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Who’s Responsible for Noisy Condo Air Conditioner in Newer Condo?

E.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I purchased a new condo in 2014. The HVAC unit is situated above my condo. Recently, the unit vibrated and produced a pounding sound such that I thought that there was a rock band playing on the roof! This pounding went on for four days. The vendor indicated that this vibration was caused by twin compressors that exchanged power from one to the other during the summer season to ensure that the HVAC system functions properly. This did not occur last summer. Because I was not told about this occurring when I purchased the condo, does it appear that I have any leeway in pursuing this issue with the builder.

Mister Condo replies:

E.H., I am not an attorney so I cannot offer any legal advice here. I am sorry for your problem but I am doubtful that you will have any success in pursuing this issue with the builder. Have you looked at the warranty for the air conditioner? Chances are that it is already out of warranty but you should still check. Next up is looking at solutions to the sound problem. You may need to have an HVAC engineer make suggestions and you may need the Board’s approval to implement any changes that will change the exterior appearance of the unit. Are you the only unit owner with this problem? If others are experiencing the same issue, it might make sense to coordinate the repairs / replacement of these noisy units. HVAC, like many technologies, advances at a rapid rate. Your 4 year-old unit may have a smaller, quitter, more efficient replacement that might just save you and other unit owners money for years to come. Good luck!

Where Do I find Lawyers Specializing in Community Association Law?

D.C. from Fairfield county writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is there a listing to find lawyers who specialize in Condos in my area?

Mister Condo replies:

D.C., you bet there is! Your friends at the Connecticut Chapter of the Communities Association Institute (CAI-CT) have published a great directory I am happy to commend to your use. The section on attorneys is here: https://www.caict.org/page/Directory?#Attorney%20-%20Law%20FirmsFollow the link and see the many qualified legal professionals in your are who specialize in community association law. Happy hunting!

Condo Board Depletes Reserves Without Plan for Replacement

K.C. from Long Island, NY writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 40-unit condo community in Suffolk County, Long Island that was built 8 years ago. The sponsor upon his departure left $25,000.00 in Reserves with the recommendation that we continue to increase our Reserves to $35,000. Our present Board recently depleted all Reserves for the rehabbing of the wood on 2 buildings. According to our By Laws, the Reserves are to be used for roofs, roads, curbs, bulkhead. Living in an area susceptible to storms, floods and hurricanes – this makes me extremely nervous. Is there a source I can go to for laws & information on HOA Reserves for NY condos?

Mister Condo replies:

K.C., you are right to be concerned about how the Board is using the Reserve Fund and any of the association’s resources. A substantial Reserve Fund, or lack thereof, is often the difference between success and failure in condominium communities like yours. Unfortunately, the state of New York has been largely silent on the issue, leaving unit owners such as you, to review the association’s governance documents to make a determination as to what, if any, provisions exist that require the association to conduct and maintain a proper Reserve Study and to then properly fund the Reserve Fund so that the unit owners are protected against future maintenance costs which will surely arrive. When the community is not prepared for those expenses, unit owners get his with Special Assessments and/or increased common fees to carry the debt created by an HOA loan used to fund the repairs. It is truly a “pay me now or pay me later” scenario for unit owners. My best advice is for you to review your governance documents and see what they say. Most allude to having a Reserve Fund but few have a required contribution. You may suggest the association adopt a Reserve Fund annual contribution either based on a Reserve Study or even 10% of revenues collected. This will require an increase to common fees but it will help the association survive in the years ahead. You might also suggest the association hire a Reserve Study specialist who can best advise the association of how to plan ahead and save now for tomorrow’s known expenses. It might be an additional expense to the association today but it will provide great peace of mind and fiscal stability to the association in the future. All the best!

Neglected Condo Roof is Only the Tip of This Problem

M.L. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’m in a condo association of two just outside Boston. We split common expenses 60(upstairs)/40(me). We need a new roof and upstairs neighbors are stalling and finally admitted they don’t have the money. This repair is long overdue and I am concerned that deferring could lead to damage. What are my options?

Mister Condo replies:

M.L., I am sorry for your problem. 2-unit condos like yours can be the perfect arrangement for some and a horror show for others. Your situation, I am afraid, is a bit of a horror show. I am not a lawyer and offer no legal advice here. However, I suggest you speak with an attorney from your area to see what other legal remedies you might have available to you. Your only real option, in my opinion, is to sue the other owner. But that won’t necessarily solve your problem seeing as you already know they don’t have the money. The truth is they can’t afford to live in this condo since they can’t shoulder the financial burden of doing so. In my opinion, your best bet is to sell and leave this problem to someone else. If you wish to fight the good fight and stay, you can either live with the problem roof or you can begin a lawsuit that will likely end in them losing their home through foreclosure and might still not get you the new roof you need. That is a very ugly, complicated, and nightmarish way to live for the next year or two that this would take to unfold. If it were me, I’d put my unit up for sale and spend my time and energy elsewhere. Good luck!

Condo Association Limits Number of Occupants per Unit

D.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our Condominium is all 2 and 3 bedrooms per unit. All bedrooms are in excess of 100 Square feet in size. The Condominium Association limits the occupancy to two members per unit. It charges $200.00 for each occupant over 2. There is nothing in our Declaration about this limit. Nor can I find any federal or state laws that would allow this limit. Have you folks ever heard of this? Thank You, DL!

Mister Condo replies:

D.L., yes, I have heard of associations placing restrictions on occupancy of their units. Typically, this is done to prevent overcrowding of the community and too many residents using the amenities and common areas. Too many cars, too many people in the health club or swimming pool, etc.. Is the $200 charge for additional occupants monthly or a one-time fee? If there is nothing in your Declaration, it is likely a rule that the association adopted previously. As long as the rule was adopted in accordance with the association’s governing documents and does not violate local, state, or federal housing laws, the rule stands. Good luck!

Condo’s Underfunded Reserve Creates Many Problems

C.R. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo building with 58 units. There are zero adornments except for a very nice meeting room. We have two elevators which travel eleven floors up and down. I am currently serving on the board. Our Reserve fund is at 18K which in my eyes is very low. We will need a major elevator repair in a few years and increasing insurance as well as a rooftop service plan. We have decided to increase HOA dues 15% = $3000. more each month or 20% increase equaling an extra $4000. per month. We want to propose this to our residents and are working on a plan. Currently, there are a few things that need addressing (i.e. a new awning, a better gardener and washing the windows). We do not feel we can do these things with such a low Reserve. We have had many leak and flooding issues some handled by insurance some not. Can you offer any advice?

Mister Condo replies:

C.R., I feel your pain. When it comes to long-range planning and proper funding a Reserve Plan and a commitment to fund the suggested amounts of Reserves is a commitment taken on by the community (through the Board) are always the best solution to problems like yours. However, as many as 7 out of 10 associations decided to underfund or completely fail to fund their Reserve Fund, leaving them in the same precarious situation you now find yourself in. You have answered your question by suggesting that it is time to increase common fees and fund the Reserve. It may also be time to consider a community association loan to make the more urgent repairs. Neither of these options are going to be popular with the unit owners as both will cost them an increase to their monthly fees. Many Board members who wish to continue serving on the Board will be afraid of upsetting their constituents by suggesting an increase to the common fees but that is what needs to be done. How you handle it will determine your success. I suggest an open dialogue with all unit owners. Explain the problem and the proposed solution. It may be a bitter pill for them to swallow but it is the only way to keep their investment properly protected and financially secure. Good luck!

Should I Rent or Purchase a Second Condo Parking Space?

S.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My husband and I want to buy a new condo. We would need 2 cars. The condo comes with one parking spot. The second parking spot is $23,000. Or, hopefully there will be a spot to rent, but that wouldn’t allow us to park next to each other. We don’t know if we will live there for 6 years or it could be as little as 1 or 2 years. This is the only time that we can decide to get adjacent parking spots. Is it worth the risk?

Mister Condo replies:

S.K., I am not sure I understand what the risk is. It sounds like you will be allowed to park both of your vehicles on the association’s lot as long as you secure a second spot. Purchasing the spot is a better idea, in my opinion as you should have no problem reselling it when you leave the community. Renting a second spot could prove a bit riskier because you do so at the desire of the parking space’s owner, who could sell it or decide to no longer rent it to you at some point. If it were me, I would purchase both the condo and the second parking space. My guess is you will have no problem selling both when the time comes to move out. All the best!

Former Condo Board President Feeling Threatened by New President

W.R. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I been having serious issues with the new president and other board members since I stepped down a year ago. This position went to the new president’s head to the point where she put all my neighbor’s business out in the community and when my neighbor addressed her via email she then called the management company to tell them she felt threatened by her. Then we were going back and forth via email about some of the bylaws & rules and as well as rumors that she was talking trash about me, she turned around and falsely accused me of threatening her and called the cops. The officers could not find any evidence of me doing that. Life for me has never been the same since. She doesn’t like to be told what to do and put my personal business concerning my email address in an email that went out to the entire community instead of addressing me only. How do I have her removed or handle this? Can I file a harassment charge against her and the board?

Mister Condo replies:

W.R., I am sorry for your troubles. As you know, I am not an attorney nor do I offer any legal advice in this column. If you are serious about filing charges against the President or the association, I think you should speak with an attorney to see if you have a case. As far as having her or any other Board member removed from office, you need only to vote them out at the next opportunity. Board members are democratically elected by all unit owners. If they aren’t serving the needs of the community, there is no need to return them to office. Of course, that means you will need to have other candidates willing and able to serve. You say that you just stepped down. You know what the commitment to serve is like. Perhaps you should run again or encourage a fellow unit owner to run. If you don’t replace these folks, you will very likely get more of the same. If they violate the rules of governance for your association, you can take action. Again, this may require the services of an attorney. I hope it doesn’t come to that. All the best!

Repair Costs to Condo Limited Common Elements

R.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When an HOA is paying for repairs of limited common elements that vary by unit (eg decks) and it must be paid by special assessment, can this be imposed based on actual cost of work per unit or must it be equal in % to the common elements. In our case it’s set up as 1/12th – equal for all units even though we are smaller and have less decks.

Mister Condo replies:

R.B., without being able to review your governance documents, I really can’t offer you a specific answer here. Typically, common elements are handled by the association in accordance with how the governing documents dictate. If the item in question is not mentioned, in your case “decks”, then the repairs are handled the way all other repairs are handled, in common. If the documents call for the decks to be maintained by the unit owners, then it is their responsibility. Special Assessments have their own rules for how they are levied. Again, your documents specify the terms. Typically, an assessment is levied in proportion to the percentage of unit ownership formula but there are exceptions. My advice is for you to review your condo documents about common and limited common element repair and maintenance. I think you will find your answer there. All the best!

Condo Owner Acting as Unofficial Landlord

C.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

One of the condo owners in our complex does not reside in her unit. Instead, she lets “various friends??” use her condo for periods of time ranging from a few weeks to several months. There have been several residents in her unit and lots of problems, ie: drug overdoses, excessive drinking, police in and out. She claims these people are guests and therefore does not have to abide by the condo rules or town rules regarding rentals. Therefore, she avoids having her place inspected by the local Board of Health and paying the fee involved. No leases exist and the people staying at her place are supposedly “guests” and paying nothing. Everyone in the association knows the whole setup is bogus and we would like to put an end to it. Any suggestions.

Mister Condo replies:

C.P., there are solutions to every condo problem, in my opinion. In your case, it is a job for an attorney. If your current governance documents do not have enough definition of who can live in a unit with or without a lease, it is time to stiffen the rules and the penalties for violating those rules. Any competent community association attorney in your area should be able to help. Once these rules are in place, residents without a lease will no longer be allowed. Keep in mind that these new regulations will have to be observed by ALL unit owners and residents. You may limit guests to no more than a day or a week of residency, for instance. That might affect unit owners who have family come visit for extended periods of time. Understand that once these rules are enacted, all unit owners will be affected. That is why I recommend you work with an attorney to draft the right regulations, properly vote them into the by-laws, and then enforce them evenly. I am confident that you can get this one unit owner to start playing fair and get your vagrancy problem under control. Good luck!