Board Raises Condo Fees Without Unit Owner Vote

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V.N. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo association recently voted to increase condo fees. However, the trustees did not have a vote to ask owners how much. They just arbitrarily decided to increase the fees by 20%, plus a special assessment of $500 per unit to cover debt incurred in snow plowing last winter. As an owner, do I have any rights to protest this?

Mister Condo replies:

V.N, the answer is “maybe”. However, the long-term effect of questioning the decision may be negligible. When you say your condo association recently voted to increase condo fees I do not know if you mean the entire association had a vote or just the Board. Common fees are generally tied to the Annual Budget, which is adopted at the Annual Meeting where all unit owners are encouraged to attend. If a quorum was present and the budget was adopted by a majority of unit owners, the vote is likely valid as is. The same is true for the Special Assessment, which sounds just fine as it was for a specific amount and for a specific project. If the Board decided to increase common fees without a vote of the unit owners, unit owners may question the vote. I have seen Boards do this in reaction to their knowledge of upcoming expenses (roof repair, for instance) and not enough money in the Reserve Fund or budget to cover the upcoming expense. This is not the proper way to do this but it is often the most practical. If you were to question the common fee increase based on protocol, you may prevail. However, the “arbitrary” increase you mentioned may not be arbitrary at all but rather “impending”, in which case the common fee increase may only be the tip of the iceberg as to how much money is really needed for upcoming projects. Still, unit owners have the right to know why their common fees are being increased and the Board is not free to do this on their own. Have you looked at meeting minutes surrounding the fee increase? There may be a perfectly good explanation. Increasing common fees “arbitrarily” serves no one, including the unit owners that serve on the Board. They have to pay the increased fees as well. I’ll bet they had a perfectly good reason for voting for the increase. Good luck!

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