a special procedure for levying Special Assessments and that protocol would have needed to be followed. There may also be a limit on the percentage or size of the Special Assessments. At the end of the day, if the association is short of money needed for repairs and maintenance, the details of how the Special Assessment is issued is secondary to the problem that enough money was not collected by the association to pay for the repairs that are now needed. Special Assessments are patently unfair but necessary when needed. The sweetness of low common fees is soured when the money is needed for the repairs. I hope your association gets through this turmoil and gets itself back on track financially in the near future. It is quite possible that common fees need to be raised substantially to make that happen. That won’t be very popular amongst owners but it will avoid these Special Assessments in the future. All the best!

Condo Owner Surprised by Special Assessment

T.S. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo association is planning on replacing all the roofs. We got a letter stating we will have to come up with almost 9,000 dollars or have a monthly increase of 200.00 for 60 months. Can they make us do that? Also, they are having a meeting. In this regards, what questions should be asked at that meeting? I appreciate your help and expertise.

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., owning a condominium is kind of like being a partial owner of a business. From time to time, business decisions need to be made about how to protect and maintain the business. In this case, it would appear that an insufficient amount of common fees has been collected for many years, resulting in a deficit when it came time to replace the roofs. The correct procedure would have been to have had higher monthly dues for the many years leading up to this now needed roof replacement. The Board can and must replace the roofs or they may subject unit owners to damage and worse. There is only one place where this money can come from – the unit owners. So, a special assessment has been levied to cover the cost of the roofs. You and your fellow unit owners now must decide if you can afford the one-time payment of $9,000 or if you would rather pay an extra $200 per month for 60 months, totaling $12,000 per unit. I know if it were me, I wouldn’t want to get stuck with an extra $3000 in interest for what amounts to a $9,000 loan but not all unit owners will be able to easily come up with the $9000 and I expect many will take the $200 per month option. As for what you should ask at the meeting, I would want to know what other special assessments lie ahead and how soon. Chances are if they didn’t have enough money in the Reserve Fund to pay for the roof, they might not have enough for other association-owned items. Siding for the buildings? Pool and club house? Tennis Courts? What other expenses are coming up? It is quite possible that the roofs are just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, you would like to see a Reserve Study and funding plan introduced to the community so as to avoid these special assessments in the future. All the best!

Condo Association Provides Inadequate Insurance

J.F. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If a condo association is maintaining flood insurance, but not the proper amounts as required by lenders to provide financing, how can condo owners force the board to purchase the proper amounts of insurance. A vote would be the simple answer, but a number of units are not interested in selling or refinancing. Is there a duty for the board to insure to the amounts that meet today’s lending requirements? Please note I looked at CT laws concerning duty to insure and the flood insurance provisions are somewhat gray to me.

Mister Condo replies:

J.F., Connecticut’s laws on the association’s duty to provide adequate coverage for units can be a bit confusing. At the very least, you have highlighted a specific area of concern that the law may not address clearly. As long as the association is providing adequate coverage to follow the law, there is no additional requirement that they follow what mortgage companies feel is adequate coverage. In other words, if a mortgage company determines the value of your unit to be higher than what the association has deemed appropriate, the mortgage company may claim a delinquency in insurance and either provide the additional insurance (at a premium to you) or mandate that you provide the additional insurance. This is particularly tricky for units that are in flood zones as the flood insurance is a separate policy from the association’s Master Policy. I have found that there is an additional layer to add to this confusion. If the insurance underwriter changes the amount of the Master Policy coverage, it may create a discrepancy with the flood insurance purchased by the association. In other words, the coverages may be for differing amounts which again cause the mortgage companies to claim a discrepancy and require matching amounts of property and flood insurance. The bottom line is that Boards need to keep a close eye on these policies by working with an insurance professional to make sure they are both adequately insuring the association and complying with state law. I do know of homeowners who have sued their association, claiming the association failed to provide adequate insurance. Will you need to do the same? Maybe. I would bring the insurance delinquency to the Board’s attention and see what they do. If you aren’t happy with the results, seek the advice of a local attorney who will let you know if you have a case. All the best!

Condo Owner Wants to Use Association Owner’s List to Mail Other Unit Owners

J.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is there any condo law against using the owners list of email addresses for personal forum? Such as I don’t think a 25.00 late fee was approximate and I want everyone to know they were wrong. Or, somebody left some trash in the clubhouse and I had to clean it up. I don’t get paid for this and I’m upset. For some reason this action has caught on and gaining momentum. What position does the board have in this and suggestions to stop it? Thanks in advance.

Mister Condo replies:

J.K., your governance documents may prohibit any owner from using the mailing addresses of fellow unit owners for personal or private business. It isn’t the proper forum for grieving late fees or discussing other association business. That’s what Board Meetings and Annual Association Meetings are for. If you are unhappy with association policies, procedures, rules and regulations, etc., you should make your concerns known to the Board. The Board is comprised of democratically elected leaders from within the association who are charged with governing the association in accordance with the rules and regulations of the community. They should be happy to hear you out and advise you if there is any additional action to take on your part or on theirs. That should get you on the right track to resolving your issues. And, you can always run for the Board yourself if you think you could do a better job governing the association. All the best!

Another Small Condo Nightmare When Owners Can’t Afford Needed Repairs

M.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am in a condo association of two. We split expenses 60 (upstairs owners) 40 (me). We agreed to have a major roof repair two years ago. I lined up a HELOC to cover my share. Upstairs owners have been stalling and now tell me they don’t have the money. They want to defer until Spring (second deferral) and I don’t have confidence that they will have the money then. What are my options?

Mister Condo replies:

M.L., your options are quite limited. You have provided a prime example of what happens in a two-unit association when one owner truly can’t afford to live there. You can contact an attorney. You may be able to sue the other owner but, in my opinion, you are very likely throwing away good morning trying to get water from a stone. Your best bet is to continue to encourage this owner to live up to their commitment. Short of that, I’d consider selling to get away from this problem. Unless the other owner finds the money, you’re not likely to get that roof. That may not be a problem today but it will most certainly be a problem in the future when the roof fails. You don’t need to stick around to experience the roof failure first-hand. Good luck!

Can Non-Owners Serve on the Board?

J.S. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

May non-owners be directors of CT common interest communities? Our By-Laws require that only owners may serve as directors and several non-owner residents have expressed interest in serving on the Board.

Mister Condo replies:

J.S., it isn’t a question of State of Connecticut laws but, rather, the association’s by-laws that restrict who can serve on the Board. As you have stated, only owners may serve on the Board. Connecticut does not restrict who may serve on the Board as far as I know but your governance documents most certainly do. The non-owners should not be allowed to serve on the Board. All the best!

Trying to Prevent Condo Water Damage

L.L. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

After my pressure relief valve poured water on my basement floor and caused damage to the floor of my rec room, the property manager informed me that it is a new law in CT that requires all condo owners need to install pans and sensors under their hot water heaters. One of the plumbers that gave me an estimate on the job to install these items, advised me that because I had no drain in the floor, my problem would not be solved, as the pan would not accommodate the amount of water that the hot water heater or the pressure relief valve would release. My question is: what can condo owners in my situation do to eliminate future potential water damage?

Mister Condo replies:

L.L., that is a great question! I am sorry for your problems with your water system. Did you ask the plumber what he would do if it were his home? My guess is that the repair would be in the association’s best interest and they may allow you to install an expert recommended solution. I am not sure of any law that requires condo owners to install pans and sensors although many insurers now require preventative maintenance and standards or they will not honor claims. You might ask the Property Manager to cite the law for you so you know what you are dealing with. If it is just a maintenance standard, do as they suggest so you are covered in the event of damage. Also, once the plumber gives you a proposed solution, speak with the Board about implementing it. Covering yourself from uninsured damage is one thing. Actually solving the problem is another. Good luck!

Unit Owner’s Car Finish Damaged by Association-Owned Tree

A.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have two assigned parking spaces. There is a lot of debris coming out of the tree above which destroys car paint. Am I entitled to request reassignment of parking or request tree removal from the HOA?

Mister Condo replies:

A.T., it is doubtful that you will get it but you can certainly request that the Board reassign your space or remove the tree. The Board controls the parking lot assignment and you more or less get what you get. I am sorry that there is a particularly nasty tree above your space but the Board is not obligated to do anything about that. Are you the only one effected? If not, gather a group of signatures to present top the Board. Perhaps there will be strength in numbers. Other than that, a car cover may be your best bet for protection. Good luck!