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Condo Deck Spalling Project Creates Additional Unit Owner Expense

M.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If the condo HOA has contracted with a firm, using funds from an assessment, to do spalling on your deck, is the condo owner responsible for paying for tile removal and replacement and also a sliding glass door replacement they say needs to be removed to do the spalling?

Mister Condo replies:

M.M., that is a tricky question. My gut instinct is to say that the unit owner is responsible for those items that the unit owner owns and the association is responsible for any common elements that it owns. In the case of a deck and spalling, my question is who owns the tiles? Are they your tiles (installed by you or a previous owner)? If so, it is likely that you own the tiles and would have to pay for the replacement. Who owns the slider? Again, that is typically unit owner responsibility but your documents may state otherwise. My best advice is for you to review your documents and see who owns what. If the documents are silent on the subject, you might ask neighbors who have faced a similar situation how it was handled previously. My best guess is that you will be responsible for the tiles and the slider. On the upside, you will have beautiful new deck spalling, tiles and a slider to come and go to enjoy your deck. All the best!

Condo Insurance Check Issued to Unit Owner for Building Damage

S.F. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Insurance check for house damage was made payable to a condo owner, who is the brother of the president of the condo association. Why did the insurance company allow this? Check amount was substantial, for several thousand dollars.

Mister Condo replies:

S.F., there are a few reasons that the condo owner was reimbursed directly for an insurance claim. For starters, the policy holder typically designates the payee. Was this entirely association-owned insurance or was it homeowner’s insurance as well? Typically, the homeowner gets paid for claims made against their own policy. If the damage had already been repaired by the homeowner, the check may have been for reimbursement. A typical association claim for exterior building damage would go to the association, who would then hire the contractor to repair the exterior building damage. It the damage were internal (water damage for instance) and the association’s insurance were covering that damage, it would not be uncommon for the payment to go directly to the homeowner.

Keep in mind that insurance claims are also records of the association. As such, you have the right to inspect the claim. If you think foul play is afoot, I would suggest you review the paperwork to determine why the payment went to the owner and not the association. Good luck!

Noisy Condo Neighbor Ruining Renter’s Peace and Quiet

P.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am dealing with a neighbor at condo. I am a renter; she is not. She is loud and noise every night until at least 1:00 a.m. The owner I’m renting from is lazy. I can’t wait until May to leave next year. I tried talking to this neighbor and had to call police twice. The manager of the association says they will send a letter but the problem still persists. Recently, a picture fell of my wall and broke. She stomps on her floor on purpose and intentionally drop loud objects. I am so angry I can’t sleep. What can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

C.J., lazy or not, your landlord has a responsibility to provide you with a rental unit as outlined in your rental agreement. Most likely, that agreement included a copy of the rules and regulation for the condo association where you reside. Inside those rules, there are the steps for complaining about another unit owner or resident that isn’t following the rules. Typically, a report is made to either a Property Manager or directly to the Board. There are usually rules about acceptable noise levels, quiet hours, and peaceable enjoyment for unit owners. As a renter, you may or may not have the ability to directly lodge such a complaint, meaning it may need to come through your landlord. If your landlord refuses to support you in this effort, he may be breaking terms of your lease which may leave you the opportunity to end the lease early. However, if you decide to break your lease early you may be out of your deposit or create a legal battle between you and your landlord. My practical advice is for you to motivate your landlord or have him give you the power to work directly with the Property Manager or Board to bring about a resolution. Understand that it may take time and as the months go by towards the end of your lease, the simplest solution may be to not renew your lease. If you decide to break your lease, speak with an attorney to see what legal and financial consequences you may be incurring. It is an unfortunate circumstance to say the least. However, in tight living spaces as many condos offer, an unruly neighbor can make living there unpleasant. Good luck!

Informing the State of Newly Elected Board Members

C.W. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I need the form to inform the State of Florida of the newly elected board members. I cannot find it.  Can you help? Very important. Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

C.W., I am not aware of a requirement of keeping the state informed of the Officers and Board Members of your condominium or a specific form to do so. I am aware of a certification form for newly elected Board members that they must file with the association secretary that they have read the by-laws of the association and that they will fulfill their duties of upholding those by-laws. A sample of that form can be found here:

Annual corporate filings with the state (tax records and such) may have a place to list officers and/or directors. Those forms are typically filed by the association’s accountant or Treasurer. I am not an expert on Florida community association law as I don’t live in your state but I would ask any of my regular followers to kindly give a more detailed answer if I have overlooked anything. Good luck, C.W.!

Condo Employees Harass Condo Resident

D.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’ve been harassed, insulted for no reason at all, and put in a false light by the employees of my condominium. It all started when I reported to management an incident with an abusive contractor that works for the building. He had my apartment keys because he was renovating my property while I was overseas. When he was done with the job he used my apartment as his personal warehouse and because of this I had to have the walls painted again, at my expense. Shortly after that, employees started giving me the cold shoulder and my life in this condo has gone down since.

One day, one security guard came to my home and shouted some insulting words to me just because I had my entrance door open to let some nice ocean breeze flow in the apartment. “You have to close your door because DIRT is coming out of your apartment”, he shouted, and left. BTW, you can come to my home and eat from the floor, he just wanted to insult me.

I complained to management and mentioned to them how security personnel in this building has a keen eye for minor things such as “an open front door”, but a blind eye for major things such as: 1. A shooting (right next to the lobby where the stores and restaurants are). 2. Personal property stolen from the pool area by outsiders. 3. Two cars stolen from the parking area. 4. A maintenance employee using and abusing building’s property for years (he provided floor polishing services (for cash) to the contractor I mentioned before).

I’m not sure if the security guard was fired (this building is huge) but the harassment got worse. Some employees are putting residents against me saying that I’m a tattle-tale. I even lost a website design contract because of lies and bad word of mouth. What can I do to protect my right to the quiet enjoyment of my property without being annoyed or harassed? Thanks.

Mister Condo replies:

D.G., you certainly have your hands full in this community association. I am pretty sure I would have sold and moved by now just to be rid of the crime issue. However, you have elected to stay and have your rights respected. In my opinion, criminal matters should be reported to the police as they occur. Harassment is a crime and your local police are the first call when you are physically or verbally abused. If you are violating a rule (even if you don’t agree with the rule, you are bound by it) like having an open door, I would advise you to follow the rules so you don’t open yourself up to additional abuse or fines from the association.

The underlying problem here seems to be the management company’s behavior and the rampant abuses you have observed from contractors hired by the management company. Are you the only one who has noticed this? It would seem to me that multiple unit owners and residents have experienced similar? If so, the Board should be taking action to correct the situation. You mentioned that your apartment had been used as a warehouse while you were away. Clearly, that should have been reported to the Board and halted at once. It is now water under the bridge and would likely happen again if you are gone for any length of time. Document what you can and report it to the Board along with a letter demanding that never happen again.

If the Board takes no action to correct these actions, you have two basic choices. You can sue for any abuse of your rights as a unit owner or renter. Talk with a local attorney to get an opinion as to what rights have been violated and what remedies are available to you. This could be expensive but may get you the relief you seek. Your second option is to get more involved with your Board, including getting yourself or a like-minded individual elected to the Board. Management company contracts are difficult to break. However, they don’t have to be renewed. If the management company is underperforming, it is time for a new management company. The Board hires the management company. The only way to affect that decision is to work with the Board to make sure they understand that unit owners demand better. Of course, if you are in the minority and everyone else seems happy with the management company, that strategy won’t work. Either way, you will need to take action to correct these issues. Good luck!

Responsibility for Condo Construction Defect 30 Years After Developer Control

P.Z. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

During window and door replacement in my condo, built in 1988, it was discovered that there was about 18″ of insulation missing from the walls directly above the windows. It was corrected during the install of the windows. Is the association responsible to compensate me for the expense of properly insulating the space above the doors and windows? The property manager says no, but I think otherwise. What’s your take, please?

Mister Condo replies:

P.Z., in a perfect world, the missing insulation would have been the responsibility of the builder and would have been considered a building defect if uncovered back in 1988. However, that is impractical, if not impossible. In theory, the association takes over after the developer is through (the developer transition period) and assumes full responsibility for all of the common elements. The question now is whether or not the insulation is considered a common element or part of the window. I agree with you and would argue it is a common element where a building defect has been found. However, the association is likely to argue that they are not under any obligation to pay for a hidden item like this because they had no way of knowing there was an underlying defect and they have no recourse with the developer at this late date. That brings us to the practical element of this repair. I can’t imagine it was very expensive. Do you really want to complicate matters by suing the association for the repair? If the dollars justify a lawsuit and/or you feel strongly on this matter, you should speak to a locally qualified attorney to see if you have a case, or you may bring the matter to Small Claims court depending on the dollar amount. If it was $500 or less to insulate the area around the window, I think I would just pay it and move on. The culprit was the developer back in 1988. He made a mistake and was never held accountable for it during the time when he could have been. All the best!

Can the Condo Board Require Visitor Sign In?

M.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Does a condominium board have the right to make my visitors sign in and out at the concierge desk even when I say I do not want this?

Mister Condo replies:

M.T., yes, the association has the right to know who is on the property. Even though you own your unit, you do not own the common grounds, which are subject to the rules and regulations of the association, which is governed by your Board. Many associations require not only names but also vehicle information of visitors. Condominium associations are not public property. The association has a right, and often a need, to know who is on the property and for what purpose. All the best!

Are All Condominium and HOA Documents the Same Regarding Common Elements?

J.J. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi Bob, I just listened to the podcast about the alligator in the condo fountain (! I have a question that I am hoping you can answer. But, a little on me. I have been involved in the community association maintenance business since 1978, with the last 17 years as a general contractor specializing in condo buildings repair and capital improvements. I have worked for various management companies over the years. Some good and some not good. My question is I understand the laws have changed some years back in regards what the association is responsible for as far as maintenance. When I started, I learned the association covered to the drywall. Now. I am hearing the association covers a lot more inside the unit. I ask managers and no one either knows or won’t give me a straight answer. Can you help so I may service my associations with correct knowledge?

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., the answer literally varies from association to association so there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer. Additionally, I know of some associations that have modified their rules based on “how we’ve always done it” situations, regardless of what their governing documents say. Also, we have a few different types of common interest communities operating in our state and each has their own peculiarities. Condominiums are the most common and your explanation of from the walls in is quite common to describe what the unit owner is responsible for. Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) are also common in our state and often have the same type of rules. Cooperatives (coops) are also plentiful and have similar but not exactly the same rules. Homeowners or Property Owners Associations (HOAs and POAs) are also common but seldom get into the unit interiors. These groups are typically about architectural conformity and shared common amenities (a clubhouse, pool, beach, etc.) Within each of these groups are additional subsets (Adult Communities, 55 and over, Assisted Living, and so on). As you can imagine, each has their own set of governing documents and each has their own specifics on who owns and maintain which elements.

As a contractor to an association, you are going to handle the work assigned to you by the association. You should ask the association where the association responsibility ends and the unit owner responsibility begins. Short of you taking the time to read all of their governance documents, you would have to operate under the assumption that they know what they are talking about. If you complete their work order, and they pay you for your work, it is of no concern to you if they need to then bill an individual unit owner for work you did on their behalf. If they are asking you to bill a unit owner for work you performed at their request, I would ask them to change that arrangement for the sake of your business relationship with the association. You know the association will pay you for work you have contracted with them. You have no way of knowing if a unit owner is going to pay you for work done to their unit at the association’s request. After all, they didn’t hire you. I know haven’t given you a “cut and dry” answer here but that is the nature of the industry. Keep doing the great work you’ve been doing and I am sure the issues of responsibility for maintenance will work itself out, association by association. Good luck!

Purchase of Lien and Foreclosure Rights on Delinquent Condo Owner

S.A. from South Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can an individual purchase the lien and foreclosure rights on a delinquent condo unit? Second, is there a situation where a condo association can foreclose and take possession without going through the auction process? The unit in question has no mortgage and the owners have abandoned the unit. Sorry, one more question, is it the responsibility of the Association to keep the electric on if the unit is abandoned, to protect the neighbors from mold. This is a South Florida condo association.

Mister Condo replies:

S.A., those are all great questions. As you know I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. You should likely check with one of the many fine community association law forms in your state before taking any actions listed in your question. Let me offer the following friendly advice. Delinquent condo owners, even those who abandon their units have rights, both from the association’s governing documents and state law. If the unit owner is amenable to any of the methods of disposal for their unit as you have outlined, I can’t imagine there being a problem. However, it doesn’t sound like the unit owners are even around to agree with any proposed disposal of their unit. This is where the lawsuits typically begin and the process of foreclosure gets under way. Typically, a unit owner would offer a defense to the action of foreclosure. However, if the legal papers are served and they choose to simply ignore them, the process continues. If the association follows the law, there should be no problem. As far as an individual purchasing the lien and foreclosure rights in order to take possession of the unit, I would personally have a problem with that. The association is the aggrieved party. They should be the recipients of the proceeds from proper resolution of this matter. However, I am not aware of any law that forbids this. Once again, I would suggest speaking with the association attorney about the legality and proper filings. If the attorney says “yes” and you have a willing and able buyer, I would think it would expedite the process and save the association a good bit of time and money. They key to either of these transactions is making sure the association doesn’t violate any of the unit owner’s rights. Otherwise, multiple lawsuits could ensue. Please check with the association attorney before taking any action.

As for the electric that the association needs to decide whether or not to keep on, my guess is that they should be able to charge back the cost of any electric to the unit and make it part of the lien. Again, the expense of the electric service likely outweighs the potential damage that could be caused by mild so the best business judgment rule should allow the association to make that decision. Even if they can’t collect on the electric cost, that amount should be paltry in the overall scheme of things. All the best!

Condo Roof Leak Causes $75K in Damage; No Insurance Claim Made

J.T. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Condo roof leak caused mold and extensive repairs paid by unit owner. The association refuses to pay the bill. $75,000.00 and never contacted master insurance but stated in emails that they did during initial assessments by environmental specialists provided by association who stated the need for immediate repairs. What is my next step?

Mister Condo replies:

J.T., you have a few different issues here. If it were me, my next step would be to contact an attorney to find out who I should sue for the $75,000 repair. That is a lot of money to be out of pocket for a roof leak and mold remediation. Of course, there is a procedure and protocol to follow here so don’t expect this to be a necessarily easy battle. Let’s start with the roof leak. Did the association fix the roof leak? That is their duty, regardless of whether insurance covers it or not. The association should have had insurance to fix the roof and made a claim to cover the cost or repair and any damage to any common elements. The association should have hired the contractor to make the repair. Is that what happened? You didn’t pay for the roof repair, did you?

Damage to your unit’s interior should have been covered by your own policy. If you didn’t have a homeowner’s policy in place, you should have and you should definitely have one in place moving forward. If the repairs were made in timely fashion, the mold issue may have been averted as most clean-up efforts would have included a dry-out of the damages area. However, as is often the case with mold, it doesn’t appear until months later. Regardless of how it got there, mold remediation is necessary because it can be toxic and, at the very least, a health hazard. If the mold can be determined to have been caused by the roof leak, the association may be on the hook for that as well. You should talk to an attorney about the mold issue to see who is responsible.

Again, I am not sure as to how you amassed a $75,000 bill for this problem, J.T.. If it was a lack of insurance on your part, this is going to be an expensive lesson on why you should always carry homeowner’s insurance. If it was simple mishandling of the claim by the association, an attorney can best advise you of your next steps. I hope you get the mold remediation taken care of immediately. All the best!