Category Archives: Board

Condo Owner Seeks Conversion of Handicapped Parking Space

K.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I purchased a painted and marked handicap parking space in my new condo. I was told that since no new owner needed that parking spot it was up for grabs. I now want them to take down the sign and paint over the handicap decal. They refused saying “that is still a designated handicap spot”. Can I press my issue to have all handicap designations removed since I am the deeded owner of this space? Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

K.S., you can certainly press the issue but I am not certain you will prevail. There are a few key terms here that need clarification before I can offer you any advice. First off, a phrase like “I was told” raises a flag with me. By whom? If the spot was “up for grabs” how is it that you now claim it is deeded to you? Typically, the Board controls the parking lot and the parking lot is common ground. The Board can designate spaced to be for handicapped use, which it sounds like they have done. They are not under any obligation to convert a commonly owned parking space to non-handicapped just because you request for them to do so. Conversely, if, in fact you do own the space and it is part and parcel of your deed, you may have every right to convert the space back to non-handicapped use. This is likely a matter for your attorney to discuss with you to see what, if any, legal rights you may have in this matter. All the best!

Condo Radiant Flooring Failure Creates Big Problem

J.G. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo had radiant floor heating. The heating split in the floor and is unable to be fixed. I have requested quotes from several different HVAC installers and they all have come up with a heating system that requires an outside condenser. My question is if the association says no to the condenser outside my unit what are my rights to having an affordable working heating system in my unit?

Mister Condo replies:

J.G., I am sorry to say that you would have almost no “rights” to installing a new HVAC unit on the association common grounds as it is owned by the association and not you. I have to question the lack of repair available to you and I would strongly suggest you contact other repair people who specialize in radiant floor heating. You are certainly well within your rights to petition the Board to allow for an HVAC installation outside of your unit. Are other units in your condo heated or cooled with external units? If so, you can argue that the precedent has been set and that you are simply doing what other unit owners have already done. In my experience, Boards aren’t likely to get in the way of an HVAC unit being installed where other units are already present. However, they may dictate that your new unit be like kind and model as others already on the grounds. This is their right under architectural compliance. My guess is you will either find a different repairman to fix your radiant floor heating system (ideal) or you will have the Board tell you which type of heating system they will allow or they will ask you to provide the specification for your installation and will either approve or deny based on the architectural compliance guidelines established for the association. All the best!

Do Condo Boards Have to Take Minutes?

E.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When condos board meet to hey have to take minutes?

Mister Condo replies:

E.G., absolutely! Minutes are the only official record of Condo Board Meetings. Without Minutes, it is as if the meeting never happened. Condo Boards are representatives of a corporation and have a responsibility to the shareholders of the corporation (the unit owners) to maintain proper records of actions they take. Not every item discussed needs to be in the Minutes but every vote taken certainly does. A Board that operates without taking Minutes risks being sued by any unit owner who doesn’t agree with decisions made by the Board. While state laws vary on what must be included in the Minutes, almost all are based on some type of Corporation Act and some type of Condominium or Common Interest Act. These laws typically demand that Minutes be kept and be made available to unit owners upon request once approved by the Board. This protects both the Board and the unit owners. Some Boards farm out the actual recordkeeping to a Property Manager or other third party but the Minutes need to be submitted back to the Board who votes on their correctness and ratifies them into association records. I hope your Board is keeping Minutes. Thanks for the question!

Dormer Roof on Condo May Not Be Association’s Responsibility

S.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Whose responsibility is it to repair and maintain the dormer roof over a bay window on a townhouse condo?

Mister Condo replies:

S.A., typically the roof is an association responsibility. However, there can be exceptions, especially if the dormer roof was a modification made by you or a previous owner. If the Board is refusing to repair the roof, which is typically a common element, you have every right to find out why. If a previous owner added the dormer, it is possible that they also agreed to maintain the roof as part of the agreement for adding the dormer. If that is the case, you inherited that responsibility when you purchased the unit. Other than that, the Board is charged with maintaining the common elements, including the roof. Good luck!

Adding Skylights to a Condo Unit

N.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are doing the attic in our condo unit. Skylights have been approved by the department of buildings, but the condo board is disapproving it! What should we do?

Mister Condo replies:

N.S., architectural compliance is the purview of the Board. Skylights fundamentally change the exterior appearance of the roof, which is a common element owned by the association, not you. Therefore, you need to seek permission to modify this common element unless your governance documents say otherwise. Are there other skylights in other units? If so, that would be your argument before the Board to allow you to have them as well. However, the Board is under no obligation to grant your request and should you decide to go ahead and install them without their written approval, don’t be surprised if you find yourself on the losing end of a lawsuit from the association that would require you to remove the skylights and return the roof to the same condition it was before your installed them. The best time to make a request for skylight installation is when the roof is being replaced. The Board may still not grant the request but since the roof is going to be replaced, it is an easy time for a modification to be made. All the best!

Condo Owner Suffers 9 Years Without Kitchen Hot Water!

K.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have no hot water pressure in my kitchen. It is a building problem for several units and is on the “to do” list. I have asked about getting a reduced HOA fee as I am not receiving the same amenities as other condo owners. This has gone on for 9 years!!! Whenever I bring it up they assure me it is the next priority. Can I put my HOA payments in an escrow account until the problem is fixed?

Mister Condo replies:

K.D., I am sorry for your problems and your Board’s ineffective management of the repair. No, you cannot withhold your common fees or the Board can foreclose on your unit for unpaid fees over time. What you can do is sue the association for not providing the hot water. Ultimately, that will get you the hot water, which is what you really want here. Saving money on the common fees doesn’t help. Hot water will fulfill your expectation of what the association is supposed to provide. 9 years is far too long to wait. Speak to an attorney and see what you can do to get a lawsuit against the Board in place. They will likely find it less expensive to get your hot water running than to defend against a suit. Good luck!

Limo Can’t be Parked at the Condo

G.A. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My New Jersey condo association prohibits parking by commercial vehicles. I have a limousine with Omnibus plates. The association considers my luxury SUV vehicle commercial. Other vehicles, obviously for commercial purposes have regular plates, but are allowed. Do I have any recourse?

Mister Condo replies:

G.A., as long as your commercial vehicle is in violation of the association’s rules on parking, you don’t likely have any recourse but to park the vehicle off property. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to prove a vehicle with a passenger plate was in violation of the association’s parking rules. Your Omnibus plates are a different story. You could petition the Board to see if they will allow you an exception (unlikely) or you could offer to pay an extra fee for the right to park your Omnibus plated vehicle. Other than that, I don’t see what other recourse you would have other than to get passenger vehicle plates for your limo, which would put you in violation of state law for operating your limo. That doesn’t sound like a reasonable plan either. Good luck!

Curtain Wall Responsibility Questioned by Condo Owner

L.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do you know of any condominiums where the unit owner is responsible for curtain walls?

Mister Condo replies:

L.S., I am sorry to say that I do, most commonly where glass is the building material in question. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here and my guess is that you will most certainly need one to interpret your condo docs to determine who actually owns the curtain walls. I have seen court cases ultimately make the final determination when associations and unit owners disagree over the curtain wall ownership. Even the state your unit is in will have an impact on the final decision as condo laws vary from state to state. Depending on whether the curtain walls are common areas, limited common areas, or specifically owned by the unit the responsibility will be determined. This litigation process can also be quite expensive so make sure you speak with a locally qualified attorney for an opinion before you proceed with a lawsuit. I hope this all works out for you and your fellow unit owners. Good luck!

Turning a 2-Bedroom Condo into a 3-Bedroom Unit

M.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are considering buying a condo which has 2 bedrooms. We thought to set the kids in the bedrooms and transform the dining room into our “bedroom”. We were thinking to install some sliding doors to enclose the dining room – they could be just sliding on the ceiling, no need for railing on the floor. We just need some privacy as adults, but we are not fussy. Anything simple, practical would do. However, after reading online that permission needs to be asked for everything from HOA, we are a bit skeptical they would allow sliding doors. Then we thought about using IKEA tall bookcases, or even heavy curtains as dividers. What do you think would be our best bet? Does any idea above not need approval from HOA? Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

M.M., by design, this 2-bedroom condo has two bedrooms. You are attempting to turn it into a three-bedroom unit. My first instinct is to tell you to simply look for three-bedroom unit so you don’t need to alter the unit in any way, regardless of the permission required by the HOA. HOA restrictions are in place for a few reasons. People purchase into an HOA with an expectation that the HOA rules will be observed by residents and enforced by the Board of Directors and/or their assigns such as the Management Company. If you can find a way to live comfortably in this unit without breaking any of the HOA covenants, then you should be good to go. However, consider the long-term ramification of giving up a dining room or needing to live behind a bookcase instead of a walled-off room as is typical for most adults. It seems to me that you simple need a larger unit. Maybe the cost is keeping you from seeking such a unit but I have to question the long-term happiness of you and your family living in a confined space without a dining area. One of the central goals of condo living is a comfortable life style. If you can achieve that without breaking any rules, more power to you. Only you can answer that question. Good luck!

Board Cites “Attorney/Client” Privilege in Questionable Condo Document Amendments

E.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our Board of Directors are amending our documents without the required 75% of the membership. I was told that two legal opinions were obtained by the BOD stating they have the right to do so. When I requested a copy of the legal opinions, the Management Company said they were invoking Attorney/Client privilege and I was refused. I am an owner of this Corporation and believe these opinions were obtained and probably paid for with my money. Should I be entitled to see these documents?

Mister Condo replies:

E.C., the short answer is “yes” but there are certain caveats in place to protect the Board. In other words, they have the right to withhold the documents during the period in question. I doubt it has anything to do with “attorney/client” privilege as much as it is an action they are taking as an Executive Board, which your governance documents likely give them the ability to do. Either way, if your documents or state law don’t allow them to amend your documents without a 75% vote, these amendments can and should be challenged by you or any other member of the association. You will want your own legal opinion, if necessary. Also, and more importantly, feel free to vote these folks out of office at your earliest convenience. Amending documents should not be done secretly, covertly, or improperly. Regardless of “legal opinion”, the will of the unit owners needs to be respected. These folks were elected to serve, not clandestinely revise the amendments to the association. I would interfere loudly with their plans and then prepare to vote new Board members in to office who will do a better job serving the will of the people. It may very well be that your association needs to revise its bylaws. Holding a meeting and involving the majority of unit owners as outlined in your governing documents is the way to do so. Good luck!