Category Archives: Common Fees

Lack of Maintenance by Self-Run Condo Board

D.T. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The self-run condo board is not taking care of the maintenance of our complex. Shingle, roof, painting and paving have not been addressed in years. We pay on an average of 350.00 a month in HOA fees. What recourse do the owners have to get action and for the board to be held accountable to provide proper upkeep for our complex? Is there a state board that we can contact that can help us?

Mister Condo replies:

D.T., I am sorry that you find yourself at odds with your Board over care and maintenance of your complex. I wish I could say that you were alone in your dissatisfaction but the truth is that many associations simply haven’t saved enough money over the years to appropriately maintain their properties. This leads to the unpopular Special Assessment and the equally unpopular increase to common fees. In your case, $350 per month should likely be adjusted to $450 per month or higher. That way, the current expenses of the association could be paid and a healthy contribution to the Reserve Fund for future repairs could be established. As for the immediate needs of the association, a loan or Special Assessment is very likely needed. From the brief list you have provided, I wouldn’t be surprised if $10,000 or more per unit would be needed. If unit owners can’t afford that kind of one-time payment, then a loan (which will also increase common fees and have the additional expense of interest) is in order. The bottom line is that Boards of Directors turn over in condo associations over time. Each new Board inherits the good or bad practices of the previous Board. In associations that require maintenance on 20 to 30 year-old buildings, that means either having the money to do the projects from the great fiscal planning of previous Boards or picking up the pieces from poorly thought out Reserve Fund planning. Guess which kind of association you live in? The bottom line is that it takes money to perform the needed maintenance and that money only comes from one place – the owners. It sounds to me like it is time for your association to pay the piper. Of course, all of the unit owners have a say in raising common fees and Special Assessments. Neither are popular and both have real consequences to owners, including forcing out the folks who can’t pay up. However Darwinian as this sounds, it is the way of the world. I wish you and your community good luck in solving this difficult problem.

Condo Maintenance Fees on Condemned Building


J.B. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can an association charge maintenance fees for a condemned building that has legally been condemned by the city of Hartford because of a fire that caused structural damage?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., condemnation does not prevent common fees from being charged and collected. Condemnation simply means the building has been deemed unsafe and uninhabitable. The building and the association are still incurring other expenses that are part of the maintenance fees and all unit owners are still beholden to their covenants to pay those fees. I know it seems to fly in the face of reason that maintenance fees are collected on a condemned property but unless the association is dissolved (unlikely), the common fees continue to accrue and the association is entitled to collect. I hope they get the building repaired or rebuilt in timely fashion for you and other unit owners. Good luck!

Condo Owner Surprised by Special Assessment


T.S. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo association is planning on replacing all the roofs. We got a letter stating we will have to come up with almost 9,000 dollars or have a monthly increase of 200.00 for 60 months. Can they make us do that? Also, they are having a meeting. In this regards, what questions should be asked at that meeting? I appreciate your help and expertise.

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., owning a condominium is kind of like being a partial owner of a business. From time to time, business decisions need to be made about how to protect and maintain the business. In this case, it would appear that an insufficient amount of common fees has been collected for many years, resulting in a deficit when it came time to replace the roofs. The correct procedure would have been to have had higher monthly dues for the many years leading up to this now needed roof replacement. The Board can and must replace the roofs or they may subject unit owners to damage and worse. There is only one place where this money can come from – the unit owners. So, a special assessment has been levied to cover the cost of the roofs. You and your fellow unit owners now must decide if you can afford the one-time payment of $9,000 or if you would rather pay an extra $200 per month for 60 months, totaling $12,000 per unit. I know if it were me, I wouldn’t want to get stuck with an extra $3000 in interest for what amounts to a $9,000 loan but not all unit owners will be able to easily come up with the $9000 and I expect many will take the $200 per month option. As for what you should ask at the meeting, I would want to know what other special assessments lie ahead and how soon. Chances are if they didn’t have enough money in the Reserve Fund to pay for the roof, they might not have enough for other association-owned items. Siding for the buildings? Pool and club house? Tennis Courts? What other expenses are coming up? It is quite possible that the roofs are just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, you would like to see a Reserve Study and funding plan introduced to the community so as to avoid these special assessments in the future. All the best!

Condo Association Looks to Remove Use of Common Elements from Delinquent Unit Owner

C.S. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If an owner who has NOT paid Condo fees for a considerable amount of time (4yrs), can the condo association revoke the owner from parking in their assigned parking spot? Also, can the association revoke the privilege of having a storage unit?

Mister Condo replies:

C.S., typically speaking, the association may not remove any of the delinquent unit owner’s rights. In fact, if the association takes such action against the delinquent unit owner, they will very likely be sued by that unit owner. Delinquent common fee collection is separate from unit owner’s rights. There is a process that the association should be undertaking to collect this serious delinquency. That involves collection letters, demands, liens, and, ultimately, foreclosure against the unit. There are many collection firms and law firms in our state to assist the association. Do it the right way, and you’ll get your money. Do it the wrong way and the association will likely end up getting sued. Step carefully and get the money. Good luck!

New Condo Trustee Finds Evicting Long-Time Owner Uncomfortable

L.P. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a first-time home owner. For the first 2 years I lived in my unit I tried to be active in my (small) HOA, but the main Trustee never had time for me and HOA meetings were always cancelled. When he sold his unit, he hurriedly gave me a “crash-course” on duties a week before the closing. It wasn’t until weeks after that I realized he had conned me. He left me with unpaid bills (some a year old!), angry contractors, and one unit egregiously in the hole to the HOA. After weeks of talking with my neighbors, I got them to agree to a payment plan: they agreed to pay a minimum of their balance every month for 6 months—enough time to figure something out—and after 6 months they had to pay in full every month. A year later they are still only paying the minimum and have become even more in debt to the HOA with back fees and Reserve Studies. A friend’s wife—who is a lawyer—is helping me out with the lien process, but my question is this: what should I expect? This family (a retired couple and their adult son) have lived here for 20 years and now I (this young newcomer) is going to be threatening foreclosure. We all live in the same small building, run into each other often, and share a common stairwell. I feel terrible that I’m the one that’s going to be “evicting” them, but obviously they cannot afford to live here—we have not been able to do basic, needed maintenance for years because of their finances.

Mister Condo replies:

L.P., heavy is the head that wears the crown, my friend. People who purchase into an HOA do so at their own choosing. They are aware of the fees and costs associated with owning a home, condo, or unit within an association. While you are the embodiment of the HOA as it takes action against them for defaulting on their duty to pay their fees in timely fashion, they are also the makers of their own destiny. They need only look in the mirror to see the folks responsible for their demise. In fact, it is you they should be thanking for carrying their weight as they neglected to pay their fair share over the years. Where did they think the money would come from if they didn’t pay? Did they not realize that they were in fact forcing their neighbors to pay more than their fair share because they weren’t willing or able to pay theirs? You asked what should you expect? That’s really hard to say at this point. My guess is if these folks are insolvent, they will eventually be foreclosed upon and you will sell their unit and hopefully find some new owners who will fulfill their obligation to pay their fair share of the common fees. Eventually, the association should regain financial strength and get itself back on track. That is the nature of HOAs. The HOA is a not-for-profit business, the key word being “business”. Business is conducted under the terms of business agreed to by all parties. As long as those terms are met, the business thrives. When/if a party defaults, the business protects itself by exercising the clauses that make it a business, no more, no less. You are on the right track to getting back to business. Good luck!

Paying the Price for Years of Low Condo Common Fees

A.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in an 85-unit condo complex that was built in 1970. Many of our residents have lived here since the 80s. Unfortunately for us, the Reserve Study we reviewed before buying listed the HOA health as good and properly funded. The Reserve Study issued a month after our purchase brought to light a number of upcoming expenses to maintain the buildings due to age. What many of the new owners are discovering now is that for years the association kept unit dues very low and avoided large repairs until needing emergency repairs. Now they are increasing dues rapidly to help pay for aged repairs- such as replumbing of the buildings. Our dues have increased by over 50% in a few years. Dues increases and assessments are incurred based on % of ownership, but is there a legal option (perhaps through a change to by-laws) that would allow for a special assessment based on years of ownership to place some of the financial burden on those that enjoyed years of rock-bottom dues at the expense planning ahead?

Mister Condo replies:

A.C., I am sorry that you and your fellow units are left paying the bill for previous unit owners. The sweetness of low monthly fees is often replaced with the vial reality of special assessments and higher common fees for future owners. There is currently no laws that allow for associations to go back and recoup additional common fees or assessments from previous unit owners. All that you can do as an association is to buckle down, address the reality of the situation and base future common fees on a properly funded Reserve Fund for when these common elements will need replacing next time. Otherwise, you will very likely find the next generation of unit owners feeling the same way you do now when there is no money available to them to make the repairs and replacements for the common elements you are about to replace and use for decades ahead. It is a vicious cycle but, with planning and proper budgeting, it can be managed. Good luck!

Condo Unit Owner Seeks Legal Recourse for Poorly Maintained Roof

D.N. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

After living in my condo unit for many years, the roof recently came off during a rainstorm. The Association’s master policy is paying for the property damage which means they will put the home back to the state it was sold to me. However, do I have any legal recourse against the property management company and the board for not maintaining the roof in good order in addition to what the insurance will cover. The roof was originally scheduled for replacement in August. My roof came off in July. The state of the roof of my unit as well as the other roofs in the building unit I am in was in very poor shape. It appeared as though the roof should have been replaced or maintained quite some time ago. I was wondering if I had any recourse against either or both parties for not maintaining the property at the level it should. I have always paid my condo fee in full and feel I deserve to have my property maintained.

Mister Condo replies:

D.N., poorly maintained condos are almost always the result of “deferred maintenance”, the polite term for not collecting enough common fees to make adequate Reserve Fund contributions over the years. I am sorry that you had a such a direct impact from such a poorly maintained roof and I am glad that you have had the benefit of insurance to help you rebuild. As for your ability to seek additional damages against the association, I am doubtful. That isn’t to say you couldn’t try but the reality is no real crime was committed here. The Board is democratically elected by the unit owners like yourself and has likely changed over many times in the years of neglect involved. The Property Management company does the bidding of the Board so they are not at fault. Who exactly would you sue? The association paid to replace your roof after it failed so they fulfilled their obligation as well. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. My friendly advice is to be happy that you have been made whole by insurance and that no one was injured by the failed roof. You might ask the Board what steps they are taking to start saving for the next roof now that the current one is new. My guess is your common fees need to increase 20% or more to properly reserve for future repairs. As you can imagine, that won’t be popular with unit owners who are unlikely to want to pay more today for tomorrow’s repairs. Yet, that is the right solution. Good luck!

Condo Unit Owner Doesn’t Want to Pay Assessment to Cover Lawsuit Costs

C.O. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

One owner is suing the condo so now the condo wants each owner to pay $500 to pay the legal fees to defend against the suit. I have no problem if it was for something to improve the condo that the budget couldn’t cover but not legal fees. They have also threatened us with a collection agency if we do not pay. We live pay check to pay check as it is and do not have this extra money. What is your opinion?

Mister Condo replies:

C.O., I am sorry for your financial worries. Lawsuits against the association are serious business and the Board is right to hire an attorney to defend against the lawsuit. As a unit owner, you are a member of the corporation and have a vested interest in the outcome of the lawsuit. If the association decided to not defend itself and the plaintiff won the suit, the association could find itself owing a great deal of money to the unit owner bringing the suit. The end result of that would be an assessment to unit owners equal to the amount of the award. You could end up paying much more by not paying to defend against the suit. The bottom line is that you are the association and you are being sued. You want to defend yourself and the legal fees incurred are part of being in the association. You must pay them or the association will act against you with full legal authority to do so. My opinion is that you should pay these fees and keep a close eye on the lawsuit. Hopefully, the money invested in the defense fees saves you from having to pay far more. Good luck!

Leaking Toilet Causes Condo Water Bill to Triple!

J.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo association consists of 12 units that share a common water meter. Earlier this year we noticed that our water bill had suddenly more than tripled, and an inspection of each unit by the board determined that the cause was a constantly running toilet in one of the units (the continually-spinning water meter usage indicator stopped on a dime the moment that the water supply to that toilet was turned off; the toilet was fixed and our water bills subsequently returned to normal). Based on a review of our prior water usage history, we estimated that approximately 200,000 gallons of water was wasted at an excess cost of $1,500, from the time the toilet began running until it was repaired. Our board proposed a 50/50 split of this added expense with the unit owner of the broken toilet (the unit was occupied at the time by college students who likely never reported the toilet problem to their landlord), to which the unit owner tersely replied: “Not going to happen.” Is the condo association within its rights to demand that the unit owner cough up an additional $750 beyond regular monthly assessments to cover half of the excess water charged caused by the constantly running toilet in their unit?

Mister Condo replies:

J.C., the answer is “it depends” but most likely “no”. What it depends upon is the wording of the governance documents. If water is supplied as part of the common fees and there is no verbiage assessing penalties or expense to individual unit owners for excess water usage then the unit owner was right to refuse the charges. Also, there is an issue of documentation. Since your water is all supplied on one meter, you cannot say with any accuracy that all of the excess water was used by this one unit. Maybe another unit owner turned on a faucet and let it run during the same period of time. How would you know? How could you prove all of this water was consumed by this particular unit owner? It is unfortunate that the association has incurred this additional expense. However, the only way to prevent such an issue in the future is to submeter each unit’s water consumption (involving an expense of submeters) and also revising your documents to read that each owner is responsible for his/her water consumption. The local water company would bill the association and the association would then bill the individual unit owners. Short of that, the unit owner is correct in denying the charge. Good luck!

Condo Owners Reluctant to Pay Proper Common Fees

K.I. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I serve as board president for a small association. The Treasurer and I are the only unit owners who have any interest in serving in more than name only. Despite our best efforts, we can only seem to get the unit reps together annually to discuss business. For the past few years he and I have been warning everyone that due to inflation, our expenses are surpassing our income. We have tried raising monthly dues, but according to our by-law, raising dues and levying of non-emergency assessments must be passed by majority, so we’ve been unsuccessful. Because of this, we have been unable to allocate funds to do upkeep. The unit that is the most vocal about status quo reported a water stain that will certainly lead to a leak. The treasurer and I would very much like to address this…but we don’t have the money because we’re being out-voted on raising dues and budgeting future assessments into them. Once there IS a leak we can say this is an emergency assessment and levy it, but the unit that reported it is threatening legal action against us for not maintaining the building unless we fix it post-haste. Because we are a small association, we have been unable to find a property manager that will take us on or that we can afford, so we don’t have access to a lawyer. We’ve called around, but have been unable to find a lawyer that will even see us for a consultation! Any advice?

Mister Condo replies:

K.I., I am sorry for your situation. Unfortunately, you are seeing the direct results of what happens when unit owners’ apathy reaches a dangerous level. There are some things you can do but you will likely get pushback from unit owners and even the uninterested Board Members. A lawsuit from an upset unit owner will get their attention despite your best efforts to avoid that scenario. The emergency repair will also cause the immediate problem to be fixed but will not solve the long-term issue of inadequate Reserve Funds and even general maintenance funds. The reality of the situation is that your common fees should probably be at least twice what they are right now but, as you know, unit owners will fight you tooth and nail if you raise the fees that much. Having money for a property manager and an attorney are all part of collecting adequate common fees. Until the fees are raised, the problems will persist. If it were me, I’d hit the road while the units still have some value. If you wish to stay and fight, you can cite governance and legal (Connecticut State Law) requirements to adequately collect Reserves as part of the monthly common fees. It will take years to correct but with diligence, I do believe you can turn the association around. The alternative is catastrophic financial failure, which will lead to the association going under and owner losing their homes. I hope it doesn’t come to that. Good luck!