Category Archives: Crime

Condo Employees Harass Condo Resident

D.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’ve been harassed, insulted for no reason at all, and put in a false light by the employees of my condominium. It all started when I reported to management an incident with an abusive contractor that works for the building. He had my apartment keys because he was renovating my property while I was overseas. When he was done with the job he used my apartment as his personal warehouse and because of this I had to have the walls painted again, at my expense. Shortly after that, employees started giving me the cold shoulder and my life in this condo has gone down since.

One day, one security guard came to my home and shouted some insulting words to me just because I had my entrance door open to let some nice ocean breeze flow in the apartment. “You have to close your door because DIRT is coming out of your apartment”, he shouted, and left. BTW, you can come to my home and eat from the floor, he just wanted to insult me.

I complained to management and mentioned to them how security personnel in this building has a keen eye for minor things such as “an open front door”, but a blind eye for major things such as: 1. A shooting (right next to the lobby where the stores and restaurants are). 2. Personal property stolen from the pool area by outsiders. 3. Two cars stolen from the parking area. 4. A maintenance employee using and abusing building’s property for years (he provided floor polishing services (for cash) to the contractor I mentioned before).

I’m not sure if the security guard was fired (this building is huge) but the harassment got worse. Some employees are putting residents against me saying that I’m a tattle-tale. I even lost a website design contract because of lies and bad word of mouth. What can I do to protect my right to the quiet enjoyment of my property without being annoyed or harassed? Thanks.

Mister Condo replies:

D.G., you certainly have your hands full in this community association. I am pretty sure I would have sold and moved by now just to be rid of the crime issue. However, you have elected to stay and have your rights respected. In my opinion, criminal matters should be reported to the police as they occur. Harassment is a crime and your local police are the first call when you are physically or verbally abused. If you are violating a rule (even if you don’t agree with the rule, you are bound by it) like having an open door, I would advise you to follow the rules so you don’t open yourself up to additional abuse or fines from the association.

The underlying problem here seems to be the management company’s behavior and the rampant abuses you have observed from contractors hired by the management company. Are you the only one who has noticed this? It would seem to me that multiple unit owners and residents have experienced similar? If so, the Board should be taking action to correct the situation. You mentioned that your apartment had been used as a warehouse while you were away. Clearly, that should have been reported to the Board and halted at once. It is now water under the bridge and would likely happen again if you are gone for any length of time. Document what you can and report it to the Board along with a letter demanding that never happen again.

If the Board takes no action to correct these actions, you have two basic choices. You can sue for any abuse of your rights as a unit owner or renter. Talk with a local attorney to get an opinion as to what rights have been violated and what remedies are available to you. This could be expensive but may get you the relief you seek. Your second option is to get more involved with your Board, including getting yourself or a like-minded individual elected to the Board. Management company contracts are difficult to break. However, they don’t have to be renewed. If the management company is underperforming, it is time for a new management company. The Board hires the management company. The only way to affect that decision is to work with the Board to make sure they understand that unit owners demand better. Of course, if you are in the minority and everyone else seems happy with the management company, that strategy won’t work. Either way, you will need to take action to correct these issues. Good luck!

Condo Bullying and Harassment

R.C. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What can unit owners in Florida do when bullied, followed, harassed, watched, threatened, etc. by condo association members and property manager? Especially when a lot of us are elderly and/or disabled physically in some way? Can you at least point me in the right direction?

Mister Condo replies:

R.C., I am sorry you and your neighbors find yourselves bullied, harassed, threatened or otherwise bothered by anyone, let alone the folks who govern and manage your association. True bullying, harassment, and threats are criminal offenses which should be reported to the proper authorities, including your local police department. Short of that, you might want to speak to an attorney who specializes in elder law to see what types of protections you are offered. The Property Manager works for and reports to the Board of the condo. You and your fellow unit owners have elected the Board to serve. If they aren’t doing the job properly, it’s time for a new Board. The condominium’s governance documents spell out the rules, regulations, and enforcement procedures for the condo. I guarantee you that bullying and harassment are not a part of those documents. In my experience, the best remedy for a condo bully is to stand up to him. That may mean removing him or her from his position of authority. It may even mean calling the police or bringing suit against him or her in a court of law. Bullies like victims, not folks who fight back. In Florida, you might want to check out the Department of Elder Affairs website to see if there are local resources to help you as well. You can find the information online at http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/report_abuse.php. Good luck!

Is Condo Landlord Liable for Illegal Actions by Tenant?

M.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is the condominium unit owner responsible for their renter’s theft of property of another unit owner’s unit?

Mister Condo replies:

M.J., thanks for writing and I am sorry that your tenants have put you in this position. The short answer is “it depends”. What it depends upon is local and state law that govern such issues. As a landlord, it is generally held that you are not responsible for anything that your tenant does. However, if you don’t have a proper lease in place or if you have housed a known felon you may have some liability for their actions. You should really speak with an attorney to determine your liability based on local laws. Also, if you are named in a lawsuit by the neighboring unit owner who was the theft victim, you may have no choice but to defend yourself. My guess is that as long as you have a valid lease to show that you were not the unit occupant but merely the landlord, it is unlikely that you will be found responsible for the actions of your tenant. However, I would advise against renewing the lease of a tenant that is found guilty of such a crime. All the best!

Fire and Feces Smearing Attack on Neighboring Condo Unit Owner!

J.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

This week a condo owner set her neighbor’s condo door on fire but, fortunately, the man inside was able to get out unharmed. The previous week she smeared her feces on his door, and 2 days later smeared cat poop on his door. When a police report was made, she would not open her door to the police. A few weeks before that she trashed her own condo and then called the superintendent and was very upset, claiming she came home to find her condo trashed and jewelry stolen. The police arrested her after the fire. There was white powder all over the door and on the floor which the police are trying to identify. Can she be charged if shown to be mentally unstable?

Mister Condo replies:

J.P., I am sorry for this troubling series of incidents at your condominium. When residents behave in such manner, the police are your best call to help alleviate the problem. I am not a law enforcement expert nor am I a legal expert by any stretch of the imagination. However, you should refer to your condominium’s governance documents about disallowed use of certain activities at your association. You may find some terminology about setting fires or illegal activity that may give the association the ability to take legal action against this resident and effectively have them evicted from the property. This is not a simple process and you will most certainly need assistance from the association’s attorney to determine if it is even possible or worth pursuing. Other than that, my advice is to stay vigilant. Unless this person is arrested or given the treatment they apparently need, they are a danger to themselves, fellow residents, and the association itself as any fire set by this person is likely to damage association property. I hope you and your fellow residents get a handle on this problem in short order. Good luck!

Condo Altercation Caught On Condo Surveillance System

M.J. from Brooklyn, NY writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’m a unit owner, my wife is on the condo board. I got into an altercation with a stranger in front of our building. The guy was injured. He went to the hospital and filed a false report that I walked up to him and just beat him up for no reason. The truth is I asked why he was trying to light the intercom on fire and he attacked me and I defended myself. The Camera system only caught the end part when I was beating him up. I was arrested because the management company gave the video to the police.

My question is does the management first have to get permission from the board to allow the police to take the video without a warrant? There are no bylaws on this matter and the board only found out the management company gave the police afterwards. Can I argue it was not legally obtained?

Mister Condo replies:

M.J., I am sorry for your situation and I am certainly sorry that you got into an altercation trying to defend association equipment. As you can likely know by now, the police are the proper authority to contact when you witness any sort of vandalism of association property. Taking matters into your own hands is certainly an act of bravery but can come with dire consequences as it has in your case. The management company does report to the Board with regards to all matters dealing with association governance. The security cameras and the footage captured by the cameras are association property and under the jurisdiction of the Board. However, the management company is also charged by the Board to handle many day-to-day business decisions that surface in between Board meetings. The police coming to the office and requesting the video surveillance tapes is a great example of where there are no previous examples of how to handle the situation. Providing the video tape was a decision the management company made. Whether or not they were in their legal right to do so is a matter for attorneys to settle. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. You should most certainly hire an attorney to represent you in this court matter and your attorney is the one who can best advise you of the admissibility of the tape as evidence and whether or not it was legally obtained. From what you have described here, the tape was asked for and delivered. I don’t see where there is any argument to be made about how it was obtained. The question is whether or not the management company had the authority to release the association’s property to the police. My guess is that if it wasn’t handed over as requested, a warrant for its release would likely have been forthcoming. Either way, your attorney will offer you the best advice in this matter. My advice for you is to never confront a vandal or any other criminal. A quick call to the police is a far better solution that protects your safety and keeps you out of altercations. Good luck!

Hyper-Local Social Network for Condominiums?

C.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do you know of any hyper-local social network that’s available for condo buildings? We have NextDoor in this neighborhood, but it’s not possible to concentrate that into just one building, and I don’t think the surrounding area needs to know about our every blocked drain, or squeaky elevator. The ability to post notices, or ask questions of our building-mates would be really beneficial, I think, but so far I haven’t found any system to facilitate the process. Thanks for your help with this.

Mister Condo replies:

C.B., thank you for your question. There are many software tools to assist in condo governance and management. I am not sure that any qualify as NextDoor (https://nextdoor.com) does as a hyper-local social network but I am guessing some will have the features you are looking for. I have been looking at Condo Ally (https://condoally.com) recently and I was quite impressed. Have you looked at any others? I know of associations that take advantage of commonly used social media, like Facebook, and create pages for their communities. Of course, the open dialogue nature of Facebook means folks can pretty much post anything on the page and that can be just as bad as it is good. I would think that a moderator-controlled environment is the best for condo associations. I’m not sure the exact product you are looking for exists but I’d like to hear from you or any of my other readers what is working for them. All the best!

Condo Board Takes Out a Trespass Warrant Against Unit Owner’s Beau!

J.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is it in the right of the Board of Directors and the Property management company to put a trespass warrant on my Girlfriend barring her from coming onto the property? I own my condo and have for the last 15 years. I feel that they have no right to trespass someone from my home that I want and welcome into the condo that I own all because her and the President of our association do not get along. My question is can they do that legally and do it against my wishes?

Mister Condo replies:

J.S., the short answer is “yes”, if the Board wishes to ban a person who isn’t an owner from entering the common grounds, they can take steps to do so. Of course, you can bring a suit against the Board for doing so and argue that they are denying your enjoyment of use of the property. The real question to me is why would they do so? Has your girlfriend committed a crime against the president of your association? Have the police needed to be involved in the past? I have answered a similar question not all that long ago. You can read more about my previous answer here – http://askmistercondo.com/unit-owners-fiance-banned-from-the-community-association/. I hope your situation improves soon. Good luck!

Coup d’état at Miami Condo!

mc_scales

B.P. from Miami writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

A group of people in my condo appointed themselves as the governing board and have removed mail and checks from the condo office. These individuals have opened an account in the name of the Condominium and are holding the monies in that account. Unfortunately, no one living in the condo knows what to do and to whom we should address the issue. Suggestions please.

Mister Condo replies:

B.P., that is a most unusual situation. My first question is what is the existing Board doing about this? You do have an elected Board of Directors for your association, don’t you? They are the ones who should be taking action. The actions they should be taking are civil (lawsuit) and criminal (call the police)! You cannot simply appoint yourself to the Board of any condo and you certainly can’t deposit checks in the name of the association. That is fraud and very likely punishable with jail time. Of course, this assumes you have a sitting Board that was elected by the unit owners and that there are Minutes from meetings stating so. Does the association have an attorney? If so, now is the time for the sitting Board to get in touch with the association attorney so these individuals can be ordered to cease and desist through a court order. A condominium is a corporation. Corporations are not simply taken over because a group of shareholders decides they would do a better job running the corporation. There is due process and it would appear this self-appointed Board has circumvented the process. Now if all of the unit owners appear to be happy with this new arrangement it is just a matter of recalling the old Board and electing this new Board into their positions. I am guessing there is a lot more to this story than what is being shared here. I would love to hear how it turns out. Good luck!

Harassment and Abuse at Small Condo

mc_horrified

R.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am an owner in a 4-unit self-managed association. My son and I are under constant harassment from two of the owners for no other reason than disagreement with their ideas for the property. The fourth owner doesn’t want to be involved and therefore is no help at all. The condo problem: one of the owners continually alters the common areas without approval. They have altered the house plumbing, added new plants where there was lawn, nailed signs to the building, and now a spy camera affixed to the outside building pointing directly at my entrance and parking areas. My question: Since we are self-managed and no other owner will help, is there any recourse other than hiring an attorney?

Mister Condo replies:

R.B., I am sorry to say that there is truly no other recourse for you. Small associations only work well when all of the unit owners get along (or leave each other alone) and follow the rules of the association. It would appear that this unit owner has no intention of doing that so you can either put up with it or take action. As for harassment from another unit owner, you do not need to tolerate that. Get the police involved if you need to or speak to an attorney about your rights. If the unit owner escalates to assault or battery, definitely call the police. At some point, it isn’t about breaking rules; it’s about breaking laws. No condo owner should live in fear of harassment from another condo unit owner. As for the video surveillance system or “spy cam” as you have called it, there may be state laws addressing how and when they can be used. Again, speak to an attorney to discuss the legality of such a surveillance system in your state. Good luck!

Unfortunate Encounter Between Condo Neighbors Has Board on Edge

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J.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

This is another neighbor-neighbor noise issue. We have one tenant who is complaining that his upstairs neighbors are noisy and disruptive and are harassing him. Upstairs neighbor say that they have not even heard from their neighbor after an initial, and unfortunate encounter. None of the other neighbors surrounding the upstairs owner are complaining. Does the tenant even have standing to bring a complaint to the board or should it be the unit owner? We do have a noise nuisance clause in our bylaws.

Mister Condo replies:

J.D., neighbor versus neighbor complaints are usually quite the headache for the Board. The renter’s complaint is to his landlord, the unit owner. The landlord should then either issue the complaint to the Board or empower the tenant to work with the Board through a power of attorney letter. Absent that, the renter really has no business interacting with the Board. Let’s assume the complaint comes in through the proper channel. What is the Board going to do?

If there has been an assault between neighbors, this is a matter for the police, not the Board. Ongoing noise complaints can be investigated and the offending unit owners can be brought before the Board to defend against the complaint. The complaint needs to come from the unit owner and be against the offending unit owner. This is an official record of the association once the complaint is made and the Board does need to review the complaint before deciding whether or not to act on the complaint. Action can include a warning letter, a summons to appear before the Board, and a fine if the Board appearance does not satisfy the Board and the by-laws allow such action. If the unit owner is not satisfied that the Board has done enough to protect the unit owner’s rights, he has the right to bring suit against the Board. The tenant also has the right to sue the landlord for not fulfilling the rental agreement which should have a peaceable enjoyment clause as does the condo docs. This has the potential to be a legal nightmare so keep an eye on what goes on between the players. However, from a more practical standpoint, it is more likely that the initial confrontation has died down and the residents are behaving better towards each other. If not, consult with the association’s attorney and look at the risk to the association and see what steps can be taken to enforce the association’s rules. If appropriate, encourage the landlord to have the tenant call the police if the neighbors threaten or intimidate him. Condo Boards are not law enforcement. When laws get broken, get the police involved. Good luck!