Category Archives: Governance

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.

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!

Aggressive Dog Worries Condo Board

K.D. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What is the procedure if an owner has an aggressive dog on property. Do we have to wait for an incident before having the animal removed?

Mister Condo replies:

K.D., I am sorry that you have an aggressive dog housed within your condo. “Aggressive” is a subjective term so it is quite difficult for me to give you an answer you can put into action. Start with your current by-laws and see what they say about pet restrictions. There are usually rules about noise (barking), which is typical with an aggressive canine, and limitation of size. Smaller dogs are not typically considered a threat or classified as “aggressive”. You can also check with your local animal control officer to discuss any local ordinances that are designed to protect residents. Other than that, unless there is an attack made by this dog on a unit owner, guest, or other animal on property, there may be no rules or laws that are being broken. Good luck!

Condo Association Recordkeeping Requirements on Previous Owners and Renters

P.S. from Illinois writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How long must a condo association keep files/paperwork of owners and renters who have moved out of the building? Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

P.S., all association records in your state must be kept a minimum of 7 years. However, unless it is unreasonable to do so, many attorneys would recommend holding onto them forever as the condo association is a business corporation and prefer to keep their records in perpetuity, even if it means warehousing them after seven years. It really depends on your documentation requirements for owners and renters. Most associations do require records of who is currently living in their association, making these records association records subject to the seven-year recordkeeping requirement. For a proper legal answer to your question, ask the association’s attorney. They will give you a proper legal answer to your question. 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!

Condo Owner Paying for Common Area Heat!

D.F. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

In my condo my heat vents are in a dropped ceiling that runs down my hallway. There is also a heat vent that is in my ceiling that goes to a common area that’s not part of my heating system. Every time I turn on my heater I’m heating the common area because of this vent that’s never used my heat system heats up this vent and leaks into a large common area. What can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

D.F., if you are paying for your own heat and own the vents in your unit, you may be able to have an HVAC technician take a look at your vents and see if they can be vented only into your unit. If the ductwork is owned by the association, there may be little you can do other than to alert the Board to the situation and see if they are willing to allow modification of the ductwork so you are not paying to heat a common area. It is uncommon, but not unheard of, that a single unit owner would be responsible for heating a common area. What if you turned off your heat? How would the common area be heated. This sounds to me like a bit of an HVAC engineering problem that will likely take some coordination between you and the Board to resolve. Good luck!

Problems Galore for this Condo Owner

M.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Where I live has had nothing but issues for years with the Home Owner’s Association and the Management Companies they’ve hired! We now have a new Management Company that is well-known and established, but it appears many things are still not being conducted financially correct for our Association! The last team we had was caught embezzling, that’s right both Home Owner’s Association Board Member and Management Company. They settled! But that didn’t help the problems of twenty years of disrepair! One said person that was on the “Home Owner’s is actually still on the board, and is a Broker! How he kept his license I’ll never know, but what gets me the most, do the homeowners think this person has changed his stripes? We also have a “Security Guard” that’s been here for over twenty-five years! Yes, the very same one! He doesn’t follow the by-laws, he knew all about the embezzlement, doesn’t do a thing to protect this property, but the residents that have lived here the longest feel a kinship to him!?#/! You want someone that’s trustable, dependable, reliable, most definitely follows the by-laws of the Association!  Our pools are to close at 11pm, open at 7am, that’s never happened in the 17 years that I’ve been here! If the Security even locks up at night, it’s somewhere after between 11:30 forward, and opens the gates anywhere after 2:00am through 3:30am! Depends on his last drive by. This Security Guard actually went almost a year without locking our pool’s!  I guess he wanted to see how long he could get away without doing anything! He’s still here! Don’t most Association change Security Company’s every, at least five years? We have 400 units… (Editor’s note, this question has been shortened) What can we do?

Mister Condo replies:

M.S., I am sorry that living in this community association has given rise to so many problems for you. I had to truncate your letter because it got far too specific with details and complaints that I couldn’t possibly address them all. Let me say this to try and give you some closure on what you have seen transpire and how you might better enjoy the experience moving forward. Volunteer leaders are democratically elected from within your very community to serve on the Board and conduct the business of the association as outlined in your community governance documents. They don’t always behave as you would like and you have the power to vote them out of office every year at your Annual Meeting. Wrongdoing, such as stealing or embezzlement is a special situation and it sounds like the association took proper action against the offenders. Agreeing to settle was their prerogative. Hiring a security company and maintaining the contract for many years is also their decision. Almost every complaint you had against the association came from you not agreeing with how they run the association. Unless other unit owners agree with you and elect different leaders, nothing will change. The management company works for the Board. Changing companies will not change the results. All communities are different by the nature of who lives there and who makes up the Board. If the Board where you live is lack in their duties and the association continues to return them to office, then it is fair to say that they are doing the business of the community as the community would like it. Have you ever run for the Board? Have you ever discussed the shortcomings of the Board to other unit owners to see if they share your concerns? That would be the only way to effect any change at your association. Short of that, your only other real option would be to sell and move into an association that has a reputation for stricter enforcement of its covenants. I think that would make you the happiest. Good luck!

Condo Owners Question Ejection Pump Ownership

K.M. from Chicago writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We live in a 4-flat in Chicago. Inside the garden unit is an ejector pump with a battery backup. It is located behind a panel, in a closet. The pump is quite old & needs replacing as do the batteries. The question is, who pays for these items? Are they considered “limited common areas”? Many thanks!

Mister Condo replies:

K.M., since the ejector pump was likely a part of the original condo or conversion, it is likely addressed in the condo governing docs. If not, it is open to interpretation but I think it is fair to assume all 4 units benefit from the proper functioning of the ejector pump so it would be best to treat it as a common element, limited or otherwise. The unit owner of the unit that houses access to the panel would need to provide access to the association as needed. In most small condos like yours, the unit owner himself would simply replace the batteries as needed, provide a receipt for the batteries and seek reimbursement from the association. If the unit needs to be replaced, the association would likely hire a contractor to perform the work and the unit owner would simply provide the access. Hope that helps.

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!

Condo Association Evicts Dog Owner After 5 Years!

K.V. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’ve been living in my condo for over 5 years. The association has never ever enforced the no dog over 20-pounds rule the entire time. Now I have an eviction notice on my door. Are they able to do that? Can they now kick me out for my dog? I’ve had her there for 5 years. I would have never moved in if I knew this would happen. 5 years!!!! Not one word about it being against the rules.

Mister Condo replies:

K.V., I am truly sorry for your problems. Just because the association chose not to enforce a rule doesn’t mean they can’t enforce a rule. What they do have to do is enforce the rule evenly (not just against you) and they have to follow the rules for notifying you of the violation, giving you an opportunity to contest the violation, make sure your dog is not an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), etc.. If they have done all of those things and your by-laws allow then to evict you and/or your dog, then they may be well within their rights. If you have not already done so, you should most certainly hire an attorney to protect your rights. Eviction is usually an extreme measure and a very legal procedure. It should not begin with a notice on your door. There are many more steps than that in the process. You can and should fight back. Whether or not you will prevail depends on the association’s governance documents and your local laws. All the best!