Monthly Archives: December 2018

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!

Aggressive Dog Worries Condo Board

K.D. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What is the procedure if an owner has an aggressive dog on property. Do we have to wait for an incident before having the animal removed?

Mister Condo replies:K.D., I am sorry that you have an aggressive dog housed within your condo. “Aggressive” is a subjective term so it is quite difficult for me to give you an answer you can put into action. Start with your current by-laws and see what they say about pet restrictions. There are usually rules about noise (barking), which is typical with an aggressive canine, and limitation of size. Smaller dogs are not typically considered a threat or classified as “aggressive”. You can also check with your local animal control officer to discuss any local ordinances that are designed to protect residents. Other than that, unless there is an attack made by this dog on a unit owner, guest, or other animal on property, there may be no rules or laws that are being broken. Good luck!

Condo Association Recordkeeping Requirements on Previous Owners and Renters

P.S. from Illinois writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How long must a condo association keep files/paperwork of owners and renters who have moved out of the building? Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

P.S., all association records in your state must be kept a minimum of 7 years. However, unless it is unreasonable to do so, many attorneys would recommend holding onto them forever as the condo association is a business corporation and prefer to keep their records in perpetuity, even if it means warehousing them after seven years. It really depends on your documentation requirements for owners and renters. Most associations do require records of who is currently living in their association, making these records association records subject to the seven-year recordkeeping requirement. For a proper legal answer to your question, ask the association’s attorney. They will give you a proper legal answer to your question. All the best!

Condo Leak Leads to Mold for Downstairs Neighbor

G.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My unit had a leak which was reported by downstairs neighbors who had a water bubble in the ceiling of the bathroom. Repairs were made in my unit but the leak continued. Long story short we went back and forth for a few weeks where we thought we resolved the leak but then a week or two later the unit below reported water. Part of the problem was the below unit is never home. So, they only report their floor being wet days after a possible leakage. During this time, the unit below had the ceiling opened up to allow it to dry before patching it. Finally, one night the unit below called that they see water dripping and we finally figured out it was my AC unit leaking water. My insurance came out and made repairs to my unit. My water damage was cleared within days. My insurance said the below unit should file a claim with their unit. 3 weeks later they are barely getting the insurance company to come see their damage. But now the unit below is saying they have mold growing and want my unit to pay for it. The owner also told me they have still been using their shower during these last few months. I feel responsible for water damage but not mold. The owner took no precautions to reduce damage, to dry the area, and steam from their showers was not helping the situation. Help, am I liable? Neither of our insurances will cover, and the HOA says it’s an issue between owners.

Mister Condo replies:

G.H., I am sorry that this unfortunate issue has escalated to this point. At the end of the day, it is likely to end up in court unless you and the unit owner below you can come to a practical solution. Homeowners insurance should have covered the initial damage for both of you. The HOA is not likely liable as this issue was not caused by a defect between the two units. Water from your air conditioner caused the damage to the unit below yours. Mold that results from water damage is typically covered by homeowner’s insurance but, in this case, your downstairs neighbor’s insurance carrier is not being responsive to the claim. The issue of your liability will only come into play if a lawsuit is filed. If that happens, you should hire an attorney to protect yourself. Do you have a price for the mold remediation? It is quite possible that your downstairs neighbor may have some out of pocket expense to remediate the mold (which they should do as mold can be toxic and even deadly). To be a good neighbor, you might offer to split the cost of the mold remediation but I do not believe you have a liability to do so. The real culprit here is the insurance company. Ideally, they would simply pay the claim and this matter would be resolved. However, many insurers would deny this claim based on the repeated nature of the damage and the lack of a timely repair after the initial claim which lead to the mold problem. I hope you and your neighbor work out a reasonable solution. All the best! 

Question of Financial Liability for Condo Decks Leads to Foreclosure!

D.U. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own a condo in a building without deck units, whereas other buildings in the condo have decks attached to their units. Since a deck or balcony is not a common element, I feel that it is not fair to be asked to pay $2,000.00 for the repairs of other units’ decks. Plus, I was appalled to learn at one of the meetings that some decks were repaired not long ago but the shabby job done made them fall apart in the following year. The Board of Directors members, who, by the way, have decks to their units, were quiet about it at the meeting. The association should be held accountable for not preventing such a failure. Instead they are imposing a lot of money to cover their mismanagement on many other units without a deck. Many of owners are elderly, as myself, living on a limited income. To involve a lawyer to fight such an abusive manner in the court, cost a lot of money which we cannot afford. As a matter of fact, I have already got a letter from the association, to be informed that a lawsuit including a foreclosure is intended on me. I have to add the association couldn’t provide, at my lawyer request, a copy of the relevant portions of the By-Laws, Rules, or Regulations which authorize the imposition of such assessment on me. Where should I address this issue other than here? I think that an investigation is overdue on Property Management at my association.

Mister Condo replies:

D.U., I am sorry you find yourself at such odds with your association. To hear that you are being threatened with foreclosure now tells me things have progressed even further than your letter lets on. Let’s start with what comes next so that you don’t lose your home. You have hired an attorney to represent you and that is critical to protect your rights. He has asked for the supporting documentation giving them the right to assess and then foreclose for failure to pay the assessment in timely fashion. I can assure you that they do have the right to collect assessments from you and they can foreclose against you if you don’t pay the assessments. You also have rights and you may be able to sue them if the assessment was passed incorrectly or if the decks are not common elements, as you claim. Unfortunately, my guess is that the decks are considered common or limited common elements and that you may, in fact, be liable even though your unit does not have a deck. I realize that this seems unfair but unless you or your lawyer can show where they have done something wrong, the assessment will stand and you will be held liable. There is no central authority in our state to investigate the management of your association and I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. You have already hired an attorney which is your best option to see this through. I wish I had better news for you here but I think the only real problem here is an understanding of how a condominium association operates and governs itself. Hopefully, your attorney will help you navigate this legal turmoil. All the best!

Condo Owner Paying for Common Area Heat!

D.F. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

In my condo my heat vents are in a dropped ceiling that runs down my hallway. There is also a heat vent that is in my ceiling that goes to a common area that’s not part of my heating system. Every time I turn on my heater I’m heating the common area because of this vent that’s never used my heat system heats up this vent and leaks into a large common area. What can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

D.F., if you are paying for your own heat and own the vents in your unit, you may be able to have an HVAC technician take a look at your vents and see if they can be vented only into your unit. If the ductwork is owned by the association, there may be little you can do other than to alert the Board to the situation and see if they are willing to allow modification of the ductwork so you are not paying to heat a common area. It is uncommon, but not unheard of, that a single unit owner would be responsible for heating a common area. What if you turned off your heat? How would the common area be heated. This sounds to me like a bit of an HVAC engineering problem that will likely take some coordination between you and the Board to resolve. Good luck!

Condo Owner Questions the Right to a Clear View

G.G. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do I have any rights to say what is put in my back patio view? A board member has put a picnic table where unwanted people gather at the table and that is my view. Also, the maintenance man parks his golf cart in front of my patio view nearly every day.

Mister Condo replies:

G.G., generally speaking, you are only guaranteed peaceable use of your unit. That does not include what you can see while looking out of your unit, just what happens inside of it. That being said, if there are rules about picnic tables and the visitors allowed to use them, you can make sure the rules are being followed. If they are, there is nothing you can do about that. As for the maintenance man, he works for the association, managed by the Board. You can write to the Board and ask why he needs to park his golf cart if view of your unit every day but my guess is he is free to park wherever he wants on association grounds as long as he is doing his work. All the best!

Problems Galore for this Condo Owner

M.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Where I live has had nothing but issues for years with the Home Owner’s Association and the Management Companies they’ve hired! We now have a new Management Company that is well-known and established, but it appears many things are still not being conducted financially correct for our Association! The last team we had was caught embezzling, that’s right both Home Owner’s Association Board Member and Management Company. They settled! But that didn’t help the problems of twenty years of disrepair! One said person that was on the “Home Owner’s is actually still on the board, and is a Broker! How he kept his license I’ll never know, but what gets me the most, do the homeowners think this person has changed his stripes? We also have a “Security Guard” that’s been here for over twenty-five years! Yes, the very same one! He doesn’t follow the by-laws, he knew all about the embezzlement, doesn’t do a thing to protect this property, but the residents that have lived here the longest feel a kinship to him!?#/! You want someone that’s trustable, dependable, reliable, most definitely follows the by-laws of the Association!  Our pools are to close at 11pm, open at 7am, that’s never happened in the 17 years that I’ve been here! If the Security even locks up at night, it’s somewhere after between 11:30 forward, and opens the gates anywhere after 2:00am through 3:30am! Depends on his last drive by. This Security Guard actually went almost a year without locking our pool’s!  I guess he wanted to see how long he could get away without doing anything! He’s still here! Don’t most Association change Security Company’s every, at least five years? We have 400 units… (Editor’s note, this question has been shortened) What can we do?

Mister Condo replies:

M.S., I am sorry that living in this community association has given rise to so many problems for you. I had to truncate your letter because it got far too specific with details and complaints that I couldn’t possibly address them all. Let me say this to try and give you some closure on what you have seen transpire and how you might better enjoy the experience moving forward. Volunteer leaders are democratically elected from within your very community to serve on the Board and conduct the business of the association as outlined in your community governance documents. They don’t always behave as you would like and you have the power to vote them out of office every year at your Annual Meeting. Wrongdoing, such as stealing or embezzlement is a special situation and it sounds like the association took proper action against the offenders. Agreeing to settle was their prerogative. Hiring a security company and maintaining the contract for many years is also their decision. Almost every complaint you had against the association came from you not agreeing with how they run the association. Unless other unit owners agree with you and elect different leaders, nothing will change. The management company works for the Board. Changing companies will not change the results. All communities are different by the nature of who lives there and who makes up the Board. If the Board where you live is lack in their duties and the association continues to return them to office, then it is fair to say that they are doing the business of the community as the community would like it. Have you ever run for the Board? Have you ever discussed the shortcomings of the Board to other unit owners to see if they share your concerns? That would be the only way to effect any change at your association. Short of that, your only other real option would be to sell and move into an association that has a reputation for stricter enforcement of its covenants. I think that would make you the happiest. Good luck!

Tricking the Condo Board on the Number of Pets Per Unit

M.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo that has a one pet rule, I have a dog. Recently my girlfriend moved in and she also has a dog. I received a letter from the Corporation citing the one pet rule and was asked to remove one of the dogs. A neighbor that I have become friendly with has offered to register one of the dogs as his thereby allowing me to tell Corporation that one of the dogs has been removed although the dog remains with me. Can this be done? Can the Corporation come back to me as having two pets?

Mister Condo replies:

M.L., kindly put yourself in the position of a Board Member being asked to enforce the rules of the community. They know nothing of your personal situation. All they know is that your unit now houses two dogs, which, as you have acknowledged and obviously know, is against the rules of the association. You have found a creative “loophole” around the rule which may or may not work for you. I am certainly not going to endorse this fraudulent behavior but if you are not “caught” breaking the rules, there may be no penalty for you. However, if push comes to shove, the association is completely within their rights to enforce the rules you agreed to live by when you moved in. I hope it works out for you. Good Luck!