Category Archives: Condominium

Condo Owners Creating Eyesore By Using Patios as Storage Areas

J.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have concrete patios in front of basement doors. We now have homeowners leaving all kinds of stuff (sand boxes, gas grills, coolers, etc.) on their patios which is seen from the pool area and making it look very sloppy. Looking for regulations on what can be left on Patio area in front of each homeowner’s unit.

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., I am sorry that your fellow homeowners have decided to use their patio concrete slabs as storage areas, creating an eyesore for the community. Have you looked at your existing governance documents? It is quite common for there to be rules and regulations about how common and limited common elements can be used by unit owners. It may be as simple as having these rules enforced. If the documents are silent on the use of the space, it is time to ask the Board to consider new rules to keep the property looking great. If the Board refuses or there isn’t enough consensus to enact such rules, there may be nothing you can do. If there aren’t rules against using a common element like a patio in a certain manner, it is typically up to the unit owner to use the space as they see fit. Hopefully, between existing or future restrictions, you can get the eye appeal of your association back up to snuff. All the best!

Condo Board Lax in Enforcing Leasing Covenants

S.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

There are 17 out of 80 condos that are rented or have rooms rented out with no permission or application submitted by any of these owners or tenants. I have a list supplied by the former maintenance man. I got this when he still worked there. They have refused by request to rent mine out. I am recently widowed and am hoping I can arbitrate based on selective enforcement rules. Also, there seems to not be a census though president claims to mail it in. Do I have a good chance to win?

Mister Condo replies:

S.A., typically, condo governance documents require landlords to disclose who their tenants are and to provide a copy of the lease to the Board or Property Management Company, acting as the Board’s agent. Like any governance provision, it is only as effective as it is enforced. From what you are telling me, your current Board is uninterested in enforcing the regulation. Therefore, chaos rules and it puts unit owners such as yourself in a precarious situation with regards to leasing their own unit. When your case comes to arbitration, it will force the issue with the Board as to why there are so many undocumented rentals in the community and why are they choosing to enforce the regulation only against you. This could put them in a potential discrimination lawsuit position and they may be eager to see it your way and allow your lease. However, when it comes to Boards, attorneys, and arbitration, it is difficult to predict which way the wind will blow on any given day. I would encourage you to seek the arbitration and I wish you the best of luck. I do think that if what you have told me is true, you have a very good chance of prevailing.

Condo Owner Seeks Conversion of Handicapped Parking Space

K.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I purchased a painted and marked handicap parking space in my new condo. I was told that since no new owner needed that parking spot it was up for grabs. I now want them to take down the sign and paint over the handicap decal. They refused saying “that is still a designated handicap spot”. Can I press my issue to have all handicap designations removed since I am the deeded owner of this space? Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

K.S., you can certainly press the issue but I am not certain you will prevail. There are a few key terms here that need clarification before I can offer you any advice. First off, a phrase like “I was told” raises a flag with me. By whom? If the spot was “up for grabs” how is it that you now claim it is deeded to you? Typically, the Board controls the parking lot and the parking lot is common ground. The Board can designate spaced to be for handicapped use, which it sounds like they have done. They are not under any obligation to convert a commonly owned parking space to non-handicapped just because you request for them to do so. Conversely, if, in fact you do own the space and it is part and parcel of your deed, you may have every right to convert the space back to non-handicapped use. This is likely a matter for your attorney to discuss with you to see what, if any, legal rights you may have in this matter. All the best!

Condo Radiant Flooring Failure Creates Big Problem

J.G. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo had radiant floor heating. The heating split in the floor and is unable to be fixed. I have requested quotes from several different HVAC installers and they all have come up with a heating system that requires an outside condenser. My question is if the association says no to the condenser outside my unit what are my rights to having an affordable working heating system in my unit?

Mister Condo replies:

J.G., I am sorry to say that you would have almost no “rights” to installing a new HVAC unit on the association common grounds as it is owned by the association and not you. I have to question the lack of repair available to you and I would strongly suggest you contact other repair people who specialize in radiant floor heating. You are certainly well within your rights to petition the Board to allow for an HVAC installation outside of your unit. Are other units in your condo heated or cooled with external units? If so, you can argue that the precedent has been set and that you are simply doing what other unit owners have already done. In my experience, Boards aren’t likely to get in the way of an HVAC unit being installed where other units are already present. However, they may dictate that your new unit be like kind and model as others already on the grounds. This is their right under architectural compliance. My guess is you will either find a different repairman to fix your radiant floor heating system (ideal) or you will have the Board tell you which type of heating system they will allow or they will ask you to provide the specification for your installation and will either approve or deny based on the architectural compliance guidelines established for the association. All the best!

Seasonal Condo Landlord Faces Pushback from Year-Round Owners

S.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I bought a condo as a vacation home in Maine. There are five units. As I live in Massachusetts, and still work full-time, I am only able to use it intermittently in the summer, and then I rent it out November – May. There is another owner that rents hers year-round, and a third that comes intermittently in the summer and closes it up for the winter. That leaves two other units that are owner-occupied year-round. One of them is proposing that the non year-round owners pay an extra percentage or dollar on the monthly condo fees “for months when owners are not here to cover all the management/maintenance issues that fall to those who live here full time”. Can they do this? I would agree that the year-round owners are the ones who have to call the repairman, or may sweep up between cleaning lady visits, or admit inspectors to our units if required, but should they/can they be compensated through additional fees?

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., unless your governing documents allow for such a fee (unlikely), then the only way to add one would be to modify the documents. Since three of the five unit owners would likely vote against such a rule, it is unlikely to pass. That being said, there may be some validity to what the other year-round unit owners are asking and since it is such a small community, you might want to find an agreeable solution to keep peace and harmony in the community. Personally, I would argue that the year-round unit owners are benefitting by being the ones making the calls to repairmen and keeping their homes in good working order. If they need additional “sweeping up” between cleaning lady visits, perhaps it is time to schedule more cleaning lady visits, an expense shared by ALL unit owners, even those not there year-round to benefit directly from the additional cleaning. Other than that, I think they should review the governance documents and realize that the real estate purchase they made entitles them to the common services as outlined. Anything above that is an unreasonable expectation on their part. Good luck!

Do Condo Boards Have to Take Minutes?

E.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When condos board meet to hey have to take minutes?

Mister Condo replies:

E.G., absolutely! Minutes are the only official record of Condo Board Meetings. Without Minutes, it is as if the meeting never happened. Condo Boards are representatives of a corporation and have a responsibility to the shareholders of the corporation (the unit owners) to maintain proper records of actions they take. Not every item discussed needs to be in the Minutes but every vote taken certainly does. A Board that operates without taking Minutes risks being sued by any unit owner who doesn’t agree with decisions made by the Board. While state laws vary on what must be included in the Minutes, almost all are based on some type of Corporation Act and some type of Condominium or Common Interest Act. These laws typically demand that Minutes be kept and be made available to unit owners upon request once approved by the Board. This protects both the Board and the unit owners. Some Boards farm out the actual recordkeeping to a Property Manager or other third party but the Minutes need to be submitted back to the Board who votes on their correctness and ratifies them into association records. I hope your Board is keeping Minutes. Thanks for the question!

Dormer Roof on Condo May Not Be Association’s Responsibility

S.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Whose responsibility is it to repair and maintain the dormer roof over a bay window on a townhouse condo?

Mister Condo replies:

S.A., typically the roof is an association responsibility. However, there can be exceptions, especially if the dormer roof was a modification made by you or a previous owner. If the Board is refusing to repair the roof, which is typically a common element, you have every right to find out why. If a previous owner added the dormer, it is possible that they also agreed to maintain the roof as part of the agreement for adding the dormer. If that is the case, you inherited that responsibility when you purchased the unit. Other than that, the Board is charged with maintaining the common elements, including the roof. Good luck!

Adding Skylights to a Condo Unit

N.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are doing the attic in our condo unit. Skylights have been approved by the department of buildings, but the condo board is disapproving it! What should we do?

Mister Condo replies:

N.S., architectural compliance is the purview of the Board. Skylights fundamentally change the exterior appearance of the roof, which is a common element owned by the association, not you. Therefore, you need to seek permission to modify this common element unless your governance documents say otherwise. Are there other skylights in other units? If so, that would be your argument before the Board to allow you to have them as well. However, the Board is under no obligation to grant your request and should you decide to go ahead and install them without their written approval, don’t be surprised if you find yourself on the losing end of a lawsuit from the association that would require you to remove the skylights and return the roof to the same condition it was before your installed them. The best time to make a request for skylight installation is when the roof is being replaced. The Board may still not grant the request but since the roof is going to be replaced, it is an easy time for a modification to be made. All the best!

Condo Owner Suffers 9 Years Without Kitchen Hot Water!

K.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have no hot water pressure in my kitchen. It is a building problem for several units and is on the “to do” list. I have asked about getting a reduced HOA fee as I am not receiving the same amenities as other condo owners. This has gone on for 9 years!!! Whenever I bring it up they assure me it is the next priority. Can I put my HOA payments in an escrow account until the problem is fixed?

Mister Condo replies:

K.D., I am sorry for your problems and your Board’s ineffective management of the repair. No, you cannot withhold your common fees or the Board can foreclose on your unit for unpaid fees over time. What you can do is sue the association for not providing the hot water. Ultimately, that will get you the hot water, which is what you really want here. Saving money on the common fees doesn’t help. Hot water will fulfill your expectation of what the association is supposed to provide. 9 years is far too long to wait. Speak to an attorney and see what you can do to get a lawsuit against the Board in place. They will likely find it less expensive to get your hot water running than to defend against a suit. Good luck!

Limo Can’t be Parked at the Condo

G.A. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My New Jersey condo association prohibits parking by commercial vehicles. I have a limousine with Omnibus plates. The association considers my luxury SUV vehicle commercial. Other vehicles, obviously for commercial purposes have regular plates, but are allowed. Do I have any recourse?

Mister Condo replies:

G.A., as long as your commercial vehicle is in violation of the association’s rules on parking, you don’t likely have any recourse but to park the vehicle off property. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to prove a vehicle with a passenger plate was in violation of the association’s parking rules. Your Omnibus plates are a different story. You could petition the Board to see if they will allow you an exception (unlikely) or you could offer to pay an extra fee for the right to park your Omnibus plated vehicle. Other than that, I don’t see what other recourse you would have other than to get passenger vehicle plates for your limo, which would put you in violation of state law for operating your limo. That doesn’t sound like a reasonable plan either. Good luck!