Category Archives: Communications

Transitioning Outgoing Condo Manager Fees

R.S. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What can we expect legally that a transitioning property manager must provide to a new incoming property manager upon termination? What is the outgoing manager allowed to charge after termination, and what is considered reasonable or unreasonable?

Mister Condo replies:

R.S., developer transition in a condominium association is a tricky time at best. There are very few rules or laws to guide you here and my best advice is for the association to have its own attorney review all of the transactions that take place during the transition period because there are just too many things that can go wrong. Association that tackle this without professional and legal help often stumble and find themselves on the short end of the stick with missing funds, incomplete work, missing paperwork, etc.. An experienced attorney is worth twice their fees during this period as they can actually save the association thousands of dollars if the transaction is handled incorrectly. If the outgoing manager has a contract in place, the association is bound to pay whatever the contract calls for. If there is no contract in place, the manager may be free to try to charge whatever they wish. This is one area where an attorney can be incredibly useful as the association may not have to pay anything if there is no contract. At the very least, the attorney can negotiate such items for the association making sure it doesn’t pay a penny more than it needs to. All the best!

Previous Condo Owner Installed Hardwood Floors Improperly

S.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are having problems with our hardwood floors cupping. We just found out that our Management told the previous owner that the floors were not being properly installed and this could happen. Isn’t it the responsibility of Management to let us know of this improper installation before we purchased the unit? Shouldn’t they help pay for some of the very expensive repairs we now have? Thanks for your help.

Mister Condo replies:

S.B., I am sorry that you find yourself in this position. In my opinion, this is your problem and not anyone else’s. I assume you had the home inspected before you made the purchase. I could argue that the previous owner had a responsibility to let you know about the potential problem as a disclosure to the sale of the property but other than being an “oversight” on their part, I doubt any real estate disclosure laws were broken. Typically, units are sold “as is”, meaning the unit is now your responsibility, defects and all. My understanding is that is it very difficult to cure cupping hardwood floors as moisture is typically the culprit. Unless you can remove the moisture, it is likely you will need to replace the floors. My recommendation would be to heed the advice of proper installation so you don’t have a repeated failure. Sorry I don’t have better news. All the best!

Aggressive Dog Worries Condo Board

K.D. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What is the procedure if an owner has an aggressive dog on property. Do we have to wait for an incident before having the animal removed?

Mister Condo replies:

K.D., I am sorry that you have an aggressive dog housed within your condo. “Aggressive” is a subjective term so it is quite difficult for me to give you an answer you can put into action. Start with your current by-laws and see what they say about pet restrictions. There are usually rules about noise (barking), which is typical with an aggressive canine, and limitation of size. Smaller dogs are not typically considered a threat or classified as “aggressive”. You can also check with your local animal control officer to discuss any local ordinances that are designed to protect residents. Other than that, unless there is an attack made by this dog on a unit owner, guest, or other animal on property, there may be no rules or laws that are being broken. Good luck!

Condo Association Recordkeeping Requirements on Previous Owners and Renters

P.S. from Illinois writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How long must a condo association keep files/paperwork of owners and renters who have moved out of the building? Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

P.S., all association records in your state must be kept a minimum of 7 years. However, unless it is unreasonable to do so, many attorneys would recommend holding onto them forever as the condo association is a business corporation and prefer to keep their records in perpetuity, even if it means warehousing them after seven years. It really depends on your documentation requirements for owners and renters. Most associations do require records of who is currently living in their association, making these records association records subject to the seven-year recordkeeping requirement. For a proper legal answer to your question, ask the association’s attorney. They will give you a proper legal answer to your question. All the best!

Previous Condo Owner May Have Failed to Disclose Upcoming Special Assessment

C.P. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My daughter bought a condo where her association fees are $450.00 per month. Due to future major roof improvement job her payment will increase by $300.00. We feel the seller had to know about this upcoming project and didn’t reveal this very crucial information. The other choice to pay would be a one-time payment for $22,000.00 per unit. There are 40 units. Something doesn’t seem legal here. Your thoughts.

Mister Condo replies:

C.P., I am sorry for your daughter’s predicament. It is quite possible that the previous owner was aware that there was a possibility of a Special Assessment but unless the Special Assessment had already been passed and levied against the unit owners of record, it is unlikely that they did anything illegal. In fact, the knowledge that this Special Assessment was looming may have been a very important factor in his/her decision to sell. You can and should speak to an attorney to make sure the seller had already been informed of the assessment and failed to provide that information. If they signed a disclosure statement where they lied about the Special Assessment, you may very well have a case. All the best!

Replaced Property Management Company Refuses to Surrender HOA Records to the Board

W.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The replaced property management refuses to surrender HOA records to the HOA board. Is that legal?

Mister Condo replies:

W.D., nobody likes to lose their job, including property management companies. While it is bad form to delay the turnover of association records to either the Board or the new property management company I have to say that I hear it happens all the time. Take a look at the former property management company’s contract. Does it say exactly what happens upon termination? Many contracts say the records have to be returned but they fail to say how soon. I have seen phrases such as “within a reasonable amount of time” and “at their earliest convenience”, which indicates it should happen shortly after termination but has no teeth when it comes to setting exact dates. It is not uncommon for an association to hire an attorney in this situation to pursue the management company. Usually, the threat of a lawsuit is enough to speed up the process. Other than that, you are at the mercy of the former property management company. Hope that help. Good luck!

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.