Category Archives: Governance

Police Officer Resident Requests Special Condo Parking Arrangement

L.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We live in a complex and my husband has a take home police vehicle. Is it proper to ask the Association for a police vehicle only parking sign for his vehicle that way he has access to it and it is visible to him outside of the condo? There is no assigned parking.

Mister Condo replies:

L.L., you can certainly ask but I see no reason for the Board to grant such a request. While I am sure the association appreciates the presence of a police vehicle on property to deter thieves, the reality is that this is just another association member’s vehicle. It is not on the association grounds at the association’s request. If keeping the vehicle visible to him is a requirement for him domiciling the vehicle then I would suggest a condo with unassigned parking is not an ideal place to live. That being said, I would include the added safety the community receives from having a police officer as a resident and explain that it would be ideal for the vehicle to be parked within eyeshot of your unit. The problem faced by the Board is that once they grant your accommodation, they will very likely be swamped with similar requests from other unit owners. The beauty of unassigned parking is that it doesn’t have to be managed by the Board. Once it is assigned, unit owners now have reason to complain that a fellow unit owner has parked in “their” space. If it were me, I would respectfully deny the request. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask. I am just trying to explain why the Board may deny you. All the best!

How Does the Condo Know How Much to Keep in Reserves?

B.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What is a good process to determine the amount to be kept in reserves and set assessments?

Mister Condo replies:

B.B., there is only one tried and tested process to determine the amount to be kept in Reserves and set assessments and that is the implementation and adherence to a Reserve Study. There are many companies that specialize in this service but associations that wish to save money and have the confidence they can do it right can even do it themselves. The concept is simple. The minute the first common element is added to the association, it begins to age and decay. Some go quickly, some take decades, they will all need to be replaced and have a known useful life. The Reserve Study looks at the cost of the common elements and uses a formula to determine the likely cost at the age of replacement. Obviously, it cannot be an exact number but I think you will find these studies, when performed properly, are surprisingly accurate. Once the study is performed, a funding plan is put in place. As long as the funding plan is adhered to, there should always be enough money in the Reserve fund to handle these known upcoming expenses as they come do. Additionally, the association benefits from accruing interest on these funds which tend to help offset inflation. I wish you and your association the wisdom of Solomon in determining and adhering to your Reserve Study findings. Good luck!

How Many Condo Proxy Votes Can One Person Make?

J.R. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How many proxy votes can one person control and place?

Mister Condo replies:

J.R., voting by proxy is a common practice. The rules that govern how many proxy votes that a single person can control vary by governing documents (many are silent on the subject) and state laws. In my state of Connecticut, proxy votes are generally limited to not more than 15% of the total eligible votes for most matters. That means that if an association has 100 units, the proxy voter could cast votes for their own unit plus 14 others. Any additional proxy votes they held would not be counted. There is also the concept of limited proxy voting, meaning a unit owner has given another unit owner a proxy for a particular item. This is most common for things like voting in favor or against an Annual Budget or a Special Assessment. The single most important item to consider when proxy votes are used is that the person or persons counting the proxy votes understands both the association’s rules on proxy voting as well as the state laws on proxy voting. I have seen and heard first-hand accounts of associations that get this wrong and later have a unit owner contest the results of a vote. Depending on what is being voted on, this could be quite costly to the association. Imagine passing a Special Assessment and the proxy votes were tabulated incorrectly. The association hires a contractor only to have the vote challenged and thrown away. Now the association is on the hook to the contactor and won’t have the money to pay. Yikes! If you or your association is unsure about the exact process for how proxy votes should be used at your association, I recommend you speak with a locally qualified community association attorney who can give you an opinion on what your governance documents and state law say about the matter. That way, you will be in full compliance with both. Good luck!

No Formal Condo Association Leads to Informal Roof Problem

M.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own a condo in a converted 1860-era house. I have the first floor and upstairs neighbor has 2nd and 3rd. We don’t have a formal association. We just split shared expenses 60/40 (I’m 40). It has worked fine but now there is an issue. We desperately need a new roof. But they keep stalling and finally have come clean that they don’t have the money. What recourse do I have?

Mister Condo replies:

M.L., if you have a condo agreement as part of your purchase agreement, you have a formal association. You and your fellow owner just haven’t been following it, which is fairly common in your two-unit condo. You are about to learn first-hand what happens when one of the unit owners doesn’t have the money for the needed repair and it isn’t pretty. The short-term answer is that unless these folks agree to pony up the money for the new roof, you’re not going to get a new roof. The long-term solution is that you will likely need to sue in order to get them to pay. Since they aren’t likely to do that, they may need to look into other options like mortgaging (unlikely) or selling (ideal). This could take years and you still won’t have a new roof until a new buyer is found who is willing to not only buy their portion of the condo but also pony up 60% of the expense of a new roof. One other option you may have is for you to pay for the new roof and hit them up with a lien for their portion of the roof. You will need an attorney to draw up the papers, which will have to be in compliance with your condo’s governing documents as well. As you can see, this is a most unfortunate event for all involved. There is one other option I didn’t mention and that is for you to sell and make this someone else’s problem. I don’t know if that is an option for you but I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to get out of this potential money pit if given the opportunity. All the best!

Criminal Record May Keep Potential Condo Owner Out of Association

J.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Should I discuss my personal background history with an association member before I decide to place a bid on a unit? I want to be honest and not hide anything or make it be a surprise when they run my background check. I have somewhat of a low credit score according to association approval guidelines, but not that low from what they are looking for as a requirement. In addition, I have a criminal record that is pending and it will soon be dismissed. I am not a murderer nor am I a pedophile. I just took the wrap for my son’s wrongdoing to protect him and now I am feeling and paying the consequences of my actions. However, I do not regret doing what I did for the sake of my son. Your thoughts and answers are appreciated. It just hinders me trying to get approved by an association. Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

J.L., I think discussing those issues that will surface in your background check is a double-edged sword. If the association member that you are telling is a friendly ear and will advocate on your behalf after the background check is complete and the Evaluation Committee or Board will determine your eligibility to enter the community, then I think explaining your situation in advance is a good idea. If the association member is not going to be able to advocate for you, then why bother? The credit check will show that you are eligible from what you have told me. That is very important. The criminal background check is another story and may very well be the reason you are turned down if the decision goes that way. Regardless of your reasons, you now have a criminal history. You may be able to explain it to the Board’s satisfaction but they are the ones who are accountable to the other community members who expect the Board to protect them from criminals entering their association. Keep in mind that these folks are not criminal law experts. They will simple interpret the data and make a decision. They were elected by their fellow unit owners to follow the protocols outlined by the association’s governing documents, no more, no less. If your background makes you ineligible to enter the community, they really have no right admitting you. I hope it goes your way but I am skeptical. All the best!

Condo President Refuses to Relinquish Association Checkbook

T.C. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We recently changed management companies because they violated CT laws. Our President dragged his foot for 4 months before receiving a letter from the state ordering us to change companies. He was given the check book until we found a company. We found a company and he refuses to turn over the check book. Is this legal?

Mister Condo replies:

T.C., I am not an attorney and offer no legal opinions here. If you are asking me what I think of the President holding on to the checkbook and refusing to turn it over to the management company, I would say that is not a very friendly gesture and not stepping off on the right foot with the new management company. Is it criminal? Not in my book but it isn’t very sportsmanlike either. The great news is that your Board President can be voted out of office at the next Annual Meeting. Why don’t you and a group of like-minded unit owners volunteer to serve on the Board? That way, after you are elected, you can determine who will hold the various offices of the Board. If, on the other hand, the Board President has held the checkbook because there is evidence of missing money or such in there, and he has done something criminal, it is time to call the police. Stealing from the association is a crime. Work with your new management company to see what, if any, wrongdoing has occurred. If there is no harm, there is no foul. Either way, it sounds like it is time for a Board President who will act in the best interest of the association. Good luck!

Condo Board Seeks Solution to No Money for the New Roof

P.B. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My Board wants to get a new roof. They set up a meeting for owners to vote on whether to take a 250K loan or not. At the meeting an attorney hired by the board to do the closing showed up and was practically running the meeting and trying to convince owners to give approval for the loan. I objected on the grounds that it was a conflict of interest to have the attorney there running the meeting since no vote was taken and not enough owners showed up for the meeting. Now the attorney instructed the board to go door to door to get proxies filled out. Is that ok?

Mister Condo replies:

P.B., not only is that OK, it may be the only way to get the necessary votes for the loan so the new roof can be purchased. HOA loans or Special Assessments are rarely needed by community associations that plan for the future and build a proper level of Reserves to handle something as common as a roof replacement. But, as is too often the case, the desire to keep common fees low wins the battle for fiscal responsibility. The end result is no money in the Reserves when needed. In this case, the Board has decided to seek out an HOA loan. The reason the attorney is needed is that it is very common that the association’s governing documents do not allow for the Board to take out a loan on behalf of the association. The proxy votes are the Board’s attempt to get the authority to negotiate the loan and obligate the association to the repayment of the loan, which is required from the bank before the loan is granted. As you can see, it often plays out as a comedy of errors before the final vote is taken and the money is loaned. The real question is how will you support the association moving forward? Will you be the one to suggest that common fees are raised 15%, 20%, 25% higher than they are right now? Will you be the one to insist that the association build a proper Reserve Fund and that Reserve Study be conducted so that a proper level of funding can be achieved? Without support for the unit owners, the Board’s hands are tied. If you need a new roof, the money will need to come from somewhere and that somewhere is the unit owners. Whether it comes in the form of a loan, a Special Assessment, an increase in common fees or a combination of any of the three, the unit owners will pay. Good luck!

Condo Management Company Charging Statement fee to Unit Owners

M.N. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo association recently hired a new management company. For the first time in history I was late on a monthly HOA fee and was charged a late fee of $15 and a statement fee of $5. The management company nicely waived the late fee since my check crossed in the mail but refused to waive the statement fee. I told them I want to opt-out of paper statements and they told me they only mail statements. Is it lawful to charge me $5.00 per statement?

Mister Condo replies:

M.N, yes, it is lawful for them to charge you a statement fee. The Board hired the new management company and should have been made aware of the fees and practices of the firm. The late fee was waived but that would have gone to the association’s coiffeurs. The statement fee goes directly to the management company and is a cost of doing business with them that your Board agreed to. If you are unhappy, you need to complain to the Board and ask them to either renegotiate with the management company to have the statement fee removed (unlikely) or find a management company that doesn’t charge a statement fee when their contract comes up for renewal. Or you could just pay the $5.00 statement fee and realize that it is part of how this management company collects its revenues from your association. All the best!

Why Should Condos Implement Maintenance Standards?

R.P. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Why should Condo’s implement Maintenance Standards?

Mister Condo replies:

R.P., there are a myriad of reasons that condo associations should implement Maintenance Standards. First and foremost is to limit the association’s liabilities. Things that routinely wear down and break like water supply lines can cause a great deal of damage which is easily minimized or prevented with Maintenance Standards. Secondarily, many insurers require these standards to be in place or the insurer will not cover the resultant damage. That could lead to huge out of pocket expenses for both associations and unit owners. Finally, many Maintenance Standards provide greater safety and peace of mind for all unit owners and residents. Who doesn’t want that?

Rattling in Ceiling Likely to be Association Responsibility

L.S. from Tolland County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo has these metal strips above my ceiling sheetrock. When the tenant above me walks around, the squeaking noise is so bad – it is unbearable. The condo association is not taking responsibility for this – it is in many of the units at the complex. Being that it is above my ceiling – wouldn’t that be considered structural? I am being told that I have to remove my ceilings – HELP

Mister Condo replies:

L.S., I am sorry for your noisy ceiling problems. Seeing as the condo association did not actually build your unit (a developer did that a long time ago in all likelihood) your squeaking was very likely a pre-existing condition to your unit before you purchased. That doesn’t make it right or better but it may explain your association’s attitude towards your noise complaint. The way I see it, you have a few options here. First off, I am not an attorney and you should very likely speak to one to see if you have a case for a structural defect that would put the association on the hook for the remediation. Since you know of several other unit owners having the same problem, you might be able to join forces and sue the association and force them to take action. They may have a lawsuit against the developer or they may have insurance that would help them pay for it. Or, they may have to issue a Special Assessment to pay for the repairs if they are found liable. Keep in mind that you and your fellow unit owners will be the ones paying for these repairs in that situation but the expense will be equally shared by all unit owners, even those unaffected by the problem. Have you looked into the cost of removing your ceilings? Will your insurance help mitigate the cost? While I am in agreement with you that this is an association problem, if it is a cheap fix, you might want to tackle it yourself just to get some peace and quiet. This isn’t ideal but may prove more practical than the cost and time of a lawsuit. Finally, your other solution would be to simply sell and move. Again, not ideal, but it gets rid of your problem. However you finally solve this this noisy problem, I wish you all the best. Good luck!