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Property Manager Purchases Condo in Managed Association

B.S. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Wondering if you see any conflicts for a Florida CAM to purchase a unit to reside in and still remain as the onsite property manager. The Board sees no conflict of interest but some owners are questioning if there is a conflict, as the onsite manager may have some inside information that other owners may not be privy too. Your thoughts on if you think there are any conflicts?

Mister Condo replies:

B.S., I do not see any conflict of interest but I do appreciate the concern of some owners for the potential for a conflict of interest although as a unit owner who would be affected directly by insider information, I would also think the conflict of interest might even go in the direction of the association. What unit owner wants to see his/her own association make financial mistakes or poor decisions? Not only does the property manager need to worry about his/her job performance but also has a personal interest in the success of the association. On the flip side, if the property manager’s unit gets preferential treatment, unit owners would be right to call foul. My advice would be to allow the property manager the ownership of the unit and to keep a vigilant eye on how the unit is treated. The Board keeps an eye on the Property Manager by default. They might need to make sure there is nothing unusual going on but I really doubt the manager would risk his/her job over abusing their power to give themselves preferential treatment. Good luck!

Fairness of Condo Common Fees Questioned

A.L. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Mr. Condo, how should HOA fees be calculated in a condo association in the State of Connecticut? Is it fair that everyone pay the same fee every month even if all the units are not the same size?

Mister Condo replies:

A.L., common fees are typically defined in the condo governing documents and usually are derived using the percentage of unit ownership formula which does take square footage into consideration. However, neither the state nor the governing documents require the use of this formula and there are many other perfectly legitimate methods of determining common fees. The only universal rule is that the governing documents dictate the formula and that formula can only be changed by very strict rules for doing so. It is extremely uncommon for the formula to be changed and typically requires a full consent vote of the unit owners and, many times, even the mortgage holders of the units. Some of the other factors that I have seen that determine common fee allotment include: water-view versus non-water-view, top floors versus middle and bottom floor units in a high-rise, and end units versus middle units. Some associations like yours use a simple “everyone pays the same” common fee, which may not be fair, but is certainly not illegal and is well known before anyone purchases into the association. There isn’t too much you can do about it, A.L., as changing the common fee schedule is a major legislative ordeal. You can talk to your Board but I doubt you will see things change. Good luck!

Muffled Condo HVAC Sounds Heard in Unit Owner’s Home

J.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live on the 2nd floor of a condo. From beneath my living room, I hear a low rumbling/clanking noise. Beneath me is a yoga room and in between my floor and the yoga room is some ventilation system that is housing some machines related to AC/Heating. The level of this noise is not loud but it is very noticeable and I can hear it from my entire place, even from the bedrooms. Isn’t any noise penetrating my condo unacceptable no matter how subjectively low the sound may be? And at what point is outside noise from building infrastructure deemed a problem which requires action by management? Thank you for your consideration of my inquiry!

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., I am sorry that you are having to put up with noise inside your condo unit. Do your governing documents indicate what is and isn’t acceptable levels of sound intrusion? Many documents state that unit owners and residents are entitled to peaceable enjoyment of their units. Some go further and elaborate levels of sound in either decibels or typical activities (running a vacuum cleaner, for instance). My guess is that the level of noise you are describing either isn’t mentioned or isn’t included in the restrictions. If that is the case, you may be stuck living with the noise. Have you contacted the Board of Directors of the condo to state your case? HVAC units may need some fine tuning. The hours of operation of the yoga studio may offer you some relief. You may also be able to install some sound deadening material on your floor that might mitigate the noise, at your expense. Other than that, your best bet may be to sell your unit and be much more selective about ambient sound in your next unit. Good luck!

Unhappy and Unsatisfied Condo Owner Moves Out

J.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I been having a problem at my condo where I used to live. I left because they were always harassing me and my daughter. I’ve been towed because my car on my parking spot and the back tire was on line of the other parking spot. I have been trying to find out for 3 years where money is going because we have Reserves but we have no amenities but a pool.

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., I am sorry you have had such a trying experience living in a condo. Following parking rules can be challenging but managing the parking lot so all unit owners can enjoy the amenity is even more challenging. If you parked where you shouldn’t have you really can’t be too upset if your car got towed. How else could the association parking lot be available for all of the other unit owners who have also paid for unobstructed use of the parking lot? Understanding where your common fees go can be difficult to understand. Just because an association has a Reserve Fund (all should) doesn’t mean they don’t need your common fees for other budget items. All of the common amenities and services are paid for out of the common fees. Everything from the lights in the parking lot to the trash removal to the management of the association and so much more are paid out of your common fees. If you feel you were harassed in any way by your association, I would encourage you to speak to an attorney to see if what you experienced meets the requirements for harassment. Towing your car for parking improperly and insisting you pay your common fees certainly doesn’t qualify but I am guessing there is much more to the story than you have relayed to me here.  Good luck!

Rules for Condo Special Assessment

R.F. from Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

In Connecticut, can a special assessment be levied, with a vote by homeowners to paint buildings, repair buildings, labor and material? Can the Board of directors create a special assessment, by vote from homeowners for capital improvements which is patently a capital expense?

Mister Condo replies:

R.F., the rules for levying special assessments are determined by a few things, including the association’s own rules and state law. If the homeowners were allowed to vote, then, typically, the assessment would be deemed valid. Of course, all of the rules for giving proper notice of the vote would have to have been followed and all of the rules for conducting the vote would have to have also been followed. It sounds to me like that is what happened. The underlying issue is why was there a need for a special assessment for a capital expense that has likely been known about for years. You might want to suggest the Board conduct a Reserve Study and then present a plan for funding the Reserve fund so future capital expenses can be paid for out of Reserves and not via special assessment. All the best!

Condo Neighbor’s Leaking Air Conditioning Causes Moldy Nightmare!

B.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi Mr. Condo! I hope you can help me. I’m an owner of a condo in an apartment style building. Last week, I discovered a leak from above into my AC closet which shares a wall with my linen closet. My AC is non-operable (since 2012) so I know it isn’t mine. I checked my linen closet and found the back wall covered in mold. I contacted the property management company right away. They said they would contact the above tenant/owner to stop the leak so I can begin repairs. I’ve since sent several emails and called twice. For the past 5 days I have not received any response. I even went so far as to call the tenant myself. No response there either. What are my options?

Mister Condo replies:

B.L., I am sorry for your problems. Leaks caused by neighbors are bad enough but mold problems are quite serious. You did the right thing by contacting the Property Manager. You should also document the mold intrusion with lots of photos in case they are needed down the road. The association is responsible for getting involved and making the repairs. Unfortunately, it sounds like the manager is off to a slow and ineffective start. You need to be persistent and write to the Board along with your documentation showing what is going on and demanding they make the repairs. The other unit owner’s lack of cooperation may be a problem for you but the Board can take legal action against them to make them comply. You should not need to contact them at all, email, in person, or otherwise. If they are responsive to you, you can certainly speak with them to ask them to be more helpful but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Board needs some time to get this situation remedied and you may wish to be patient for a few months while they get this straightened out. However, you may also wish to speak to an attorney if things are moving too slow for you. Mold can be deadly and you need to have it removed quickly. You may even need to vacate your unit if it is found to be toxic. In that case, you would turn to your own homeowner’s insurance to see if you have coverage that would pay for your temporary relocation while the mold is abated. Ultimately, you want the neighbor’s A/C unit repaired so it stops leaking. You want your unit dry and you want the mold removed. Once all that is done, you’ll be back in business. Be persistent and apply the right amount of pressure to make sure you aren’t forgotten. Your problem is there problem and it needs to be taken seriously by all involved. Good luck!

Condo Board Leaves Leaky Roof in Place for 8 Years!

K.P. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live on the fourth floor of a 4-unit condo. The roof is damaged to the point that when it rains it pours inside my apartment. It has been more than eight years and the condo association will not fix the roof. I stopped paying condo fees and informed the condo association that I was going to save the money to pay for the roof. I have not paid the condo fees for four years. The condo does not call for regular meetings. Two of the other owners had some funds on the condo and they spent it on things that they needed to fix without a voting from the condo association. Now they have a lien on my condo. I have damages in my apartment. Is it legal to not pay for the condo fees and save it for the roof repairs as the condo association has not fixed the roof after eight years of discussion? Can I request that the condo association pay for the damages in my condo?

Mister Condo replies:

K.P., I am sorry for your problems. If you read my column with any regularity, you will see that I never advise any condo owner to withhold common fees for any reason. As you are seeing first-hand, the Board will sue you for those fees and they will win. If you can’t make good on your arrears, you could have your unit foreclosed upon by the association. I hope it doesn’t come to that for you. Assuming you don’t lose your home in this debacle, let’s discuss what you can do to get your unit repaired. First off, hire an attorney. After 8 years, let’s face it, it is long past time to sue the association for dereliction of duty in maintaining the roof. There will undoubtedly be a Special Assessment to make the repair but a lawsuit and judgment against the association will force the issue. Keep in mind that this will cost you as well as the other unit owners a financial hardship but you really have no choice. Hopefully, the threat of the lawsuit will be enough to motivate the association to make the repair to the roof. If not, a lengthy and expensive legal battle will likely ensue. This is a “lose/lose” situation for you and the other unit owners but their ridiculous mismanagement of the roof has lead you all here. Once the repairs are made, I would strongly consider selling and getting out of this potential money pit. If they let the roof go for 8 years, I can only imagine what other nightmares await. There are better places to live. Good luck!

Condo Owner’s Guest Flagrantly Violates Parking Rules

L.W. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our parking rules state that “no vehicles may be stored in common parking spaces when not in use. Vehicles that are not operable or that will not be utilized for 15 days or longer should be parked in the Unit Owners garage or driveway.” The live-in boyfriend of a unit owner has parked his beat up pickup truck in a parking spot in the common area for more than one month. It has not budged in a month. I requested our Management Company ask that he move the truck weeks ago, but it has not moved. The owner of the truck is NOT an owner in this complex, just a friend of one. The truck owner has a new truck which he parks near the old one, indicating to me that he is merely storing this unused truck in one of our common area parking places. It is infuriating that they are being allowed to do this. What do you suggest?

Mister Condo replies:

L.W., the use and management of the common parking areas is the purview of the Board. It is up to them to enforce the rules of the association. Your duty is to report those parking violations that you observe to the Board. It is then up to the Board to take the appropriate action. You can follow up with the Board to see what they are doing but that is the limit of what you can do. The Property Manager can only do what the Board empowers him or her to do. While your by-laws state the intended use of the parking lot they may not say what, specifically, can be done to unit owners or guests who do not comply. Typically, fines are issued after warnings are given. In extreme cases, the Board may have the authority to tow the vehicle off property. Whatever the rules are, all you can do as a resident is to report the offense. It is up to the Board to deal with the problem. All the best!

Condo Board Divided Not Getting Work Done

R.G. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My board can’t agree on replacing security cameras. Meanwhile we have no cameras. Our pool is also closed since November for structural repairs. Five members can’t agree on anything or even get a quorum. I want to know what can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

R.G., other than running for the Board yourself or electing folks that work better together, there isn’t anything you can do. Board members are volunteer leaders from within your community and are democratically elected by you and the other unit owners in your association. They are charged with conducting the business of the association but they don’t have to get along or agree on anything, kind of like members of Congress! Unlike members of Congress, they aren’t compensated for their work but that doesn’t mean they can ignore the wishes of their constituents! My advice is to look at the Minutes of the Board meetings this past year and find out how the members are voting. If you don’t like what you see, organize more like-minded candidates to run for the Board. Perhaps you should consider running? That way, you’ll have a ringside seat to see what is causing these delays. Otherwise, my guess is you can expect more of the same. Good luck!

Condo Sheetrock Project Creates Dusty Nightmare for Residents

J.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 65-unit owned condo. Our manager refuses to clean the hardwood laminate flooring until the plumbing project is complete. It is covered in sheetrock dust and tracking everywhere in the common areas. What can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

J.T., there isn’t too much you can do as a resident other than complain to the Board to apply pressure to the Property Manager and/or the contractor doing the work. Sheetrock projects generally create dust and a better plan for the project would have included dust control measures. That component was either overlooked or the Board decided to take a cheaper route and not include it. The end result is the messy situation you have right now. Not all projects are as simple as hiring a contractor to do the work. Sometimes you need to think about the side effects on residents. This is a great example of how that lack of foresight lead to a bad living experience for residents. The good news is that “this, too, shall pass” and that the project is likely already over and the repaired area looks great. Remind the Board that future projects should include a plan for dust remediation, even if it costs a little extra. All the best!