Category Archives: Condominium

Arbitration Forced Upon Unit Owners While Board Can Choose Other Remedies

C.I. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is it legal for Condo Assoc. to require owners to go to arbitration with a complaint against the Board, but reserve for itself the right to litigate in court a complaint against an owner?

Mister Condo replies:

C.I., I am not an attorney so I cannot offer you any legal opinions in this column. However, in my non-legal opinion, I don’t see where there would be a problem. Many states require unit owners with complaints against the Board to go to arbitration. The reason for this is simple. There are just too many unit owners that they could easily overwhelm the courts with matters that are far easier to settle in arbitration. Complaints from the Board are far fewer and are generally not the type of complaint that arbitration would assist. When Boards take legal action against a unit owner, it is usually over financial matters (unpaid common fees or Special Assessments). These aren’t items for arbitration; they are simply the Board enforcing the covenants and collecting the monies that are owed to the Association. For a proper legal opinion, you should consult with an attorney but I hope this friendly response helps you understand the situation. All the best!

Finding the Parking Rights on a Condo More Than 50 Years Old

M.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a building that was built in the Sixties. I have a two-bedroom condo and one parking space. There are many residents that have two parking spaces. There are some residents that rent their spaces for extra income. The real estate agent has been the president of the board for over 25 years and makes a good living renting and selling apartments. He has been known to be a bit of a con man. Since my apartment has been turned over several times since I purchased it, how can I find out how many parking spaces it was originally?

Mister Condo replies:

M.B., you should check your deed and/or closing documents from when you purchased your unit to see if the number of parking spaces is mentioned (it should be). There may also be a copy of the original deed at your local Property Office (this varies from town to town, city to city, county to county, etc.) so you might need to do a little research to find out where your local records are stored.  As for your dislike of the long-serving Board President, consider that the collective unit owners that have lived there for the 25+ years he has been elected to the Board have continued to reelect him year after year. He must be doing something right. 

Condo Board Issuing Fines without Hearings

A.F. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a board fine a unit owner without a hearing?

Mister Condo replies:

A.F., typically, the Board cannot simply fine a unit owner without due process which typically involves a written notice of violation and a summons to appear before the Board to explain the reasons for the violation. After hearing the unit owner’s rebuttal or explanation, the Board is then free to take whatever disciplinary action that is called for in the governance documents, which is typically a fine. There are rare exceptions but the Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA) does give unit owners very specific rights that many times supersede the association’s own governance documents. If you fell the Board is improperly doling out fines, ask them if they are following the state’s laws in doing so. If not, they should change their ways or risk being sued by a homeowner who will claim they had their rights violated. All the best!

Condo Unit Owner Controlling Voting Outcomes Using Proxies

B.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Typically, our condo meetings do not have many members present. There are 14 units in our association and usually there are at least 4 votes controlled by one person. My question, is there a limit to how many votes can be cast by one owner? With such a small association it appears that one owner can easily get a vote swayed his direction by having 4 votes.

Mister Condo replies:

B.S., voting by proxy varies from state to state and association to association. You need to look at your governance documents as well as your state’s laws to see how many votes one unit owner can cast. 4 out of 14 is over 25% of all the available votes. In Connecticut, for instance, proxy voting is limited to 15% of the available votes. If your state laws or governance documents don’t limit the amount of proxies one person can hold, there may be nothing to prevent such activity. Of course, you can always rally the other unit owners to attend the meetings and cast their votes. That is true democracy in action. Good luck!

A Top 10 Bad Condo Story! 80% of Unit Owners Don’t Pay Fees!

M.D. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How can I get out of a 100-unit condo development where only 20 units pay maintenance and road dues? The association painted over rotten wood siding 4 years ago! They cut what little grass there is every two weeks that’s about the extent of the maintenance for last 10 years. Retaining walls falling down, parking lots are sliding in to the building, the roof leaks with ice build-up and more. Help!

Mister Condo replies:

M.D., I am so sorry for your problems at this poorly run condo association. While I’d like to think I have “head it all” when it comes to condo craziness, clearly you have provided a Top 10 Bad Condo story. Obviously, you want to get out of this poorly run association before the units are condemned or deemed not worthy to sell. The good news is that there is “an ass for every seat” and if you price it right, you just might be able to cut your losses and buy into a properly run association. Without the benefit of a crystal ball, I will make a few predictions about your current association. With 80% of unit owners not paying their fees, the association will collapse. Vendors who are owed money will sue the association at some point. Even unit owners such as yourself could sue the association for not fulfilling its obligation to maintain the common elements. Even one lawsuit could bankrupt the association. If the association is to survive, it would likely be due to receivership (the court appoints an attorney or property management firm to run the association) at which time special assessments would likely be levied and common fees raised significantly. The 80% of unit owners who aren’t paying fees would likely default and eventually lose their homes through foreclosure. The bottom line is that unless you really love your unit and are willing to live through the chaos and expense of such an action, it just isn’t worth sticking around to see how it plays out. If I were you, I would sell as quickly as possible, even at a loss if I had to, and make sure the next association you buy in to is properly run and funded. All the best!

Sinking Floor Troubles Condo Owner

D.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If I hire a structure engineer to do a report and it is in fact the association to cover damage of sinking floor will the association have to pay me back for the cost of the report?

Mister Condo replies:

D.G., I am sorry you find yourself with a sinking floor. I assume you have asked the association to make the repair and they are claiming that it is not their responsibility so you now find yourself needing to take further action to get rid of the sinking floor. If you expect the association to pay for anything – the cost of the report, the damage caused, and, ultimately, the actual repair, you will very likely need to sue the association. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here but my friendly advice would be for you to speak with a competent local attorney and see what your rights are. Since the association has already refused to make the repair and you will likely be suing them, I don’t see why you couldn’t include the cost of the report in your suit. However, if you are unsuccessful in your lawsuit, you might not be able to recover any money, including the cost of the engineering report. Speak with an attorney first and then follow the advice on how to proceed. I sure hope you get your sinking floor repaired one way or another. Good luck! 

Previous Condo Owner Used Unapproved Paint Colors for Windows and Doors

A.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I recently purchased a condo and the board sent me a letter asking me to paint some windows on my unit as they are not the right color. The windows are the same color they were when I purchased the unit. There is nothing in the condo docs that state what color windows and doors are supposed to be. Can I be held responsible for correcting the previous owners mistake. These windows are not new so who knows how long they have been this way. The board says they didn’t go after the previous owner because they weren’t looking at all the window colors until a recent walkthrough of the property.

Mister Condo replies:

A.L., typically, the Board can enforce architectural compliance guidelines for units within the association, regardless of when the guideline was violated. There are times when owners have challenged the guidelines or the timeframe in which the violation was caught but those are the exception and not the rule. Is it going to be very expensive to paint the windows and doors? Chances are that bringing your unit into compliance will cost far less than fighting the complaint and you’ll have fresh paint on these items that will help make them more appealing and enjoyable for you. You can fight it if you wish but my recommendation is to go ahead and have the painting done. All the best!

Condo Rental Cap Requires a By-Law Change

L.R. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What is the amount of votes needed to change a bylaw? We are considering making a cap on rentals in our complex as absentee landlords are renting to multi-family groups (against our bylaws).

Mister Condo replies:

L.R., I am sorry that you have unit owners in your association who are renting to ineligible renters. Rather than change your by-laws which can be challenging at best, why not just go after the landlords who are breaking the existing rules? Get in touch with your association attorney and let him or her know you have a problem and ask for legal help in remedying the behavior. Typically, notice is sent to the offender asking them to come for a hearing before the Board. Then it is possible to fine and/or sue the landlord. Once the unit owner is sued, the sweetness of collecting rent on a unit that is racking up debt and legal expenses tens to remedy the problem.Adding rental caps can be challenging due to the nature of changing such a by-law. You need to review your documents to see what percentage of unit owners need to vote in favor of such a change. Again, speak with your association attorney so you have a full understanding. If you think there are enough votes (typically 2/3 or more, maybe even 100%) you might be able to change the by-laws. Otherwise, I would advise you to use the by-laws you already have and begin enforcing them against the offenders. All the best!

Condo Owners Question Developer’s Handling of Tax Bills

F.B. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We moved into a newly built condo in MA last year. We have not received a town tax bill and the town said that the builder filed the master deed too late for the town to assess the individual properties. The town said that the bills will be ready next year. Is the builder liable for retroactive taxes or are the condo owners? Also, if the builder pays the town the taxes, can he try to collect the taxes from the home owners? We are concerned if the builder pays the taxes and we reimburse him then we will not get tax benefit.

Mister Condo replies:

F.B., congratulations to you and your fellow unit owners on your new condos. I am afraid that I am neither an expert is Massachusetts or your town’s tax code and rules so I am not the proper person to answer this question. As a newly formed condominium association, you should have an attorney representing the homeowners. This is separate from any attorney representing the developer. You need to ask this question of the association’s attorney and/or accountant who should be familiar with your local tax code and practices. You make a valid point about who you are paying taxes to. If you pay the municipality directly, you can show where you paid real estate taxes which can be itemized and claimed on your own tax return whereas a payment to the developer might not satisfy the requirement for using the tax payment as a personalized deduction. I have no idea about the builder’s liability because it would really depend who the owner of the property was when the tax burden was incurred. You should really get some local expert advice to answer these questions. Good luck!

Contractor Requires Condo Board Member’s Presence to Assess Unit Owner’s Damage

S.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The management company asked me to contact a contractor that works most jobs in this condominium in order to make an assessment for damages from a water backup. His reply came and stated that he requested from management company to have a board member present during such assessment. I find it very unusual. I do not believe the bylaws allow for such presence. I am tempted to ask the management to provide cases where a board member was requested to be present in a similar case by this contractor. 


What are my rights in this case? Can I refuse a board member be present lacking precedence? Can I ask for another or more than one contractor do the assessment? What is my best recourse to collect for damages. 

I recently learned that a board member, the president of the board had some water damage and the association paid to replace the kitchen. I need to yet verify this information. How can I use this information to benefit my case? 

Mister Condo replies:

S.H., I am sorry for your water damage problems and further that you appear unhappy with the proposed resolution from your association. Short of suing the association, you really don’t have any “rights” in this case. Typically, water damage to a unit interior is handled by the unit owner’s insurance. The insurance company may have a claim against the association if the damage was caused by willful neglect or intentional damage. I can’t imagine why you should have to contact an association contractor or why a Board Member needs to be present, precedence or not. If the Board wishes to hire a contractor to review your damage, they should make contact and hire the contractor. If the contractor requires a Board Member to be present for whatever reason, I don’t see how or why you would prevent them from assessing your damage and proposing a solution. The unsubstantiated allegations you have made about the Board President’s having similar damage and having the association pay for it is an unrelated matter and should not figure into the solution of your problem at all. My advice is for you to contact your own insurance company and see if you can’t get this matter corrected without involvement from the Board. If the damage continues due to willful neglect on the part of the association, you should hire an attorney and sue. All the best!