Category Archives: Communications

Condo “Marketing Fee” Forces Unit Owners to Use Condo’s Designated Realtor

S.Y. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo board discriminates against unit owners who want to list their unit for sale outside the condo realtor. If you list with the condo’s realtor, the realtors commission of 6% is paid from the condo’s 10% “marketing fee” levied when a unit sells. If you use your own realtor, you pay the 10% condo “marketing fee” plus 6% to the realtor.

Many of us want to use our own realtors because the condo’s realtor shows preference to Board members and their friends. If you’ve ever been in a disagreement with the Board, look out, your unit will never sell.

We have considered legal action but this will damage sales prospects for our units.

 

Mister Condo replies:

S.Y., damaged sales prospects aside, I don’t see any other way to remove this obstacle to using a realtor other than the “selected” condo realtor. That being said, I am not sure there is a true legal issue here. The 10% “marketing fee” is a condition for anyone who sells. While I think that 10% is an exorbitant amount to pay for “marketing fees”, from what you have told me it is a rule that has always been in place. Perhaps the Declarant wanted to monopolize all initial sales and resales so the clause was added? Whatever the reason, the 10% is currently the law of the land for your association. How do you and your fellow unit owners feel about this? If there is enough dissent, why not simply vote to have the rule removed? The fee paid by a seller to a realtor is typically negotiated by the seller. Here, the association has already negotiated a permanent seller’s fee of 6% to the realtor, which the association is essentially rebating back to the seller because it is coming out of a 10% “marketing fee” the seller agreed to abide by when he or she originally purchased in to your association. While I will agree that it is a bit questionable, I am not certain it is anything that can be undone by bringing a suit against the association. You have the power to correct the situation by simply eliminating the “marketing fee” or making it 4% (10% – 6%). Either method would leave the unit owner free to select their own selling agent at whatever fee they negotiated. 6% is common but I know of many markets across the country where listing fees are far less. Many times, the real estate market dictates what is a reasonable fee versus a “set in stone” flat rate. Good luck!

Small Condo Board Can’t Get Along!

R.G. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The President of our 3-unit condo would like to go virtual! He no longer wants to have regular meetings and would like to do everything completely by email, with a 24-hour period for responses. Although he claims it is because of lack of civility on everyone else’s part, besides his own, this man is even ruder in emails! My question, however, is on the legality of voting and holding meeting by email. Our by-laws do not mention this as they were first enacted in 1986. What other ways would you suggest our board holds meeting so that there is accountability and respect for all. We have come up with having a mediator and meeting in a more public place. Both were rejected by this man; the first was too expensive, the second, not private enough. We are at our wits end!

Mister Condo replies:

R.G., it is hard to imagine that such a small community would have this type of trouble. 3 units requires that three unit owners sit down monthly or less frequently if the by-laws allow, and take care of association business. There may be no provision for using email or any other form of communication that didn’t exist back in 1986 but that doesn’t mean that the association can’t adopt it, provided no state laws are being violated. The larger issue is that all parties need to agree to this “virtual” meeting and records must be kept as these meetings are official business of the association. Additionally, there will need to be Minutes from these meetings that serve as permanent record of the items discussed and voted upon. In a small association like yours, that sounds like a lot of work. The mediator idea is valid and may make sense to get the association out of its dysfunctional phase and back on track. Ultimately, the three unit owners should find a way to work together to handle the business of the association. You can disagree but not be disagreeable. I am guessing the mediator will help with that process. Good luck!

Noisy Condo Neighbor Ruining Renter’s Peace and Quiet

P.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am dealing with a neighbor at condo. I am a renter; she is not. She is loud and noise every night until at least 1:00 a.m. The owner I’m renting from is lazy. I can’t wait until May to leave next year. I tried talking to this neighbor and had to call police twice. The manager of the association says they will send a letter but the problem still persists. Recently, a picture fell of my wall and broke. She stomps on her floor on purpose and intentionally drop loud objects. I am so angry I can’t sleep. What can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

C.J., lazy or not, your landlord has a responsibility to provide you with a rental unit as outlined in your rental agreement. Most likely, that agreement included a copy of the rules and regulation for the condo association where you reside. Inside those rules, there are the steps for complaining about another unit owner or resident that isn’t following the rules. Typically, a report is made to either a Property Manager or directly to the Board. There are usually rules about acceptable noise levels, quiet hours, and peaceable enjoyment for unit owners. As a renter, you may or may not have the ability to directly lodge such a complaint, meaning it may need to come through your landlord. If your landlord refuses to support you in this effort, he may be breaking terms of your lease which may leave you the opportunity to end the lease early. However, if you decide to break your lease early you may be out of your deposit or create a legal battle between you and your landlord. My practical advice is for you to motivate your landlord or have him give you the power to work directly with the Property Manager or Board to bring about a resolution. Understand that it may take time and as the months go by towards the end of your lease, the simplest solution may be to not renew your lease. If you decide to break your lease, speak with an attorney to see what legal and financial consequences you may be incurring. It is an unfortunate circumstance to say the least. However, in tight living spaces as many condos offer, an unruly neighbor can make living there unpleasant. Good luck!

Informing the State of Newly Elected Board Members

C.W. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I need the form to inform the State of Florida of the newly elected board members. I cannot find it.  Can you help? Very important. Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

C.W., I am not aware of a requirement of keeping the state informed of the Officers and Board Members of your condominium or a specific form to do so. I am aware of a certification form for newly elected Board members that they must file with the association secretary that they have read the by-laws of the association and that they will fulfill their duties of upholding those by-laws. A sample of that form can be found here: http://www.ccfjfoundation.net/CondoCandForm2010.pdf

Annual corporate filings with the state (tax records and such) may have a place to list officers and/or directors. Those forms are typically filed by the association’s accountant or Treasurer. I am not an expert on Florida community association law as I don’t live in your state but I would ask any of my regular followers to kindly give a more detailed answer if I have overlooked anything. Good luck, C.W.!

Can the Condo Board Require Visitor Sign In?

M.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Does a condominium board have the right to make my visitors sign in and out at the concierge desk even when I say I do not want this?

Mister Condo replies:

M.T., yes, the association has the right to know who is on the property. Even though you own your unit, you do not own the common grounds, which are subject to the rules and regulations of the association, which is governed by your Board. Many associations require not only names but also vehicle information of visitors. Condominium associations are not public property. The association has a right, and often a need, to know who is on the property and for what purpose. All the best!

Are All Condominium and HOA Documents the Same Regarding Common Elements?

J.J. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi Bob, I just listened to the podcast about the alligator in the condo fountain (http://askmistercondo.com/alligator-in-the-condo-fountain/)! I have a question that I am hoping you can answer. But, a little on me. I have been involved in the community association maintenance business since 1978, with the last 17 years as a general contractor specializing in condo buildings repair and capital improvements. I have worked for various management companies over the years. Some good and some not good. My question is I understand the laws have changed some years back in regards what the association is responsible for as far as maintenance. When I started, I learned the association covered to the drywall. Now. I am hearing the association covers a lot more inside the unit. I ask managers and no one either knows or won’t give me a straight answer. Can you help so I may service my associations with correct knowledge?

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., the answer literally varies from association to association so there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer. Additionally, I know of some associations that have modified their rules based on “how we’ve always done it” situations, regardless of what their governing documents say. Also, we have a few different types of common interest communities operating in our state and each has their own peculiarities. Condominiums are the most common and your explanation of from the walls in is quite common to describe what the unit owner is responsible for. Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) are also common in our state and often have the same type of rules. Cooperatives (coops) are also plentiful and have similar but not exactly the same rules. Homeowners or Property Owners Associations (HOAs and POAs) are also common but seldom get into the unit interiors. These groups are typically about architectural conformity and shared common amenities (a clubhouse, pool, beach, etc.) Within each of these groups are additional subsets (Adult Communities, 55 and over, Assisted Living, and so on). As you can imagine, each has their own set of governing documents and each has their own specifics on who owns and maintain which elements.

As a contractor to an association, you are going to handle the work assigned to you by the association. You should ask the association where the association responsibility ends and the unit owner responsibility begins. Short of you taking the time to read all of their governance documents, you would have to operate under the assumption that they know what they are talking about. If you complete their work order, and they pay you for your work, it is of no concern to you if they need to then bill an individual unit owner for work you did on their behalf. If they are asking you to bill a unit owner for work you performed at their request, I would ask them to change that arrangement for the sake of your business relationship with the association. You know the association will pay you for work you have contracted with them. You have no way of knowing if a unit owner is going to pay you for work done to their unit at the association’s request. After all, they didn’t hire you. I know haven’t given you a “cut and dry” answer here but that is the nature of the industry. Keep doing the great work you’ve been doing and I am sure the issues of responsibility for maintenance will work itself out, association by association. Good luck!

What is a “Reasonable” Amount of Time for A Condo Record Request Inspection?

L.L. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How long should I wait to view my condominiums financial records? I requested to see them 6 business days ago.

Mister Condo replies:

L.L., as a unit owner you have the right to inspect just about all of your association’s records, including the financial records. Typically, the records need to be available during normal business hours or within a “reasonable” time. That is where the real answer to your question lies. What you consider “reasonable” and what the keeper of your records considers “reasonable” may vary so the key is likely for you to remain vigilant but patient. If the record keeper fails to provide you with access, your recourse is to sue. I am not an attorney nor do I offer any legal advice in this column. My friendly advice is to ask again and ask what the association considers as a “reasonable” amount of time to honor the request. My guess is you’ll get access to the records when the other party is available to accommodate your request. Keep in mind the records are owned by the association. If you wish photocopies, you may be charged for the service as well as a small fee for the employee’s time for assisting you. Good luck!

Ill Condo Renter Has Car Towed

L.H. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I rent a condo in a complex that has an Association and also a building management company. My car was recently towed without any prior notification to me – no phone call, no email, no letter, no knock on the door. I have not been driving my car since September of 2015 for medical reasons, and in October of 2015, someone from the Association put a note on my car because it hadn’t been moved for a month. I called the building management company and informed them about my medical issue. I never heard back from building management. So yesterday without notice the car was towed. I haven’t yet been told where the car is, who towed it, or what I might need to do to get it back. BTW, I’ve rented this unit for 10 years now, and have NEVER been introduced to ANYONE on the Association and none of the members have ever made it their business to get to know me. What are my legal rights in this issue? Thanks.

Mister Condo replies:

L.H., despite your status as a long-term renter in this condo, you are still bound to follow all of the rules of the association as is every other unit owner, renter, and any other resident. That includes the parking rules, which can be quite challenging to enforce. I agree with you that this is an unfortunate situation that could have been handled better but if your car was parked in violation of association rules, the association has the right and the responsibility to enforce the parking rules so that all community members may enjoy the parking area. I am not an attorney so I do not offer legal advice in this column. I do not personally believe you have legal rights in this situation as you violated the parking rules by leaving your vehicle parked on the association-owned parking grounds for far too long a period of time. I am not sure why you would have any expectation to be introduced to anyone on the Board of the association. They represent the unit owners and are elected by the unit owners at unit owner meetings. As a renter, you aren’t a unit owner. Your relationship is with the owner of your unit; not the association. If you feel your legal rights have been violated, by all means, contact an attorney who could better advise you of your options. In the meanwhile, the management company should be able to tell you where your car has been towed. You will likely need to pay for the towing and/or storage fees to get your car back. Once you do, you should make alternate arrangements for the long-term storage of your car. Otherwise, it will likely be towed again in accordance with the rules of parking in your condo. Good luck!

Mentally Ill Child of Condo Neighbor Creating Noise Nuisance

D.E. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have been living in our condo for three years and love it. Recently new owners moved in next door with their 9-year-old child. Come to find out she bangs her head against the wall and screams bloody murder at all times of the day. Unfortunately, she has mental illness – bipolar, OCD, etc. I have spoken with them nicely 3 times and when we have asked it does stop so it seems like it is in control and they are just lazy. They came from a 3800-square foot home to a 1450-square foot condo. Knowing there are issues like this I would think you would investigate your surroundings first before buying this type of place. My brother was mentally challenged so I certainly have compassion but this really has to stop – I am on the verge of calling 911 every time this happens. What is my recourse?

Mister Condo replies:

D.E., you are kind to be considerate and compassionate to understand the challenges your neighbors are facing. However, all unit owners, including you, have a right to peaceable enjoyment of their units. Clearly, this noise, regardless of the source, is violating your right to peace and quiet. Your recourse is to file an official complaint against your neighbor with the Board who will then take appropriate action. Typically, that involves summoning your neighbor to appear before the Board to address the rule violation. The Board then can take further action which is typically a fine or whatever else is outlined in your governing documents. If the noise continues, you continue to report it to the Board in writing (usually via the Property Manager). Your complaints are records of the association and, as such, are subject to review by any association members, including your neighbor. For this reason, some unit owners are reluctant to file a formal complaint. However, you have already tried the nice route and only received temporary reprieve. It is up to you to take the next step to restore the peace and quiet you are entitled to. Perhaps your neighbor will do a better job of restoring the calmness or perhaps they will realize that this close living quarters just isn’t the proper environment to raise a child with these types of special needs. Either way, I hope you get your peace and quiet back. All the best!

Condo Maintenance Standards Enforcement

R.P. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How common is it for Condominiums to have and enforce Maintenance Standards, whereby Unit owners are suggested / told how they should maintain their units to avoid issues or problems?

Mister Condo replies:

R.P., since the Common Interest Ownership Act (a/k/a CIOA) was passed in our state in 2011, maintenance standards have become quite common. Without issuing and adhering to maintenance standards, association open themselves and their members to denied insurance claims for items that commonly wear. If these standards are ignored by unit owners, they could find themselves on the hook for any damage that occurs due to a neglected item on the list. Among the more common culprits are water heaters. If a water heater failed outside of its useful life as determined by the maintenance standard and then flooded several units, the unit owner of the neglected water heater could be sued for the full amount of damages. Another common culprit is water supply lines for toilets and washing machines. They need to be replaced within the maintenance standard window or any damage caused if they fail would likely not be covered under the association’s insurance. I hope you don’t have any such failures. Good luck!