Category Archives: Governance

Condo Deck Spalling Project Creates Additional Unit Owner Expense

M.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If the condo HOA has contracted with a firm, using funds from an assessment, to do spalling on your deck, is the condo owner responsible for paying for tile removal and replacement and also a sliding glass door replacement they say needs to be removed to do the spalling?

Mister Condo replies:

M.M., that is a tricky question. My gut instinct is to say that the unit owner is responsible for those items that the unit owner owns and the association is responsible for any common elements that it owns. In the case of a deck and spalling, my question is who owns the tiles? Are they your tiles (installed by you or a previous owner)? If so, it is likely that you own the tiles and would have to pay for the replacement. Who owns the slider? Again, that is typically unit owner responsibility but your documents may state otherwise. My best advice is for you to review your documents and see who owns what. If the documents are silent on the subject, you might ask neighbors who have faced a similar situation how it was handled previously. My best guess is that you will be responsible for the tiles and the slider. On the upside, you will have beautiful new deck spalling, tiles and a slider to come and go to enjoy your deck. All the best!

Condo Insurance Check Issued to Unit Owner for Building Damage

S.F. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Insurance check for house damage was made payable to a condo owner, who is the brother of the president of the condo association. Why did the insurance company allow this? Check amount was substantial, for several thousand dollars.

Mister Condo replies:

S.F., there are a few reasons that the condo owner was reimbursed directly for an insurance claim. For starters, the policy holder typically designates the payee. Was this entirely association-owned insurance or was it homeowner’s insurance as well? Typically, the homeowner gets paid for claims made against their own policy. If the damage had already been repaired by the homeowner, the check may have been for reimbursement. A typical association claim for exterior building damage would go to the association, who would then hire the contractor to repair the exterior building damage. It the damage were internal (water damage for instance) and the association’s insurance were covering that damage, it would not be uncommon for the payment to go directly to the homeowner.

Keep in mind that insurance claims are also records of the association. As such, you have the right to inspect the claim. If you think foul play is afoot, I would suggest you review the paperwork to determine why the payment went to the owner and not the association. Good luck!

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!

Responsibility for Condo Construction Defect 30 Years After Developer Control

P.Z. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

During window and door replacement in my condo, built in 1988, it was discovered that there was about 18″ of insulation missing from the walls directly above the windows. It was corrected during the install of the windows. Is the association responsible to compensate me for the expense of properly insulating the space above the doors and windows? The property manager says no, but I think otherwise. What’s your take, please?

Mister Condo replies:

P.Z., in a perfect world, the missing insulation would have been the responsibility of the builder and would have been considered a building defect if uncovered back in 1988. However, that is impractical, if not impossible. In theory, the association takes over after the developer is through (the developer transition period) and assumes full responsibility for all of the common elements. The question now is whether or not the insulation is considered a common element or part of the window. I agree with you and would argue it is a common element where a building defect has been found. However, the association is likely to argue that they are not under any obligation to pay for a hidden item like this because they had no way of knowing there was an underlying defect and they have no recourse with the developer at this late date. That brings us to the practical element of this repair. I can’t imagine it was very expensive. Do you really want to complicate matters by suing the association for the repair? If the dollars justify a lawsuit and/or you feel strongly on this matter, you should speak to a locally qualified attorney to see if you have a case, or you may bring the matter to Small Claims court depending on the dollar amount. If it was $500 or less to insulate the area around the window, I think I would just pay it and move on. The culprit was the developer back in 1988. He made a mistake and was never held accountable for it during the time when he could have been. All the best!

Can the Condo Board Require Visitor Sign In?

M.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Does a condominium board have the right to make my visitors sign in and out at the concierge desk even when I say I do not want this?

Mister Condo replies:

M.T., yes, the association has the right to know who is on the property. Even though you own your unit, you do not own the common grounds, which are subject to the rules and regulations of the association, which is governed by your Board. Many associations require not only names but also vehicle information of visitors. Condominium associations are not public property. The association has a right, and often a need, to know who is on the property and for what purpose. All the best!

Are All Condominium and HOA Documents the Same Regarding Common Elements?

J.J. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi Bob, I just listened to the podcast about the alligator in the condo fountain (http://askmistercondo.com/alligator-in-the-condo-fountain/)! I have a question that I am hoping you can answer. But, a little on me. I have been involved in the community association maintenance business since 1978, with the last 17 years as a general contractor specializing in condo buildings repair and capital improvements. I have worked for various management companies over the years. Some good and some not good. My question is I understand the laws have changed some years back in regards what the association is responsible for as far as maintenance. When I started, I learned the association covered to the drywall. Now. I am hearing the association covers a lot more inside the unit. I ask managers and no one either knows or won’t give me a straight answer. Can you help so I may service my associations with correct knowledge?

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., the answer literally varies from association to association so there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer. Additionally, I know of some associations that have modified their rules based on “how we’ve always done it” situations, regardless of what their governing documents say. Also, we have a few different types of common interest communities operating in our state and each has their own peculiarities. Condominiums are the most common and your explanation of from the walls in is quite common to describe what the unit owner is responsible for. Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) are also common in our state and often have the same type of rules. Cooperatives (coops) are also plentiful and have similar but not exactly the same rules. Homeowners or Property Owners Associations (HOAs and POAs) are also common but seldom get into the unit interiors. These groups are typically about architectural conformity and shared common amenities (a clubhouse, pool, beach, etc.) Within each of these groups are additional subsets (Adult Communities, 55 and over, Assisted Living, and so on). As you can imagine, each has their own set of governing documents and each has their own specifics on who owns and maintain which elements.

As a contractor to an association, you are going to handle the work assigned to you by the association. You should ask the association where the association responsibility ends and the unit owner responsibility begins. Short of you taking the time to read all of their governance documents, you would have to operate under the assumption that they know what they are talking about. If you complete their work order, and they pay you for your work, it is of no concern to you if they need to then bill an individual unit owner for work you did on their behalf. If they are asking you to bill a unit owner for work you performed at their request, I would ask them to change that arrangement for the sake of your business relationship with the association. You know the association will pay you for work you have contracted with them. You have no way of knowing if a unit owner is going to pay you for work done to their unit at the association’s request. After all, they didn’t hire you. I know haven’t given you a “cut and dry” answer here but that is the nature of the industry. Keep doing the great work you’ve been doing and I am sure the issues of responsibility for maintenance will work itself out, association by association. Good luck!

Purchase of Lien and Foreclosure Rights on Delinquent Condo Owner

S.A. from South Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can an individual purchase the lien and foreclosure rights on a delinquent condo unit? Second, is there a situation where a condo association can foreclose and take possession without going through the auction process? The unit in question has no mortgage and the owners have abandoned the unit. Sorry, one more question, is it the responsibility of the Association to keep the electric on if the unit is abandoned, to protect the neighbors from mold. This is a South Florida condo association.

Mister Condo replies:

S.A., those are all great questions. As you know I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. You should likely check with one of the many fine community association law forms in your state before taking any actions listed in your question. Let me offer the following friendly advice. Delinquent condo owners, even those who abandon their units have rights, both from the association’s governing documents and state law. If the unit owner is amenable to any of the methods of disposal for their unit as you have outlined, I can’t imagine there being a problem. However, it doesn’t sound like the unit owners are even around to agree with any proposed disposal of their unit. This is where the lawsuits typically begin and the process of foreclosure gets under way. Typically, a unit owner would offer a defense to the action of foreclosure. However, if the legal papers are served and they choose to simply ignore them, the process continues. If the association follows the law, there should be no problem. As far as an individual purchasing the lien and foreclosure rights in order to take possession of the unit, I would personally have a problem with that. The association is the aggrieved party. They should be the recipients of the proceeds from proper resolution of this matter. However, I am not aware of any law that forbids this. Once again, I would suggest speaking with the association attorney about the legality and proper filings. If the attorney says “yes” and you have a willing and able buyer, I would think it would expedite the process and save the association a good bit of time and money. They key to either of these transactions is making sure the association doesn’t violate any of the unit owner’s rights. Otherwise, multiple lawsuits could ensue. Please check with the association attorney before taking any action.

As for the electric that the association needs to decide whether or not to keep on, my guess is that they should be able to charge back the cost of any electric to the unit and make it part of the lien. Again, the expense of the electric service likely outweighs the potential damage that could be caused by mild so the best business judgment rule should allow the association to make that decision. Even if they can’t collect on the electric cost, that amount should be paltry in the overall scheme of things. All the best!

New Jersey Condo Board Not Holding Elections

J.B. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

  1. Our Condo Board meets in a conference room in local town hall. The meeting is open to all condo owners. Is it possible to have the Board Meeting in Skype or conference call instead of meeting in person? Will it meet the NJ Condominium Act requirement of “All meetings at which a board takes a binding vote are required by law to be open to all owners and advance written notice of such meetings must be given as provided by law.”
  2. Some of our Condo Association Board Members have continued without any election for years. Is that legally allowed? No election notices were sent out, they just continued on for years. Can other members who got elected request for an election? If yes, how do we do it?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., “without any election for years”!!! I have never heard of that in a functioning condominium. Surely, your governance documents call for an Annual Meeting and a proper election process for Board members. Adding Skype to your Board meetings is the least of your worries right now!

I am not an attorney nor am I an expert in New Jersey Community Association Law, J.B., so please accept my advice as friendly. If you require a legal opinion, you will need to seek out a local attorney. That being said, let’s start with your governance documents with regards to election of officers. Typically, the condo docs require a minimum of one Annual Meeting per year. This is also done to satisfy most states’ Corporation laws that require an Annual Meeting of Shareholders be held to conduct corporation business. Your condo is a corporation, albeit a non-profit one, but a corporation nonetheless. At the Annual Meeting, a few pieces of business must happen. Perhaps the single most important is the adoption of the Annual Budget for the upcoming year. The second is to hold the election for officers. Now if there are no new candidates to select from, it is quite possible that a single vote is cast returning the Board members up for reelection to another term. Terms can vary but are typically one, two, or three years. The Board also has the ability to appoint Board members in the case of vacancy. However, it is done, there needs to be Minutes of the meeting to reflect the action. As a unit owner, you have the right to inspect Minutes once they are approved by the Board. In other words, you can go back and look at the election records for your association. If you can’t find any, you have a problem. My guess is that these folks have run unopposed for many election cycles and have simply continued to serve. If that is not the case, you would be wise to insist that elections are held at the next Annual Meeting or sooner if the situation merits it.

Whether a meeting is held in person or via conference call or Skype, the same rules apply as if the meeting were held in the real world. I know of many associations that have adopted technology advances like Skype to their meetings. However, just like any meeting of the Board, there must be minutes and the meeting must be made available to all unit owners, even if they are required to be muted during the meeting, they have the right to observe. The use of technology does not dissolve the burden of advance notice and all unit owners should be given notice of upcoming meetings in accordance with law.

Hope that helps. All the best!

Condo Parking Space Yanked Without Notice

D.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When I purchased my condo ten year ago it included assigned parking which was the original owner’s parking (in front of the unit). The association has since started renting units. Two weeks ago, I came home only to find a new renter was given my assigned spot! Can they just take my parking without notification or justification? The assigned parking was written in my purchase documents.

Mister Condo replies:

D.B., I am sorry for your worries. Without seeing the documentation for the assigned parking, I have to assume that the association owns the parking lot and that your parking space is not deeded (actually a part of the deed, this is not that common). That being said, the Board controls the parking lot and the assignment of the parking spaces. Clearly, you do not agree with what they have done with the parking but, seeing as you do not own the parking space, you do need to abide by the Board’s decision. However, you do not need to reelect any of the Board members who have so callously stripped you of your assigned parking space without as much as a notification. Your purchase documents will not likely help your cause. Electing better thinking and acting Board members will. Good luck!

What is a “Reasonable” Amount of Time for A Condo Record Request Inspection?

L.L. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How long should I wait to view my condominiums financial records? I requested to see them 6 business days ago.

Mister Condo replies:

L.L., as a unit owner you have the right to inspect just about all of your association’s records, including the financial records. Typically, the records need to be available during normal business hours or within a “reasonable” time. That is where the real answer to your question lies. What you consider “reasonable” and what the keeper of your records considers “reasonable” may vary so the key is likely for you to remain vigilant but patient. If the record keeper fails to provide you with access, your recourse is to sue. I am not an attorney nor do I offer any legal advice in this column. My friendly advice is to ask again and ask what the association considers as a “reasonable” amount of time to honor the request. My guess is you’ll get access to the records when the other party is available to accommodate your request. Keep in mind the records are owned by the association. If you wish photocopies, you may be charged for the service as well as a small fee for the employee’s time for assisting you. Good luck!