Monthly Archives: December 2018

Developer Obligation to Pay HOA Fees on Undeveloped Lots

C.C. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Does a developer of A PUD have an obligation to pay dues on unsold lots once the transition/takeover of board has taken place?

Mister Condo replies:

C.C., an unsold lot is not the same as an undeveloped lot. If the PUD consists of built units, then it is likely that the developer would be liable for the dues from the unsold units. Undeveloped lots, do not likely carry the same burden, especially since they are undeveloped. You would need to check the documents for further clarification but it is uncommon for a developer to pay fees for undeveloped lots. If the association has an attorney (and they should have their own attorney during the transition/takeover period), this is a great question for him or her. Good luck!

Deceased Majority Condo Unit Owner Creates Governance Issues

P.D. from Texas writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have 116 townhome units that fall under the Texas HOA Condo law, and 50 of those units were bought out years ago by a gentleman who has since died. His estate is tied up in court and with the IRS because he didn’t have a will (I know RIGHT)? Anyway, for years his ‘property management’ lady that rents and lives on property is always using her 50 votes to tilt outcomes in her favor.  

We are hoping one day if we take it to court and have a judge look at the unequal leverage that one person holds over us that isn’t even a homeowner, we are hoping that could change or that a judge would see it as not a true democracy. 

Wondering if you could give us any advice? We don’t get a full turn out of homeowners because many are elderly on our property, and she single handedly runs the show/votes/outcomes on how she wants it to happen (and even voting HERSELF on the board!) 

Thanks so much for all you do for us in sharing your knowledge 🙂

Mister Condo replies:

P.D., I am sorry that your association finds itself in such a predicament. The “property management lady” you refer to must have some arrangement/authority for the deceased seeing as she is living in one of his units and managing the others. You should look at your by-laws and even state law on the number of votes any one single unit owner can cast. Some limit to a percentage (15% of total votes cast, for instance), others limit to a set number of votes. If that is the case, you can simply impose those limits on here the next time there is a vote. The reality is that you have a single unit owner who owns almost half of all of the units. I would not personally wish to live in a condo with that kind of single ownership ratio because, as you can see, this can create exactly the kind of problems you are dealing with. What if all 50 units stopped paying common fees? What if the association had to take adverse possession (foreclosure action) against the deceased’s estate? The legal fees and glut of units could create a hardship for the other unit owners. You should really be thankful that the association doesn’t have far larger problems than what you have described.My advice is to speak with a locally qualified attorney who specializes in community association law. You can find a list of such attorneys by clicking on https://www.caionline.org/Chapters/Pages/Chapter-Listing.aspx#TXand finding the CAI Chapter that services your part of Texas. Austin, Dallas/Fort Wort, Greater Houston, and San Antonio all feature many qualified attorneys who can guide your association through the proper steps to regain control of your association.Keep in mind that there may be little the association can do. After all, even though he is deceased, his estate still controls 50 of the 116 units in your association. The right to vote is part of what you purchase when you buy a condominium. You are a shareholder in a corporation and you most certainly have a right to vote. I wouldn’t easily give up my right any easier than you would. Good luck!

HOA Requires City Resident Parking Permits for Parking Passes

C.S. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am an owner of my condominium with an onsite parking lot. I have two parking spaces on my unit deed. Due to recent parking issues the HOA sent out a letter stating in order to receive our new parking pass for our parking lot we must obtain a city resident parking permit prior to any passes being issues. Is this something an HOA can require?

Mister Condo replies:

C.S., I don’t see why not. You are a resident of the city and assuming unit owners are paying taxes to the municipality in return for their parking permit, it isn’t too far of a jump for the association to use the city’s parking permit for verification for their own parking pass issuance. If a unit owner were denied a parking pass for a deeded space based solely on refusal to produce a city parking permit, I could see where the rule could be challenged but it would take time, effort, and a lawsuit to do so. My guess is that it is just easier to comply with the HOA’s request. Good luck! 

Condo Board Changes Dog Ownership Rules or Did They?

D.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our Declaration of bylaws states household pets, dogs, cats, birds are welcomed. Our rules & regulations that were written and passed by the board and not by owner has banned dogs. Which ruling is correct? We recently found out the board keeps two versions of the bylaws on hand and distributes a version without the page that includes the portion that dogs are welcomed to new owners. Do I need to hire a lawyer or can I just tell the board I’m getting a dog? Can board members who have intentionally hid bylaws be banned from being on the board.

Mister Condo replies:

D.C., I am sorry that your Board is practicing deceptive communications. You will most definitely need to hire an attorney to challenge the by-laws if you decide to get a dog. The Board can be sued for not issuing updated condo documents to new owners but that isn’t likely to help your case. The original declaration and by-laws will work to your advantage but that isn’t to say the by-laws have not been legally modified since then. The Board would need to show that the rule was legally adopted and the by-laws modified. They would also have to explain why the proper by-laws are not being provided to new owners. What often happens is the Board thinks they have modified the by-laws but have not, in fact, taken all of the required steps, which nullifies their actions. Your attorney can guide you through the process if it comes to that. Good luck!

Condo Unit Owner Claims Negligence as Reason for Not Paying Assessment

V.M. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If I do not pay an assessment because of negligence by the trustees do I lose my rights as a unit owner?

Mister Condo replies:

V.M., regardless of what the reason for not paying an assessment, the association will very likely take collections action against you, up to and including foreclosing on your home. You do not fight a claim of negligence by withholding fees or assessments because the association has a legal duty to collect those funds from you and from all unit owners. You have rights as well and challenging the Board with a claim of negligence is done with a lawsuit initiated by you against the association. The only thing withholding fees or assessments will accomplish is legal fees and possible loss of your condo through foreclosure. That is not a good strategy, in my opinion. All the best!

Condo Parking Lot Design Blocks Walkway Access

S.A. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo has unassigned parking with a “two space” limit, first come-first serve. The issue is that spaces are directly in front of my walkway. Vehicles completely block it. During normal weather I can use the grassy area to go around. During winter when snow is piled high and I have to squeeze between vehicles and there would be no way for a quick medical extradition if needed. I have requested adjustment numerous times without any solution. I even drew a schematic with an easy solution. I also have a 20% disability to my right leg. Is this a legal parking spot? Thank you

Mister Condo replies:

S.A., unless the local building code calls for something else, these parking spots. Are under direct control of the board to use as they see fit. You would think that they would want to keep a path clear for unit owners and first responders but I am not aware of any law requiring them to do so. This parking condition has likely existed since the condo was built so it is not a new condition. Keep speaking common sense to the Board. Perhaps they will agree with you and act. If you feel your disability entitles you to more than the Board is willing to do, you might want to speak with an attorney to see if you can sue them and force them to act. Other than that, I think you are stuck with the parking situation as it is. Good luck!

Lack of Maintenance by Self-Run Condo Board

D.T. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The self-run condo board is not taking care of the maintenance of our complex. Shingle, roof, painting and paving have not been addressed in years. We pay on an average of 350.00 a month in HOA fees. What recourse do the owners have to get action and for the board to be held accountable to provide proper upkeep for our complex? Is there a state board that we can contact that can help us?

Mister Condo replies:

D.T., I am sorry that you find yourself at odds with your Board over care and maintenance of your complex. I wish I could say that you were alone in your dissatisfaction but the truth is that many associations simply haven’t saved enough money over the years to appropriately maintain their properties. This leads to the unpopular Special Assessment and the equally unpopular increase to common fees. In your case, $350 per month should likely be adjusted to $450 per month or higher. That way, the current expenses of the association could be paid and a healthy contribution to the Reserve Fund for future repairs could be established. As for the immediate needs of the association, a loan or Special Assessment is very likely needed. From the brief list you have provided, I wouldn’t be surprised if $10,000 or more per unit would be needed. If unit owners can’t afford that kind of one-time payment, then a loan (which will also increase common fees and have the additional expense of interest) is in order. The bottom line is that Boards of Directors turn over in condo associations over time. Each new Board inherits the good or bad practices of the previous Board. In associations that require maintenance on 20 to 30 year-old buildings, that means either having the money to do the projects from the great fiscal planning of previous Boards or picking up the pieces from poorly thought out Reserve Fund planning. Guess which kind of association you live in? The bottom line is that it takes money to perform the needed maintenance and that money only comes from one place – the owners. It sounds to me like it is time for your association to pay the piper. Of course, all of the unit owners have a say in raising common fees and Special Assessments. Neither are popular and both have real consequences to owners, including forcing out the folks who can’t pay up. However Darwinian as this sounds, it is the way of the world. I wish you and your community good luck in solving this difficult problem.

Condo Owner Floods Uninsured Neighbor’s Unit

H.W. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Recently my washer broke (the tube was incorrectly installed by the previous owner and it popped off). I didn’t realize anything was wrong until the unit below me called in a panic about the water leaking from his ceiling. Water was pooling in my catch tray and the overflow was then leaking under the floor boards, so there was never any pooling to alert me. Unfortunately, neither my unit insurance or the master will cover repairs to his ceiling, and he does not have unit insurance. He asked me to split the repair cost. I’m torn! It was my washer that caused his water damage, but the cost would be WAY less if he had insurance (half the deductible versus half the repair cost!). We are very neighborly, so part of me thinks to maintain the relationship I should eat the cost… but I’ve also put a lot of my blood, sweat, tears, and loans into this association to keep it afloat, and after paying the plumber I’m kind of tapped. What should I do?!

Mister Condo replies:

H.W., your neighbor’s lack of insurance is troubling and may even be against your association’s regulations. Many associations require all unit owners to carry their own homeowner’s insurance for just such occurrences as this. If so, and your neighbor was delinquent in his duty to insure, you may not have any liability whatsoever. If that is not the case, you may be on the hook for half or all of the damage. It really depends on how your neighbor proceeds. If he sues, in Small Claims, or other, then and only then. Might you find yourself held legally responsible for the damage. I appreciate your “good neighbor” attitude and paying some of the expense, which you did, should help keep the relationship between you and your neighbor congenial.

Why in the world are you loaning money to your association? Are you a bank? Why does your association need money to “keep it afloat”. You have signaled a big problem with your association’s finances. Common fees should be sufficient to keep any association afloat. Individual unit owners should not be loaning the association money. It is time for your association to get some real world training on how to run itself and practice sound fiscal policies, which include adequate common fees for the association to fund itself. All the best!

Transitioning Outgoing Condo Manager Fees

R.S. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What can we expect legally that a transitioning property manager must provide to a new incoming property manager upon termination? What is the outgoing manager allowed to charge after termination, and what is considered reasonable or unreasonable?

Mister Condo replies:

R.S., developer transition in a condominium association is a tricky time at best. There are very few rules or laws to guide you here and my best advice is for the association to have its own attorney review all of the transactions that take place during the transition period because there are just too many things that can go wrong. Association that tackle this without professional and legal help often stumble and find themselves on the short end of the stick with missing funds, incomplete work, missing paperwork, etc.. An experienced attorney is worth twice their fees during this period as they can actually save the association thousands of dollars if the transaction is handled incorrectly. If the outgoing manager has a contract in place, the association is bound to pay whatever the contract calls for. If there is no contract in place, the manager may be free to try to charge whatever they wish. This is one area where an attorney can be incredibly useful as the association may not have to pay anything if there is no contract. At the very least, the attorney can negotiate such items for the association making sure it doesn’t pay a penny more than it needs to. All the best!

Previous Condo Owner Installed Hardwood Floors Improperly

S.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are having problems with our hardwood floors cupping. We just found out that our Management told the previous owner that the floors were not being properly installed and this could happen. Isn’t it the responsibility of Management to let us know of this improper installation before we purchased the unit? Shouldn’t they help pay for some of the very expensive repairs we now have? Thanks for your help.

Mister Condo replies:

S.B., I am sorry that you find yourself in this position. In my opinion, this is your problem and not anyone else’s. I assume you had the home inspected before you made the purchase. I could argue that the previous owner had a responsibility to let you know about the potential problem as a disclosure to the sale of the property but other than being an “oversight” on their part, I doubt any real estate disclosure laws were broken. Typically, units are sold “as is”, meaning the unit is now your responsibility, defects and all. My understanding is that is it very difficult to cure cupping hardwood floors as moisture is typically the culprit. Unless you can remove the moisture, it is likely you will need to replace the floors. My recommendation would be to heed the advice of proper installation so you don’t have a repeated failure. Sorry I don’t have better news. All the best!