Category Archives: Financial

Hellish HOA Landlord

M.G. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What if an owner lies to the renter and their HOA concerning the number of dogs living in their unit? My owners put on the lease and collected $450 nonrefundable pet fee for 2 dogs. However, unbeknownst to me until I moved in, they put 1 dog on the HOA form. This is because there is a strict “20 pound, 1 dog” limit on the property. However, I was told there was only a strict 20 pound weight limit. (This would not have been a problem, because my 2 Maltese are only 16 pounds together.) I was there less than 24 hours, when I was informed by the groundskeeper that there was a 1 dog/unit policy & that they would give me a hard time about having 2 dogs. I was handed the keys after they’d had approximately 20 people over for one last party. It cost me $450 for a two day deep clean move-in to remove all the filth and sand from everything. Do I as a renter, have any recourse after signing a deceitful lease?

Mister Condo replies:

M.G., I am sorry for your problems. I had to shorten your letter for space but, needless to say, you rented from the landlord from hell. The short answer to your question is “yes”, you have recourse but not without hiring an attorney who will sue this landlord for leasing the unit to you while not fulfilling the contract and flat out lying to you about the pet restrictions. You will need to ask the attorney about the cost of this suit and the likelihood of you getting your money back. Weigh the cost to return benefit before proceeding. You should also check with the state to see if you have protection as a renter that the state will pursue for you against your landlord. It goes without saying that you should not lease with this landlord again and I encourage you to do be as diligent as possible before signing your next lease. Just as a landlord requires references from you, you should require references of a landlord. Good luck!

Developer Obligation to Pay HOA Fees on Undeveloped Lots

C.C. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Does a developer of A PUD have an obligation to pay dues on unsold lots once the transition/takeover of board has taken place?

Mister Condo replies:

C.C., an unsold lot is not the same as an undeveloped lot. If the PUD consists of built units, then it is likely that the developer would be liable for the dues from the unsold units. Undeveloped lots, do not likely carry the same burden, especially since they are undeveloped. You would need to check the documents for further clarification but it is uncommon for a developer to pay fees for undeveloped lots. If the association has an attorney (and they should have their own attorney during the transition/takeover period), this is a great question for him or her. Good luck!

Condo Unit Owner Claims Negligence as Reason for Not Paying Assessment

V.M. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If I do not pay an assessment because of negligence by the trustees do I lose my rights as a unit owner?

Mister Condo replies:

V.M., regardless of what the reason for not paying an assessment, the association will very likely take collections action against you, up to and including foreclosing on your home. You do not fight a claim of negligence by withholding fees or assessments because the association has a legal duty to collect those funds from you and from all unit owners. You have rights as well and challenging the Board with a claim of negligence is done with a lawsuit initiated by you against the association. The only thing withholding fees or assessments will accomplish is legal fees and possible loss of your condo through foreclosure. That is not a good strategy, in my opinion. All the best!

Lack of Maintenance by Self-Run Condo Board

D.T. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The self-run condo board is not taking care of the maintenance of our complex. Shingle, roof, painting and paving have not been addressed in years. We pay on an average of 350.00 a month in HOA fees. What recourse do the owners have to get action and for the board to be held accountable to provide proper upkeep for our complex? Is there a state board that we can contact that can help us?

Mister Condo replies:

D.T., I am sorry that you find yourself at odds with your Board over care and maintenance of your complex. I wish I could say that you were alone in your dissatisfaction but the truth is that many associations simply haven’t saved enough money over the years to appropriately maintain their properties. This leads to the unpopular Special Assessment and the equally unpopular increase to common fees. In your case, $350 per month should likely be adjusted to $450 per month or higher. That way, the current expenses of the association could be paid and a healthy contribution to the Reserve Fund for future repairs could be established. As for the immediate needs of the association, a loan or Special Assessment is very likely needed. From the brief list you have provided, I wouldn’t be surprised if $10,000 or more per unit would be needed. If unit owners can’t afford that kind of one-time payment, then a loan (which will also increase common fees and have the additional expense of interest) is in order. The bottom line is that Boards of Directors turn over in condo associations over time. Each new Board inherits the good or bad practices of the previous Board. In associations that require maintenance on 20 to 30 year-old buildings, that means either having the money to do the projects from the great fiscal planning of previous Boards or picking up the pieces from poorly thought out Reserve Fund planning. Guess which kind of association you live in? The bottom line is that it takes money to perform the needed maintenance and that money only comes from one place – the owners. It sounds to me like it is time for your association to pay the piper. Of course, all of the unit owners have a say in raising common fees and Special Assessments. Neither are popular and both have real consequences to owners, including forcing out the folks who can’t pay up. However Darwinian as this sounds, it is the way of the world. I wish you and your community good luck in solving this difficult problem.

Condo Owner Floods Uninsured Neighbor’s Unit

H.W. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Recently my washer broke (the tube was incorrectly installed by the previous owner and it popped off). I didn’t realize anything was wrong until the unit below me called in a panic about the water leaking from his ceiling. Water was pooling in my catch tray and the overflow was then leaking under the floor boards, so there was never any pooling to alert me. Unfortunately, neither my unit insurance or the master will cover repairs to his ceiling, and he does not have unit insurance. He asked me to split the repair cost. I’m torn! It was my washer that caused his water damage, but the cost would be WAY less if he had insurance (half the deductible versus half the repair cost!). We are very neighborly, so part of me thinks to maintain the relationship I should eat the cost… but I’ve also put a lot of my blood, sweat, tears, and loans into this association to keep it afloat, and after paying the plumber I’m kind of tapped. What should I do?!

Mister Condo replies:

H.W., your neighbor’s lack of insurance is troubling and may even be against your association’s regulations. Many associations require all unit owners to carry their own homeowner’s insurance for just such occurrences as this. If so, and your neighbor was delinquent in his duty to insure, you may not have any liability whatsoever. If that is not the case, you may be on the hook for half or all of the damage. It really depends on how your neighbor proceeds. If he sues, in Small Claims, or other, then and only then. Might you find yourself held legally responsible for the damage. I appreciate your “good neighbor” attitude and paying some of the expense, which you did, should help keep the relationship between you and your neighbor congenial.

Why in the world are you loaning money to your association? Are you a bank? Why does your association need money to “keep it afloat”. You have signaled a big problem with your association’s finances. Common fees should be sufficient to keep any association afloat. Individual unit owners should not be loaning the association money. It is time for your association to get some real world training on how to run itself and practice sound fiscal policies, which include adequate common fees for the association to fund itself. All the best!

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!

Condo Leak Leads to Mold for Downstairs Neighbor

G.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My unit had a leak which was reported by downstairs neighbors who had a water bubble in the ceiling of the bathroom. Repairs were made in my unit but the leak continued. Long story short we went back and forth for a few weeks where we thought we resolved the leak but then a week or two later the unit below reported water. Part of the problem was the below unit is never home. So, they only report their floor being wet days after a possible leakage. During this time, the unit below had the ceiling opened up to allow it to dry before patching it. Finally, one night the unit below called that they see water dripping and we finally figured out it was my AC unit leaking water. My insurance came out and made repairs to my unit. My water damage was cleared within days. My insurance said the below unit should file a claim with their unit. 3 weeks later they are barely getting the insurance company to come see their damage. But now the unit below is saying they have mold growing and want my unit to pay for it. The owner also told me they have still been using their shower during these last few months. I feel responsible for water damage but not mold. The owner took no precautions to reduce damage, to dry the area, and steam from their showers was not helping the situation. Help, am I liable? Neither of our insurances will cover, and the HOA says it’s an issue between owners.

Mister Condo replies:

G.H., I am sorry that this unfortunate issue has escalated to this point. At the end of the day, it is likely to end up in court unless you and the unit owner below you can come to a practical solution. Homeowners insurance should have covered the initial damage for both of you. The HOA is not likely liable as this issue was not caused by a defect between the two units. Water from your air conditioner caused the damage to the unit below yours. Mold that results from water damage is typically covered by homeowner’s insurance but, in this case, your downstairs neighbor’s insurance carrier is not being responsive to the claim. The issue of your liability will only come into play if a lawsuit is filed. If that happens, you should hire an attorney to protect yourself. Do you have a price for the mold remediation? It is quite possible that your downstairs neighbor may have some out of pocket expense to remediate the mold (which they should do as mold can be toxic and even deadly). To be a good neighbor, you might offer to split the cost of the mold remediation but I do not believe you have a liability to do so. The real culprit here is the insurance company. Ideally, they would simply pay the claim and this matter would be resolved. However, many insurers would deny this claim based on the repeated nature of the damage and the lack of a timely repair after the initial claim which lead to the mold problem. I hope you and your neighbor work out a reasonable solution. All the best! 

Question of Financial Liability for Condo Decks Leads to Foreclosure!

D.U. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own a condo in a building without deck units, whereas other buildings in the condo have decks attached to their units. Since a deck or balcony is not a common element, I feel that it is not fair to be asked to pay $2,000.00 for the repairs of other units’ decks. Plus, I was appalled to learn at one of the meetings that some decks were repaired not long ago but the shabby job done made them fall apart in the following year. The Board of Directors members, who, by the way, have decks to their units, were quiet about it at the meeting. The association should be held accountable for not preventing such a failure. Instead they are imposing a lot of money to cover their mismanagement on many other units without a deck. Many of owners are elderly, as myself, living on a limited income. To involve a lawyer to fight such an abusive manner in the court, cost a lot of money which we cannot afford. As a matter of fact, I have already got a letter from the association, to be informed that a lawsuit including a foreclosure is intended on me. I have to add the association couldn’t provide, at my lawyer request, a copy of the relevant portions of the By-Laws, Rules, or Regulations which authorize the imposition of such assessment on me. Where should I address this issue other than here? I think that an investigation is overdue on Property Management at my association.

Mister Condo replies:

D.U., I am sorry you find yourself at such odds with your association. To hear that you are being threatened with foreclosure now tells me things have progressed even further than your letter lets on. Let’s start with what comes next so that you don’t lose your home. You have hired an attorney to represent you and that is critical to protect your rights. He has asked for the supporting documentation giving them the right to assess and then foreclose for failure to pay the assessment in timely fashion. I can assure you that they do have the right to collect assessments from you and they can foreclose against you if you don’t pay the assessments. You also have rights and you may be able to sue them if the assessment was passed incorrectly or if the decks are not common elements, as you claim. Unfortunately, my guess is that the decks are considered common or limited common elements and that you may, in fact, be liable even though your unit does not have a deck. I realize that this seems unfair but unless you or your lawyer can show where they have done something wrong, the assessment will stand and you will be held liable. There is no central authority in our state to investigate the management of your association and I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. You have already hired an attorney which is your best option to see this through. I wish I had better news for you here but I think the only real problem here is an understanding of how a condominium association operates and governs itself. Hopefully, your attorney will help you navigate this legal turmoil. 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!

No Board at this Iowa Condo!

M.T. from Iowa writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own a condo in a small HOA with about 18 units. We currently have a non-existent property manager/bookkeeper that has been in charge of running things since the board disbanded prior to my ownership. This manager has not done any repairs other than basic yard work and snow removal. My roof started leaking and all my requests for repairs have gone unanswered. My front deck is also dilapidated and in need of replacement and she just hired a handy man to come put more screws into the rotting wood. She is not an owner and, in fact, lives about a half hour away in another state. Majority of the owners agree she has been neglecting her responsibilities as a property manager and needs to go. How do we go about that if a board doesn’t exist? Many owners have asked to see the financial state of the association but she refuses and ignores our requests. Some owners are unable to sell due to the fact that they cannot prove that the association is in the black financially. How do we get rid of her put the association back into the hands of the owners? FYI, these condos were built in the mid-80s and most of our roofs and decks are in need of replacing.

Mister Condo replies:

M.T., I am sorry for your situation. Let me get this straight. You and the owners of the other 17 units have been living in a condo association for several years with no one realizing that there needs to be a Board to govern the association?!? You have a right to be upset with the Property Manager but what is she supposed to do? Technically, she has no supervision or guidance from the association. Unlike you and the other owners, she has no ownership interest in your association. I assume she is paying herself for her work out of the association’s common funds, collected by her, and used to pay for the scant services that are being provided. I would say you are fortunate to have her stick around without any direction or supervision from the non-existent Board. I hope she is honest and hasn’t robbed the place blind. The Board is the check and balance system to keep an eye on the association-owned assets (in this case, the money!). You and the other owners need to read your condo documents and determine who will volunteer to serve on the Board as soon as possible. Then, and only then, will you have an opportunity to address your immediate problems but also the myriad of problems created by not having a Board in place. Good luck!