Category Archives: Buying

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!

Criminal Record May Keep Potential Condo Owner Out of Association

J.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Should I discuss my personal background history with an association member before I decide to place a bid on a unit? I want to be honest and not hide anything or make it be a surprise when they run my background check. I have somewhat of a low credit score according to association approval guidelines, but not that low from what they are looking for as a requirement. In addition, I have a criminal record that is pending and it will soon be dismissed. I am not a murderer nor am I a pedophile. I just took the wrap for my son’s wrongdoing to protect him and now I am feeling and paying the consequences of my actions. However, I do not regret doing what I did for the sake of my son. Your thoughts and answers are appreciated. It just hinders me trying to get approved by an association. Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

J.L., I think discussing those issues that will surface in your background check is a double-edged sword. If the association member that you are telling is a friendly ear and will advocate on your behalf after the background check is complete and the Evaluation Committee or Board will determine your eligibility to enter the community, then I think explaining your situation in advance is a good idea. If the association member is not going to be able to advocate for you, then why bother? The credit check will show that you are eligible from what you have told me. That is very important. The criminal background check is another story and may very well be the reason you are turned down if the decision goes that way. Regardless of your reasons, you now have a criminal history. You may be able to explain it to the Board’s satisfaction but they are the ones who are accountable to the other community members who expect the Board to protect them from criminals entering their association. Keep in mind that these folks are not criminal law experts. They will simple interpret the data and make a decision. They were elected by their fellow unit owners to follow the protocols outlined by the association’s governing documents, no more, no less. If your background makes you ineligible to enter the community, they really have no right admitting you. I hope it goes your way but I am skeptical. All the best!

Must the Landlord Furnish a Copy of the Lease to the Condo Board?

C.M. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a condo board ask for references from potential buyers or renters? Must a landlord furnish the lease to the board?

Mister Condo replies:

C.M., two very different topics there. Let’s start with the references from buyers or renters. Depending on what the by-laws say, the Board may be well within its right to ask for references, credit checks, and whatever else is in the by-laws. If the by-laws are silent, the Board may wish to pass some rules or new by-laws requiring these things if needed. Of course, the Board will need to follow the rules for adding such measures. The Board also needs to take care to make sure it isn’t using these rules to create a potential discrimination lawsuit from a buyer or renter who didn’t measure up in the Board’s opinion. I would certainly recommend any such rules be reviewed by the association’s attorney to make sure they are in compliance with any local, state, or federal housing laws.

The lease is a totally different matter. The Board certainly has a right (and a need) to know who is leasing a unit within the association. This is typically in most condo docs. It protects both the tenant and the landlord in the event there are any problems with the unit. Absentee landlords are common but the Board may need to communicate with the resident of the unit for a number of reasons. The landlord is typically obligated to provide a copy of the lease and can usually be fined or have their tenant removed if they don’t. Condo documents are legally binding on the landlord and enforcement of the association’s covenants is the duty of the Board. If a landlord refuses to provide a copy of the lease, there are several legal remedies available to the Board. Again, it is time to involve the association’s attorney if this happens. All the best!

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!