Category Archives: Buying

Previous Condo Unit Owner Had No Right to Modify Attic

S.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I bought my condo in February of 2015. On the mezzanine floor, the previous owner had extended in to the attic a sort of storage room. Basically, there is a door and it leads in to the roof attic for extra storage. I now received a registered letter to close up this area as per it being part of the common ground and is not entitled to me. What’s more is that I was never told by the inspector, the agent, nor the previous owner that it did not belong to me. This extra storage room made my decision for actually purchasing this unit. What can I do? Can I ask the board committee to keep this extra room or am I to close it up? Can I sue the previous owner, agent or/and inspector for not disclosing this room to me?

Mister Condo replies:

S.S., I am sorry for your predicament. The foul was created by the previous owner who had no business commandeering common space and modifying the unit without Board approval. You can certainly petition the Board to allow the modification but I don’t see why they should do so. If they allow it for your unit, they open themselves up to allowing similar modifications throughout the complex. You should comply with their request to return the unit to the condition before the modification was made. As for lawsuits, etc., I am not an attorney and I offer no legal advice here. You should speak with a locally qualified attorney to see if you have a case against the previous unit owner. My guess is that you might have a case but I am not sure how you could prove any damages to yourself that would be worth pursuing. All the best!

Unit Owner Pissed Off at Condo Board Over Dog Urine Remediation

K.R. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I just purchased a unit that was a short sale. It had visible dog urine damage. The board was aware of this unit’s condition. After removing the carpeting and padding there is wet sub floor and wet framing from the dog urine. I am replacing the sub floor and some insulation as the dog urine seeped through the abutting sub floor and caused damage to some of the insulation as well. I received a note from one of the board members saying I need their permission to do any work in my unit. I read my bylaws and I own the subfloor. Why would I need permission to replace the sub floor or even update my kitchen cabinets? Does the board really have this much control over my home? What about my quiet enjoyment? What does CIOA have to say about this situation? Thank you for your anticipated response.

Mister Condo replies:

K.R., I am sorry for all of your problems. I hope you have been able to fully remediate the issue and get your unit in a livable condition. As to your interaction with the Board regarding repair and restitution work, I have a few thoughts to share. The ownership of the subfloor is not in question; it’s yours. Most associations require unit owners to inform them of any modifications to their units (including restoration) and for good reason. For starters, you may have contractors coming on to the property. These folks need to be licensed and insured and you may need to provide proof of same to the association. Second, depending on the nature of the repairs and/or upgrades, the Board has to make sure you aren’t working on any supporting walls or structures. Finally, if the association’s insurance policy is “all in” coverage, any upgrades you made need to be reported to the insurance company so they are covered. CIOA doesn’t come in to play with any of these issues as far as I know. Living in a community association means playing by the rules. My guess is once you have finished this project, you won’t have anything further to report or ask permission of the Board. All the best!

Condo Owner Wants to Sell Condo Carport Space Without Deed

R.R. from Missouri writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own a condo in St. Louis County, MO. The condo has 2 carport spaces that we thought were deeded to me however they are not actually on my deed. My neighbor wants to buy a space but I am not sure they are mine to sell. The association thought they were deeded to me as well. Any advice?

Mister Condo replies:

R.R., if you rock the boat hard enough, it just might tip over. Real estate deeds are very specific and legal documents. Right now, you don’t have a deed to your “deeded” carport spaces. How can you convey a deed to your neighbor that you don’t have? You can’t. My guess is that the spaces are actually owned by the association but are for your exclusive use, meaning they are a limited common element and you don’t own them and you can’t sell them. If your deed says otherwise, thane you can do as you see fit. However, from what you have told me, you can’t sell what you don’t own. A better solution might be a friendly handshake and understanding that your neighbor can use one of your spaces. And if he wants to offer you some money for that favor, who’s to say what is happening. All the best!

Condo Parking Space Promised but Not Delivered

S.S. from New York City writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 6-unit new construction condominium in NYC. The builder who I purchased my condo originally told me that even though my unit does not come with parking spot, there was a spot on the side of the building that could be converted to a legal parking spot. Recently I wanted to do this and told the board I would incur all the cost associated with the legalizing that spot.The condominium board of directors voted and denied me a spot. Can I still legally do it without their approval by hiring an attorney or something?

Mister Condo replies:

S.S., I am sorry for your predicament. I can tell you that most questions I get that begin with someone telling you something without you having it in writing don’t end well. The statement that “your unit does not come with a parking spot” is a second telltale sign that this isn’t going to end well for you. You can certainly hire an attorney and see what can be done but, from what you have told me, it doesn’t sound like you will have a case to make the Board release the parking space to you. Perhaps you can rent the space from the association? That might make more sense than spending money on a lawsuit that, to my eye, shows little merit. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. You should certainly speak with an attorney for a legal opinion but if the attorney says you don’t have a case, I wouldn’t be too surprised. Always, always, always get it in writing. Good luck!

Florida Rental Condo Sold with Previous Owner Keeping Future Rental Deposits

S.C. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We recently bought a condo in Florida. The previous owner has booked rentals through to next year. Is he entitled to keep those deposits even though he does not currently own the condo?

Mister Condo replies:

S.C., it depends on how you negotiated the sale and purchase of the condo. Are you physically living there or is it a rental property for you as well? Are the future leases in your possession or the previous owner? I can’t imagine any situation where an attorney handling this transaction would have let such a potential problem go unanswered during the closing process. If you handled this transaction without the advice of an attorney, you will very likely need one now as the folks expecting the rental property to be available for them will most certainly expect that their deposits will be used towards payment of their rent for the property. My advice is to review the purchase and sale agreement and see what it says about these previous deposits. If it looks unfavorable to you, you should get in touch with a qualified attorney who can best advise you what your next steps should be. 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!

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!

Condo Resale Disclosure

P.E. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What are the disclosure laws in New Jersey for the resale of a condo?

Mister Condo replies:

P.E., I am not an attorney so I cannot give you a legal answer here. You should speak with a qualified attorney in your region to get a legal response to your question. However, I can offer some friendly advice. Michael Odenthal of the New Jersey Cooperator has an excellent piece I commend to your reading: https://njcooperator.com/article/rules-of-disclosure/For the most part, it is a “buyer beware” transaction. However, a buyer that withholds pertinent information is typically liable for withholding of that information. My friendly advice is that any buyer have an attorney represent their best interest and have a full home inspection performed BEFORE signing any purchase and sale agreement.

FHA Not Satisfied with Condo Reserve Fund

T.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am having trouble getting this Condo approved for mortgage financing. I was told that if the current budget does not have a line item for the Reserve Fund, that would make the HOA ineligible. Can you give an example of a budget that shows a Reserve Account? Why is a savings account on a balance sheet not sufficient? The HOA is saying this is the Reserve Account. Please help.

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., when reviewing the condo’s eligibility to qualify for mortgages that are backed by the FHA, the lenders look to see that there is a Reserve Fund and that the association is making at least the minimum amount of annual contribution (Currently 10% of the budget). Local mortgage lenders typically require this stipulation because they want their mortgages insured or underwritten by the FHA. Typically, condominiums maintain FHA approval status as it makes it easier for units to be bought and financed by owners seeking FHA-backed finance options. However, there is no legal requirement that forces the condominium to comply or even maintain FHA approval status, leaving mortgage seekers like you in the lurch. There are mortgage companies that specialize in dealing with FHA approvals and this association might be well served by working with one to achieve FHA approval, making it possible for mortgage seekers such as yourself with better access and option when it comes time to take a mortgage on one of the condo units within their association. It isn’t as simple as having the association claim an association-owned saving account is the Reserve Fund. Good luck!

Condo Square Footage Marketed Using Common Area Figures

C.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is common area factored into the total square footage of the sale price of a condo?

Mister Condo replies:

C.C., typically, common area would not be factored into the individual square footage of the condo. However, sales prices are simply marketing tools and have no meaningful value as to what is or isn’t part of the condo. Realtors and unit owners selling their condos want them to look as impressive as possible. The deed, on the other hand, details exactly what the square footage of the unit is. If the deed says 900 square feet and the real estate ad says something different like A large deck adds to the lovely interior giving the unit 1200 square feet of living area, the buyer needs to beware before making the purchase. This discrepancy would be uncovered during the closing process when an attorney would likely be reviewing the deed with the buyer. Thanks for the question!