Category Archives: Governance

Careless Condo Owner Ruining Neighboring Unit

H.H. from Los Angeles writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in Los Angeles and the unit above me has had water leaking into my unit – this will make the 4th time. I had to get my insurance company involved last time and they had to replace my ceiling and shower. 2 days ago, water was pouring into my newly renovated kitchen. She claims she spilled a pitcher of water. I have pics and video. Prior to the last two incidences, I had to replace my bathroom ceiling because she was missing the rubber ring in her tub. Prior to that I had water running down my walls from a seal issue she had in her shower. Should I get an attorney? What can I do? I’ve been living in construction for the last year. I’m losing my mind!

Mister Condo replies:

H.H., I am sorry for your neighbor problems. Thankfully, you have insurance to assist with the repairs but there is no way to protect your peace of mind. You certainly could hire an attorney but to what avail? Your upstairs neighbor is just behaving in an un-neighborly manner. Her careless ways are making your condo life uncomfortable and downright miserable. You can write to your Board and ask that they intervene on your behalf but it doesn’t sound as though any rules or laws have been broken. This is just a case of a careless unit owner causing grief for fellow unit owners, in this case, you. Speak with an attorney if you think you have a case of some sort against ether the neighbor or the association. Other than that, keep your fingers crossed that this neighbor decides to start acting like a responsible adult and realizing that her careless action have real consequences to those around her. Good luck!

Identical Square Footage But Higher Monthly Condo Common Fees

K.G. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I recently found out that a same size condo as mine is being charged less per month in monthly fees. HOA indicated they charge by the square footage which are on the original plans. I reviewed the plans and the square footage is the same. I have requested in writing, why I am paying a higher price. HOA has not responded. I don’t know where to go from here. Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

K.G., while square footage is often taken into consideration when determining common fee schedules, it is not necessarily the only factor. When the common fee schedule was created by the developer, other factors such as view, preferred location within the community, end-unit, first-floor unit, and many other items may have been taken into consideration. Whatever the reason, a common fee schedule was developed and a fee percentage was assigned to each unit. Those fees are the gospel of how expenses are divvied up within the association and each unit has an obligation to pay their fees based on that schedule. To simply state that square footage is the only determining factor when common fees were adopted is very unlikely true. You should review the condo governing documents to review how the fees are determined. You will likely find out that your unit was assigned a higher percentage than your similarly sized neighbor’s unit. Perhaps your unit is on a higher floor or has a better view? Whatever the reason, unless you find that you have been charged incorrectly, the common fee schedule stands. All the best!

Condo Voting Ballot Signature Law

P.D. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I hope you can provide some assistance for me. I am a board member of a 50-unit condo complex. We are having our yearly meeting and will be electing board members. Is it CT law that the unit owner MUST sign their ballot?? I have lived here for 20 years and this was never done before. In other words, an owner’s vote is no longer anonymous. Our new manager insists, but I and others disagree.

Mister Condo replies:

P.D., while I see no harm in having unit owners sign their ballots, I am not aware of any law that requires them to do so. However, the act of signing the ballots would certainly go a long way in preventing voter fraud and authentication of the vote in the event of a contested election. Your documents may detail a particular method of voting that requires signatures but I do not think that is very common. I really don’t see the need or desire to protect the anonymity of a voter. Proxy votes, on the other hand, would most certainly need to be signed in order to be valid. You can ask your new manager to cite the “law” that requires ballots to be signed just for your edification. In the meantime, I wouldn’t hold up any vote in the interests of protecting voter anonymity. Votes are legal records of the association. The more documentation you can provide, the less risk there is for any unit owner to contest the outcome. All the best!

How Many Month’s Common Fees Can Be Collected in Foreclosure?

B.O. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What is the maximum months of common fees an association can collect in a bank foreclosure? What is the maximum an association can collect when they foreclose?

Mister Condo replies:

B.O., the answer is not as clear as you might expect. The actions taken by the association in advance of the foreclosure can have an effect on the outcome. For that reason alone, many associations turn to either a collections expert or an attorney for assistance in collecting as much as they possibly can. The other variable is the ability of the owner being foreclosed upon to pay. If they file a bankruptcy at the right time, the debt to the association may also be included in the discharge of debt, leaving the association with a claim for which they cannot collect. In Connecticut, there are various liens and lien procedure that seem to have the best yield. There is an evergreen lien that, in theory, ensures the association will collect ALL of the past due fees when the unit is finally sold or auctioned off at foreclosure. This type of lien is filed repeatedly until the unit is liquidated. A more common lien is a 6-month lien. Filed once, the association collects up to 6 months of owed fees and reasonable collection costs. This is quite common when a mortgage holder is involved in initiating the foreclosure action and the association “goes along” with the bank. The bottom line is that banks typically initiate foreclosure far more often than associations do. However, that is not always the case and in a soft real estate market, the bank has little incentive to take over the unit (and the common fee payments and liability of owning the unit) and the association needs to think creatively before foreclosing and finding there is little or no money left for them when the foreclosure is over. I think the best policy is to work with a collection professional or association attorney to make sure the association is doing all that it can to protect itself from the loss of income. The good news is that the vast majority of unit owners pay their fees on time and that the drastic measure of foreclosure only surfaces when all else has failed. All the best!

Board and Fellow Unit Owners Making Condo Life Uncomfortable

M.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo is 40% Fundamentalist Christian. They have a weekly Bible study and control the Board. We had a ten-year standing water issue which was finally resolved when we took steps looking into a lawyer. They are so judgmental and repeatedly report us to the board over trivial matters. We moved out and now are moving back in after our home failed to sell. They kept bombing me with “nice” nosy questions and now I refuse contact and have taken steps to insure my privacy. Is there anything I can do to get them from approaching me every time I go on my deck or outside? And is there anything we can do about the favoritism they show such as forgetting repeatedly to cut the weeds behind my condo.

Mister Condo replies:

M.K., I am sorry that you are feeling uncomfortable in your own condo association. Freedom of speech pretty much guarantees all of us the ability to say what we want within reason. You have already taken steps to distance yourself from their expression of speech. As for governance issues, the Board has legal responsibilities to enforce the covenants of the association. One of those covenants is peaceable enjoyment of your unit. The attorney who assisted you with the water problem can likely offer you the best legal advice for your state. If the Board is taking actions that deny you peaceable enjoyment of your unit, you may be able to sue them. Whether you agree with their Fundamentalist values or not, you should not be subjected to harassment of any sort. As for issues of favoritism, that is unfortunate and you should complain, in writing, to the Board when services that are provided to others are not provided to you. I know that selling your unit didn’t work last time but I would strongly urge you to consider trying again. There is no reason for anyone to remain living in a condo that is not to their liking. Lower your price, do whatever you have to do to make your unit more appealing. Perhaps a current unit owner could find a friend or family member more attuned to the community’s nuances? I wish you better success down the road.

Ineligible Volunteer Wishes to Serve as Condo Treasurer

B.E. from Chicago writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hello! I am a Condo President in Chicago and our Treasurer sold and left recently. The wife of a unit owner wants to be Treasurer; however, she is not a unit owner as she is not on the title and refuses to be added to it. I am not comfortable with this, and the IL Condo Property Act agrees that only unit owners can be elected. What do you think? Need an answer soon!

Mister Condo replies:

B.E., I don’t blame you for being skeptical of a non-unit owner wishing to serve as Treasurer of your association and, unless the association’s own by-laws indicate that a non-owner can serve as a director of the association, your hands are tied. Even if your by-laws do allow for a non-unit owner to serve, the Illinois law supersedes your by-laws and should be taken into full consideration when applying the decision-making process for your association. I would say that unless this volunteer has her name placed on the deed to the unit, she is ineligible to serve. You can check with your association attorney for a legal interpretation that I cannot offer as I am not an attorney but I would think you and your association would be better served by finding an eligible unit owner to serve on the Board and as Treasurer. Good luck!

Unit Owner Questions Condo Board’s Mandated Water Heater Replacement

G.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The Condo Association Board wants to mandate having the Hot Water Heaters updated every 10 years. Is this common practice? We are a small Owners Association, 10 Buildings with 4 condos in a building. Each building has a basement, and each condo has its own Hot Water Heater in the common basement room, along with the 4 individual Hot Air GAS Furnace. Some hot water heaters have already been replaced, as the condos are 14 years old. Your comments please.

Mister Condo replies:

G.M., in my experience, it is quite common for associations to have maintenance standards in place for any appliances, water hoses, etc. which requires unit owners to replace these appliances within “X” amount of years, where “X” is the number of years of the manufacturer’s usable life expectancy of the product or when the association’s insurer will no longer cover any damage caused by the appliance after it exceeds its usable life. For instance, if you had a twenty-year-old hot water heater that failed and flooded your neighbor’s unit, the association would not be able to process a claim because the appliance that failed had not been replaced within the 10 years as required by your association’s maintenance standard. In other words, by not enforcing maintenance standards, the association puts itself at risk of denied insurance claims. That could be far more expensive than the cost of updating appliances, not to mention the reduced potential for damage to all units because of such a program. Hope that explanation helps. All the best!

Snow Removal Responsibility for Condo Limited Common Elements

B.P. from Pennsylvania writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condominium HOA. Our documents state that the association is responsible for snow removal in common areas. It specifically excludes driveways, but what about limited common areas such as porches and steps? About half of the units are townhouse types. Do these owners need coverage for accidents that may occur on areas that are not association responsibility?

Mister Condo replies:

B.P., just as your documents define the responsibility of the association with regards to snow removal from the common areas, they likely pass the responsibility of limited common areas to either the owners or the association. If the documents are silent on the subject, the association might want to think about adding clarification for lots of reasons. First and foremost is safety. Regardless of who owns the porches and steps, they need to be kept clear so no injuries occur. As bad as the injuries may be, the resultant lawsuits that will likely follow can be devastating to the association. In my opinion, it makes sense for the association to take on the additional responsibility (and cost) of snow removal. That may cause a slight increase to common fees to cover the increased snow removal expense but it will assure that all was done to keep the porches and steps clear, this reducing the risk of injury and lawsuit to the association. As for the potential liability to homeowners, it is the same risk any homeowner has. If someone gets hurt on your property, you should have insurance to protect yourself. All the best!

Condo Dryer Vent Aimed at Neighbor’s Window and Deck

A.G. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My neighbor’s dryer vent blows onto my deck, heating my personal outside area. My dog can’t go outside, my kids can’t play, and I can’t even open my bedroom window or leave my sliding glass doors open, because the hot air from their dryer blows inside. Other condos have their dryers venting into the alley, but my neighbor won’t do it. What can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

A.G., I am sorry for your problem and I am sorry that your neighbor doesn’t seem to want to work with you to solve the problem. The first question I have for you is if the neighbor’s dryer vent was designed that way or if it was modified over the years? Since others have vents that blow into an alley, it seems strange that this vent is aimed at your “space”. You do have the right to enjoyment of your unit and that should include having your windows open and use of your deck. I would complain to the Board about the dryer vent invading your space and preventing you from enjoying your unit and see if they won’t intervene on your behalf. If they won’t help and your neighbor is unwilling to modify the direction of the vent, you might just want to speak with an attorney to see what, if any, legal options you have. I would think you could sue the association for not protecting your right to peaceable enjoyment of your unit. I hope it doesn’t come to that but you should make sure you and your family can enjoy your unit. Good luck!

Condo Association Door Threshold Replacement Creates Unit Owner Leak

A.M. from Philadelphia writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The condo association had a project to repair balcony supports and to do water-proofing around balcony doors. My doors opened and closed and had no evidence of leaking prior to the condo’s project (you know where this is going!) After the project, my condo had a leak in door frame and one of the doors no longer opens. The condo responded by saying, “The existing doors have to be removed in order for the contractor to install their balcony waterproofing membrane. Once the doors were removed by the contractor, most if not all of the door threshold frames collapse due to long term water rot. The Association Engineering Firm directed the contractor to reinstall the doors ‘as is’ condition, but most of the doors will not operate due to the water rot. Since the doors are the responsibility of the owners (part of the unit) the Owners will have to replace the doors. The Building mock-up contains composite trim around the doors that is removable and provides easy door replacement without damaging the new stucco sealants and coating.” 

How is it possible that the condo association has no responsibility? I don’t dispute that the doors are part of the unit, but how do I know if the door threshold frames are part of the doors or part of the common elements? Of course, the lion-share of the cost is not these threshold frames themselves, but the labor to remove and reinstall!

Mister Condo replies:

A.M., I am sorry for your predicament. You had doors that were working perfectly well and now they aren’t and all because the association was doing preventative maintenance. Yes, you are now out of pocket the additional money for the labor to repair the door seal. While that is unfortunate, you should be thankful that the association is handling the bigger project here, which is the maintenance of the commonly owned threshold frames. This may or may not be outlined in your governance documents but it would appear that the Board is most certainly under the impression that it is their duty to maintain the threshold frames. As the Board has stated, and I would agree, they returned to doors to “as is” condition, which is their prerogative. I might suggest that you ask them if there is an option for you to offer to pay the contractor to reseal your doors the next time they undertake such a project. My guess is that would be quite some time in the future. Good luck!