Category Archives: Communications

Proper Condo Owner Notification for Passing Special Assessment

K.G. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

in Connecticut, if an association Annual Meeting is held and a Special Assessment is being brought before unit owners to be voted on, does the specific amount need to be disclosed in the notice to unit owners? Our agenda said “discussion of” the project … should it have said “vote on special assessment” for the project? Question 2 – What if the board agreed to a dollar amount to bring before the association for vote and at the association meeting it was increased and voted in favor by the unit owners.

Mister Condo replies:

K.G., as long as the Meeting was properly noticed and the Special Assessment discussion was on the agenda, it is unlikely that the Board did anything wrong with regards to notice. Ditto to the actual amount of the Assessment after the Meeting was held. That being said, your association’s governance documents may provide for a special procedure for levying Special Assessments and that protocol would have needed to be followed. There may also be a limit on the percentage or size of the Special Assessments. At the end of the day, if the association is short of money needed for repairs and maintenance, the details of how the Special Assessment is issued is secondary to the problem that enough money was not collected by the association to pay for the repairs that are now needed. Special Assessments are patently unfair but necessary when needed. The sweetness of low common fees is soured when the money is needed for the repairs. I hope your association gets through this turmoil and gets itself back on track financially in the near future. It is quite possible that common fees need to be raised substantially to make that happen. That won’t be very popular amongst owners but it will avoid these Special Assessments in the future. All the best!

Condo Owner Wants to Use Association Owner’s List to Mail Other Unit Owners

J.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is there any condo law against using the owners list of email addresses for personal forum? Such as I don’t think a 25.00 late fee was approximate and I want everyone to know they were wrong. Or, somebody left some trash in the clubhouse and I had to clean it up. I don’t get paid for this and I’m upset. For some reason this action has caught on and gaining momentum. What position does the board have in this and suggestions to stop it? Thanks in advance.

Mister Condo replies:

J.K., your governance documents may prohibit any owner from using the mailing addresses of fellow unit owners for personal or private business. It isn’t the proper forum for grieving late fees or discussing other association business. That’s what Board Meetings and Annual Association Meetings are for. If you are unhappy with association policies, procedures, rules and regulations, etc., you should make your concerns known to the Board. The Board is comprised of democratically elected leaders from within the association who are charged with governing the association in accordance with the rules and regulations of the community. They should be happy to hear you out and advise you if there is any additional action to take on your part or on theirs. That should get you on the right track to resolving your issues. And, you can always run for the Board yourself if you think you could do a better job governing the association. All the best!

Unit Owners Informally Question Board Members in Condo Corridors

J.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The president and I are new to the board. We live in a 12-unit building where the unit owners were used to freely going up to past board members doors and address whatever concerns they had. The president and I feel we have a management company that we pay and that the unit owners should address any issues with the management company instead of us. We’d like to post a note addressing the unit owners that going forward they need to contact the management company. Please let me know your thoughts?

Mister Condo replies:

J.L., since the previous Board had a very “open door” policy regarding unit owners addressing concerns, you have inherited their management style, like it or not. The way to correct it is to let all unit owners know that there has been a change in Board members and that new policy is in place. In fact, I would argue that the old policy was fraught with potential disaster, including Board members making “on the spot” decisions that could come back to haunt the association. The proper procedure for unit owners to bring their concerns to the Board is to contact the Board via the Property Management company or in writing so their concerns can be addressed at the next scheduled Board meeting. That way there is written action (Minutes) to document the concern and what action, if any, was taken. Casual conversation in the corridors of the building is nothing more than that. In a small association like yours, I would guess close to half of the unit owners serve on the Board so it is not surprising that such an informal approach was adopted. However, that doesn’t mean it was correct. I hope you can manage it to your liking in the future. Good luck!

Condo Board Executive Session Advance Agenda

E.B. from Tolland County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Does the agenda of condo board executive sessions have to be published prior to the meeting and are they available to unit owners?

Mister Condo replies:

E.B., “executive sessions” are typically just that, executive, and are for the eyes and ears of the “executives” of the association, that being the members of the Board of Directors. That being said, they are also to be used for very select and sensitive pieces of business. They are not typically on the agenda other than as “Executive Session”. However, any actions taken during an Executive Session are public records of the association and, as such, are available to unit owners for inspection once the minutes of the meeting where the Executive Session was held are voted into the record. Hope that helps.

Condo Unit Owner’s Right to Association’s Financial Transparency

J.R. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What rights do I have for convenient financial transparency from our board of directors?

Mister Condo replies:

J.R., financial transparency is typically outlined in the association’s governance documents. Additionally, in Connecticut, the Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA) offers unit owners additional transparency if the governance documents don’t offer the same or better. Of course, your definition of financial transparency may not be exactly what you are looking for. Things like the Annual Budget are readily available and should be presented to all unit owners at the Annual Meeting. Detailed items, such as invoices, bids, etc. may require some additional work on your part to get and the association can charge you a fee for such requested documents. The transparency is still there but it is not necessarily free. Unit owners are part of a corporation. Corporations need to keep records and those records can be inspected by shareholders (unit owners). Those are your rights. If they are violated, you may have a case against your association. Good luck!

Condo Unit Owner Hit with Legal Fees for Asking Non-Legal Question of Board

M.A. from Georgia writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I received a letter from an attorney hired by the association of the condo I live in. In the letter, the attorney states that per condo law in Georgia, the condo can assess me any legal fees they incur at their whim in regards to anything. For instance, I wrote the association to find out when the monthly meeting is, and I was ignored, but received a letter from the association attorney accusing me of intimidating and threatening behavior plus telling me the association is under no obligation to publish or inform of when the meetings are. Is it legal for them to assess me legal fees of any amount for any reason at their whim, even though they are the ones hiring the attorney and creating expenses that are created by the association expressly to intimidate me and hurt me financially as there is no other reason for their behavior?

Mister Condo replies:

M.A., I am neither an attorney nor an expert in Georgia community association law so please accept my answer as friendly advice. For a true legal opinion, you should contact an attorney from your state, which I would certainly do if this abusive behavior from the Board continues. All associations are bound by their own governance documents as well as state and federal laws. Typically, notice of meeting is required for all associations under both their own governance documents and state laws. After all, these are corporations and as a unit owner, you are a shareholder in the corporation. Proper meeting notice should be mailed (or emailed if allowed) to all unit owners declaring time, place, and agenda. This does not require an attorney to do, just a simple notice. You also have the right to write to your Board. Their decision to use an attorney to reply is unusual but I suspect there may be more to the history between you and the Board then I am hearing about in this letter. Fight fire with fire if you need to. Hire your own attorney and challenge the expense and need of them hiring an attorney. It will cost both you and the Board money but just might make some Georgia attorneys happy. Good luck, M.A.!

Validity of Condo Proxy Vote Process Questioned

J.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I received a proxy for election of the condo board. Seven positions. Eight names with no blank spaces. Seven for re-election. One new. In a conversation with a current board member she told me that the eighth name did not want to be on the board, but a different person did. Asked the management company, without success, how members are elected? Simple majority? A percentage needed? Quorum needed? What happens to the votes cast by proxy of the owner not wishing to be on the board? Does this not disenfranchise the owner wishing to run? Answer I received “You can cast your vote anyway you wish”. Is this proxy election valid?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., without knowing the rules for proxy voting for your state and how your declaration, covenant, rules and regulations read, I can’t give you a definitive answer. Proxies are handled differently and can vary from association to association. I will say that the spirit of the proxy looks to be intact. It is up to you to look up your association’s rules on proxy voting to see if the rules were followed. Typically, candidates are either nominated or self-nominated in advance of the Annual Meeting where the election vote is held. A nominated candidate who wishes not to server can most certainly remove themselves from the ballot. If there were no other properly nominated candidates, it would follow that there would be a vacant slot for the seat running without a nominated candidate. It would also follow that you could write in whoever you would like although there is no guarantee that your write-in candidate would win or even choose to serve if elected. Typically, the elected Board members have the right to appoint a director to fill a vacancy until the next election. Whether or not the proxy is valid may be moot if there were only seven candidates for eight offices. I would encourage any interested candidates to let their intention be known to the Board and that they run for office during the next election cycle. All the best!

Condo Property Manager Offends Unit Owner

P.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If an owner contacts the PM regarding an issue and the PM’s response is that “I am a pain in the ass and a little prick” is there any formal rights I have to request his replacement with another agent from his Firm? Thank You!

Mister Condo replies:

P.J., I am most sorry to hear about such rude and unprofessional behavior from a Property Management professional or anyone for that matter. It reflects the general lack of civility that seems to be far too common in today’s society. As for “formal rights”, I don’t think you have any. The Property Manager is hired by the Board. You should most certainly complain to the Property Manager’s supervisor if he or she has one and you should complain in writing to the Board who can pressure the Property Manager to behave better or be replaced. But the reality is that you were insulted, not assaulted. Anyone who uses such terms when dealing with a client is saying far more about their own behavior and upbringing than yours. Take the high road, P.J.. Good luck!

Who Should Rewrite the Condo Documents?

T.M. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo association was chartered in the early 1980’s, and most of our buildings are converted motel units. There have only been a few amendments made to our documents since then; suffice it to say we know our documents should be rewritten. We need an attorney for that, correct? And the most recent attorney we had retired last year. So, we need another of those, too. Our membership is split on the issue: some feel it’s most important to have an attorney who specializes in condos only, while others feel we need a general attorney who is local to our northern Michigan locale. What do you think? Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

T.M., I think modifying your governance documents make ssense. A lot has changed since the 1980s and if there have been numerous additions or modification to your documents, a fresh set probably makes perfect sense. My advice would be to hire an attorney who specializes in Michigan community association law. Unless there are specific local laws in your part of Michigan, any community association attorney from your state should suffice. I actually know several really good ones and you can find a great list online at http://www.cai-michigan.org/resources/service-provider-directory.html?LocationCategory=63&LocationSearchGo=SearchI found more than a dozen fully qualified firms on that page who can really help you get it right. Good luck!

Condo Minutes Do Not Show Previous Year’s Votes

M.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I was just elected to our BOD earlier this year and I am the secretary. I have requested and reviewed the minutes of last year’s minutes, to get a feel for how they have been done, and sort of follow what was being done previously. I am very disappointed in what I found. Many actions were taken place through the year that were talked about but not voted on, no motions were made on so many things, it seems ridiculous to me. My main question at this point, is did that board act illegally, and could they be held liable for acting without the proper documentation?

Mister Condo replies:

M.H., welcome to the Board! I trust you will do a bang-up job as Secretary. Legally, the Minutes are the official record of what actions the Board took, what votes were held, what motions were made, and so on. They don’t need to be overly detailed but they do need to reflect basic activities and votes of the Board. Actions taken without a proper vote are subject to scrutiny from any unit owner who can challenge the action since there was not vote or record of a vote. It is a dangerous practice and sets the association up for lawsuits from disgruntled unit owners. That being said, if no unit owners have objected to the actions taken by the Board, there is quite literally no harm and no foul. However, since you are now on the Board and you are armed with the proper information about Minutes, votes, and actions of the Board, I strongly suggest you inform the Board of their erroneous ways and that they have set themselves up for all sorts of problems in the future from disgruntled unit owners. You wouldn’t want to defend actions taken without great records. Good luck!