Category Archives: Governance

Young Couple Seeks Entry Into 55+ Condo Community

S.M. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are a young couple interested in a condo that at the moment is not an over 55 age restricted community, but the tenants are trying to make it a 55+ community. If we purchase the condo now, and it becomes a 55+community later, what does it mean for us? We live in Florida. Thanks.

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., I would recommend that you speak with a local attorney about what would happen to you if the community decided to become a 55+ association. I am not an attorney so I cannot offer you legal advice. From a practical standpoint, I am not sure why you, as a young couple, would want to live in an age-restricted community. I am going to assume that once you are an owner, any rule or covenant changes such as becoming age-restricted are subject to “grandfathering” of current unit owners, meaning you wouldn’t be forced out of your home just because the age restriction went into place. The bigger challenge for the association may be adhering to Florida’s 80/20 rule which basically states that 80% of the units must be occupied by a person of the stated age group. There are a few other requirements as well, which you can read about in this excellent blog article: http://www.floridacondohoalawblog.com/2010/04/01/55-over-housing-what-is-the-8020-rule/ The bottom line is whether or not you will find life in a 55+ community to your liking. If you think it is the lifestyle you want and there are currently no restrictions in place, you may be just fine in making your purchase. However, you might also consider nearby community associations without these restrictions as you find the lifestyle there more compatible to folks in your age group. Whatever you decide, I wish you an enjoyable new home

When is a Condo Guest More than a Guest?

S.W. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Florida condo provides parking sticker for unit owner that lives in unit plus 2 guest passes. My son visits 3 days a week & stays overnight & hangs the permanent guest pass. Board wants him to lie in tenant form that he lives in unit & pays rent. By laws / condo docs state guest can park for a limit is 30 days, for a period of 4 months, except for family members. Board member stated the car will be towed if just using a guest pass. He is my son, therefore a family member & we do not falsify written documents. What are my rights? Also, sometimes I drive his car that is also registered to me.

Mister Condo replies:

S.W., I am sorry you find yourself at odds with your association over your son’s car. You should not be asked to falsify documents but you should also respect the rules of the association. Obviously, the association feels as though your son’s car being on property so frequently is a violation of the rules. You don’t feel that way so there is a disagreement between you and the association over the interpretation of the rules. Let’s start with the premise that you own both cars and want to keep them parked on association grounds. If what you have told me is correct, that isn’t allowed. You get one parking sticker per unit and that is being used for your car. You also get two guest passes that were designed for the specific use of short-term visiting guests. The association has very specific rules on what defines a guest. I can’t tell you specifically how to interpret those rules because you end the statement with “except for family members”, which clearly your son is. What are the rules for family members? Is there a form to fill out indicating that he is a family member? If so, fill it out and follow the rules for family members. If you continue to use the guest pass and the Board feel you are violating the rules, they may begin to fine you and/or tow his car as they have threatened to do. Many associations have these parking restrictions in place so that unit owners don’t skirt rules about long-term visitors and family members taking vacation within units. My guess is that the association is in the right here but you may wish to seek a legal opinion from a local attorney and see what additional rights you have. It is an unfortunate situation to say the least and I am sure neither you nor your son are seeking to be uncooperative. It would be nice to take a deeper look at your documents to see what you are doing “wrong” in the eyes of the association. If all it takes to satisfy them is filling out a form that says he is a family members and not just another visitor, I would likely advise you to do so. All the best!

Michigan Condo Owner Seeks to Replace Board Members and Access Association Records

J.T. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

This is in the state of Michigan: What percentage of signed owners (in agreement) are needed to release the current board members? And, replace? How does an owner or owners (#) demand to receive current and past (3 years) bills (invoices) for services, including the property management company and accounting?

Mister Condo replies:

J.T., since I am neither an expert in Michigan condo law nor an attorney, I posed your question to a group of friends who do practice community association law in your state. This is not to be construed as legal advice. It is just some friendly advice to guide you on your way. You may wish to seek your own legal opinion and/or hire an attorney to guide you on your path. Here is what my friend had to offer:

In Michigan, the ability to remove a director(s) is typically governed by the association bylaws a/k/a the corporate bylaws. Depending on the age of the governing documents, the condominium bylaws and the association bylaws may be merged into one document. Therefore, the first place to look would be in the association bylaws, which usually has a procedure to remove a director. In addition, most condominium associations are nonprofit corporations and the Michigan Nonprofit Corporation Act also has provisions regarding removing a director. See MCL 450.2511 and MCL 450.2514.

In order to demand current and past bills, the individual would need to send a demand for inspection of records letter. The letter can be sent under the 1) Nonprofit Corporation Act, 2) the Michigan Condominium Act and/or 3) the Condominium Bylaws. As an attorney, my firm routinely handles such requests.

That sounds like solid advice to me, J.T.! All the best!

Upstairs Condo Flooring Creates Downstairs Condo Nightmare

T.A. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can an HOA threaten or sue me to not call or complain about the constant noises from the unit above mine. It’s like hammering or whatnot. They changed their flooring around January or February of last year and it seems like not a minimum adequate sound barrier was put. I’ve had to call the police several times. Now he’s saying I’ve aggressively approached him using profane language. Not true. I’ve approached him civilly twice and the last time I asked him to “please! Stop the noises or I’m going to have to call the police”…he said call them and slammed the door. He’s now “saying in harassing him by calling the police and aggressively threatening him? Whatever the case, I’m in Florida. Can they sue me or threat me to stop calling the police non-emergency number when the noises get unbearable?

Mister Condo replies:

T.A., I am most sorry for your unfortunate predicament. In today’s litigious world, lawsuits abound and just about anyone can sue anyone else for seemingly ridiculous reasons. You and I are no exception so there is always the possibility of a lawsuit. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Let me address the basis of your complaint and what you may be able to do using your rights as a unit owner inside of a condominium. Step 1 is to review your condo documents regarding peaceable enjoyment of your unit. Also, take a good look at what it says about flooring. Many condominiums prohibit the installation of hardwood or laminate or tile flooring in units that reside above other units. If your upstairs neighbor violated that rule by removing carpeting and installing a new floor, this is relatively simple to fix. You write to the Board about the rule violation by your neighbor and the Board will take action to remedy the situation. This will involve the Board, not you, citing the unit owner for the rule violation and the fines they will incur until they remedy the flooring. If your association has no rule about flooring types, you likely have the right to peaceable enjoyment. You are going to write to the Board about the noise emanating from above and the Board should take action. If they don’t and there is no legal remedy available to you, you should consider selling and moving to an association that values peace and quiet. You have an expectation to minimal noise. Living beneath hardwood or other flooring creates a really bad environment for sound intrusion, which is exactly the reason it isn’t allowed in many condos. My guess is that with some proper complaints (in writing, not verbal) to the Board (not your neighbor), you will get the relief you seek. Good luck!

Condo Board Commandeers Unit Owner’s Deeded Parking

E.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our water system needs to be fixed. The Board of the Directors makes a construction project in the garage area. The Management just simply posted that all the vehicles needed to be removed before the starting date of the construction without any meeting. After that certain date, all the materials on the deeded garage would be disposal. Do the Board of the Directors have the right to “order” the garage owners to move away from their deeded parking? Can the garage owners ask for the reimbursement of the maintenance fee during the unused period on the parking space?

Mister Condo replies:

E.M., that is a most unfortunate occurrence of events. It sounds like the Board did not to an adequate job of communicating the needs of the association before the project got underway. Deeded parking is owned by the unit owner, not the association. The association has no more right to simply commandeer your deeded parking than they do to take over neighboring land that they do not own. Compensating you for the use of your parking space may be one remedy available to you. However, suing the Board after the fact may hardly be worth your time or effort. I would make a point of finding out what the Board can and cannot do moving forward so this doesn’t happen again. If all of this work was done to update or maintain the community’s water system, I would think most residents would have willingly given up their parking for the duration of the project as the need for clean water trumps the need for a parking space. However, just as you must observe association rules, the Board must observe unit owner’s rights. I hope you can enter into a meaningful conversation with the Board to make sure they do not traipse all over the rights of unit owners like you when the next project comes up where they may need to store equipment or supplies in privately owned parking spaces. If they continue, a lawsuit may be in order. All the best!

Outside Condo Stairway Being Treated as Unit Owner Responsibility

J.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I just received a letter stating that I have to replace the rug on the outside stairway of a four-unit condo. The building has a first-floor landing and stairs that go to the two second floor units that are in open air under the building roof. Isn’t the stairway considered a common area?

Mister Condo replies:

J.L., generally speaking, any shared portion of a condominium such as an externa staircase as you have described would be considered a common element, owned by the association. But, just because you and I think it should be a common element, small condos like yours often come with unusual wording in the condo documents which might cast some doubt as to who owns what. You need to look at the condo documents and see if the staircase is described as part of your unit or a common element. If the documents are unclear as to the ownership of the stairs, you would do well to question the cost of the carpet replacement. You might wish to hire an attorney to review your documents and give you a proper legal opinion. I would certainly push back before simply paying for the carpet. Good luck!

Are Condo Unit Owner’s Comments Required for Board Meeting Minutes?

J.P. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our board meets tonight and there is a section for unit owner comments. Are those comments required to be part of the minutes published or is it at the discretion of the board?

Mister Condo replies:

J.P., I am glad to hear you are offering a time and a place for unit owners to make comments at the Board Meeting. That is good governance and shows compliance with our state’s Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA). The Minutes of the meeting reflect motions, votes, and actions taken by the Board as well as a few other housekeeping items such as approval of the previous Minutes, and reports from Committees, Property Manager (if any), and even a President’s Report, if offered. The Minutes are not an item for item reiteration of the meeting and other than acknowledging that there was a Unit Owner comment period as noted in the Agenda, the actual comments made do not have to be included in the Minutes. There could be exceptions, of course, and the Board, at its discretion, may wish to include details of the comments in the Minutes if they so wish. All the best!

Small Condo; Big Governance Problem!

J.P. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a small condo association in Florida. While being a new owner, I have noticed that the whole board and the running of the property is out of control. The President has been in place for several years as I can tell since no one else wanted to be on the board. It is a 55+ community. He also put himself as the property manager. The budget is less than $100K, so no property management company is required. He does not pay any HOA fees as he says that is in lieu of his property manager position. The association never voted for this, he just took this over on his own. He bullies the owners who are old and some do not speak good English. When he gets mad at you, he is very vindictive and knocks on people’s doors late at night. This guy is in his 70’s and a heavy drinker. I voted myself onto the board recently as Treasurer to have a voice and he has yet to hand over the books, check writing, etc. Many people believe he is hiding stuff and he now refuses to answer his door or calls from me. He feels threatened and believes I will expose what he has been doing the past 5 years or so. What do you recommend the best course of action to get control of the situation? I have spoken to the association’s lawyer who says to file a complaint with the state (Florida), I plan to do so in hopes of getting the ball rolling to have him removed. We also have cameras throughout the property which he installed but he is the only one who has control of them as it is set up in his unit. Many people feel uncomfortable as he watches all day and approaches people when they get home. I have to assume that is not legal as when we ask to see a clip he does not allow it. As you can see this place is a mess and would be happy to hear any suggestions you may have before I contact the state. Thank you for your advice.

Mister Condo replies:

J.P., there is very little that I can add before you contact the state, which I hope you have already done. The association attorney can only do as much as the association (the Board) instructs him or her to do. You do need to review your governance documents (or have the attorney review them for you) to see what steps will be necessary to remove the President from office and from the Board. If funds are missing or misappropriated, there may very well be criminal charges as well. Right off the bat, I can tell you that the association should go after the unpaid common fees. Board members are not exempt from common fees and unless there is some kind of formal agreement between the President and the Association for him to serve as a paid Property Manager, he will have to make good on those unpaid fees as well as any late fees. Shame on your fellow unit owners who took no action until now. From what you have said, this behavior has been going on for years. Who knows what financial perils this person has brought upon the association. What about other Board members? Are there none? This situation stinks to high heaven and you are correct to pursue a remedy for you and all of the other unit owners are at serious financial risk as long as this individual has the association checkbook. The time for action is now. Good luck!

HOA Wants to Sell Parking Space to Home Owner!

H.G. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a homeowners’ association buy little stubs that in the past 50+ years have not been used and simply allowed easy access to parking on either side of two beach property homes and were either owned by no one or owned by the association and force the owner of the home to purchase it ($7k) or risk that someone else will buy it and use for parking between your homes and make parking for us nearly impossible?

Mister Condo replies:

H.G., that is a loaded question if I ever heard one! It is a question that would best be answered by an attorney, which I am not. Who owns the parking spaces? If it is the association, they can very likely handle the access to those spaces however they see fit. Even if they haven’t invoked their right to charge a fee for the past 50+ years as you state, it is still their property. If you own the property, that is a different story. If they are selling you the space for $7,000 and it is then yours to use or sell as you see fit, I would think that is a good investment. Otherwise, as you say, who know who else could buy it and prevent easy parking for you and your guests. Good luck!

Condo Board Dragging Their Feet on Renter’s Pet Approval

K.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a new move-in in my condo building. About three months ago I submitted a general purchase application to the condo board of managers, which includes a question about pet information. According to the house rule, upon the board approval, pets are allowed in unit and leashed in common area, so I clearly stated that I plan to adopt a small size apartment dog. However, I haven’t heard from the board for three months. I even heard that they plan to charge a pet fee (and this is after my application was submitted). I want to ask what can I do if the board keeps silent forever and if it’s legal to charge a new fee after the application being submitted. Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

K.L., I am sorry that you are having difficulty getting an answer about your new pet. I am sure you are anxious to make the adoption and also be a good tenant and resident of the association. Until you have the approval of the Board, you would be wise to wait as you would be in violation of the rules of the association otherwise. The Board does have the right to implement pet fees and they are not beholden to any timeframe for that, including your application date. In fact, they could implement the fee AFTER your approval and you would still be subject to it, in my opinion. As for how long they have to reply to your request, it really is up to them. Ideally, it should be at their next meeting or however else they handle the request. Some associations would delegate the job to a property manager; others handle it themselves. As a renter, you need to apply pressure to your landlord to get the Board to take action. The unit owner, not the renter, is the one who the Board must answer to. Hopefully, you can get this matter cleared up in short order. Good luck!