Category Archives: Governance

Does Condo’s Two Car Parking Limit Extend to Handicapped?

A.D. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi. I live in a condominium complex that has several handicapped parking spots. Our board of directors recently enacted a two car per unit parking limitation. I am disabled and use one of our handicapped parking spots with a valid placard. Can the BOD’s legally tow my car from our parking lot while the placard is visibly displayed?

Mister Condo replies:

A.D., I am not fully sure I understand your question. Are you parking more than two cars on the common parking areas? If so, you are violating the new rule and the Board may have the ability to have your car towed for the infraction. If you are simply parking your car in a designated handicapped area and not violating the association’s two car rule or any other parking rule, I can’t think why you would think your car would be towed. If you are using your two car allotment for other vehicles AND you park your third car in the handicapped parking area, one of your extra cars (maybe your handicapped placard car) may be subject to towing as you are in violation of the association’s parking rules. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Good luck!

Who Pays for New Condo Screen Doors?

J.W. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am part of a three-unit condo association. The association is looking to purchase screen doors for all three units. One of the units has one door and the other two unit have two doors so we would purchase a total of 5 doors. We plan to use condo fees funds to pay for doors. Is it equitable in using fees for one door for one unit and two doors for the other two? Is there a simple way to decide how it is more equitable? That is, we all pay the same quarterly dues but we are using more money for two of the units for the doors than we are using for the one condo with only one door. Does it come down to if all agree we just go with it?

Mister Condo replies:

J.W., it all comes down to what your condo documents say about common elements. Typically, all common elements are owned by the association to build, maintain, and repair. If that is the case for these doors then that is the formula you should use regardless of how many doors are on each unit. That is because the common fees are collected using the same formula for paying for the purchase, installation, and maintenance and repair of these doors. If the doors are the unit owner’s responsibility, then each unit owner would buy the doors attached to their unit and would be responsible for their repair and upkeep as well. I have seen it done both ways so it really boils down to what your condo documents say about it. If they are silent on the subject then it may come down what you all agree to. Otherwise, follow your documents. Good luck and enjoy your new screen doors!

Amended Condo Deed Trumps Board’s Forgetfulness

K.F. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’m a New Jersey Real Estate salesperson representing a seller of a Penthouse unit in a 5 story walk up in a 6-unit Condo. When my client purchased her unit in 2009 she was also given an amended deed that included the exclusive right to build an approved deck on the roof. The board met last week and in their Minutes decided to retain the roof rights (now that my client wants to sell). They don’t seem to be aware/remember that the roof rights were gifted and deeded and has been filed with the city/county. What rights do they have to take back roof rights if any at all?

Mister Condo replies:

K.F., Boards have no more rights than you or I when it comes to taking back anything that has been filed on a deed. In fact, this is a classic example of where an attorney can likely solve this for you with a few letters or phone calls showing the deed. The Board’s “memory” of the event is irrelevant, regardless of what they have put in their Minutes. If they take action against your client, the attorney will simply counter with the Deed. One caveat: is there any stipulation on the deed that would indicate that the approved deck had to be installed by a certain date? If that date has come and gone then your client is out of luck. Other than that, this sounds like a fairly simple case to me but I am not an attorney. Have your client speak with an attorney who specializes in real estate, get a legal opinion, and good luck selling this Penthouse condo unit. It sounds gorgeous!

Condo Speed Bumps Needed for Pedestrian Safety

L.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo board refuses to put in speed bumps to regulate traffic speeds through the townhome complex. Instead, they put up signs saying “slow down, we love our pets and children”. This reactive approach scares a lot of us since there are a lot of young children that live in the complex. Can they be reported for negligence or do we all have to wait until someone gets hit by a car before that?

Mister Condo replies:

L.A., the streets and condo parking lots are association-owned property. As such, they are under the purview of the Board. If they have placed signs up asking residents to slow down, that is their prerogative. If there have not been any accidents or pedestrian strikes by vehicles, it could be argued that the signs were enough. Speed bumps are not a requirement anywhere as far as I know, especially on private property such as condos. You can send a letter to the Board stating your concern for the safety of pedestrians in your community. The Board may or may not take action on your request. However, the Board Members are elected by the majority of unit owners. If the majority of unit owners want speed bumps, it would make sense to elect Board Members that will follow the will of the majority of unit owners. Perhaps you or one of your like-minded unit owners would consider running for the Board in order to see that gets done. That is the best way to make sure you get what everyone wants. Good luck!

Former Condo Board Member Maligned by Fellow Board Member

T.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I was on a condominium board for several years, sometimes having to do two positions. At one point, I was the President and Treasurer. My question is that I wasn’t very good at keeping receipts. I would occasionally give them to the manager. but when a check was written I put a memo where that check went and to whom.
Now I have an ex-board member that thinks I took money. How can I defend myself if I do not have the receipts to prove all of the transactions? He said he has the bank statement. What can that prove?

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., thank you for your service to your community. Seems that no good deed goes unpunished here. If you are being accused of a crime, you should speak with an attorney in order to defend yourself. If you are being slandered by an ex-board member, you might want to speak to an attorney about what rights you have to stop this slandering. Bank statements are nothing more than a record of checks, deposits, and transfers. If you didn’t write any checks to yourself or transfer any money into your private account, you likely have nothing to worry about. Someone “thinking” you took money is far different from someone claiming you took money and filing a criminal report against you. If you have nothing to hide, you can confront this person and ask them to either prove their allegations or stop slandering you or you will sue them. That will usually quiet a contentious accuser who cannot prove his/her case. Remember that in this country you are innocent until proven guilty. From what you have shared with me, you did nothing wrong and there is no proof that you did. That really is the end of the story. Good luck!

Mishandled Condo Elevator Maintenance Contracts Causes Special Assessment

M.C. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in Florida, so I will take your advice in good faith, but: we are being charged a special assessment of almost $2000 to repair the elevators of the condo complex. Normally I would have no complaint, but the reason the Special Assessment has become necessary is because of poor management of the repair contracts of the original repair work that was in budget.

Basically, the elevators were to be fixed and brought up to Florida building code nearly a year ago. However, the Board did not sign any labor contract and paid for the work up front. At some point, the work was abandoned and the elevators have stayed in disrepair and out of inspection compliance (which they were fined for) until a few weeks ago. The Special Assessment of almost $2000 per unit owner has arisen as a result of not signing those original labor contracts and the abandoned work being paid for with maintenance budget funds.

Bottom line, I want the elevators fixed, so I will pay the assessment. But, do we have any legal recourse against the board to recover those funds as a “breach of fiduciary responsibility”?

Mister Condo replies:

M.C., in my non-legal opinion, you do not have recourse against the Board. From what you have described there was no premeditated malfeasance or crime, just some poor business decisions that caused an increase in the overall expense of the association-owned asset. It may have managed less than ideally but I don’t see any breach of duty here. Hopefully, there has been a lesson learned and there will be better stewardship of the elevator maintenance program moving forward. Of course, Board Members are democratically elected volunteers from within your association and they do need to run for reelection at some point. If you feel there are better candidates for the position, you and your fellow unit owners will have opportunity to replace them with different volunteers at some point. All the best!

Condo Reserve Fund and Operational Fund Should Not Be Same Account

E.B. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can you refer me to a good article I can share with the board relating to using Reserve Funds and Operational Funds? I have some board members thinking it is one big pot of money! I would like to show them an explanation.

Mister Condo replies:

Sure thing, E.B.! The difference between Reserve Funds and Operational Funds is significant and the two should never be mingled or thought of as one big pot of money! My friend, Jeff Hardy, Founder of TOPS Software, wrote an excellent article on the topic that you can find here: http://camblog.topssoft.com/back-to-basics-understanding-reserve-fund-accounting. I am not sure what type of training your Board has had but one of the first things Board members need to learn when they agree to serve is all of the fiscal fiduciary duties they have as Board Members. Funding and protecting the Reserve Fund is paramount to maintaining a fiscally healthy association. There is always great temptation to simply spend or borrow from this fund, but, as is almost always the case, the monies never get put back and the community becomes deficient when the next major capital improvement project comes due. That takes the community down the path to Special Assessments or loans to make the needed repairs, or worse, deferred maintenance (not making the repair at all). All of this is easily avoidable by a proper understanding and respect for the Reserve Fund. Good luck!

Condo Management Company Influencing Board and Unit Owners

L.B. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a management company interfere with the board? Specifically, by asking to have a member resign or complain to only a few of the 5-member board about another member? And allow statements to be used and passed to unit owners in an effort to get the required signatures for special meeting to remove said board member?

Mister Condo replies:

L.B., the function of the management company is to assist the Board as outlined in the management company contract. This is typically handling all things financial and accounting such as collection of dues and assessments, payment of vendors, and collection efforts, budget preparation and so on. Governance of the association is strictly the duty of the Board. However, due to the nature of Boards being served by volunteers, it is not uncommon for a Board to rely upon the knowledge and expertise of a management company to help them make good decisions and keep the community association and Board on track. That being said, you have described a campaign to remove a Board member led by the management company. This is not a common practice although I am not sure it is illegal. You would need to review the laws for your state to see if that is the case. Other than that, the management company can only suggest things to the Board that the Board can either ignore or take action upon. In this case, it would appear that the Board is in agreement with the management company. The Board can always select another management company if the existing management company isn’t serving their best interests. If the Board is pleased with the performance, that isn’t likely to happen. Regardless of the source of information, if a Board member is recalled by the unit owners, there isn’t too much the Board Member can do. After all, this is an elected, volunteer position. It is not like they are being fired from a paying job. It is politics and being voted out is always a possibility. Good luck!

Condo Sale Hampered by Board President

J.R. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I recently entered a contract to sell my condo. After a week of being under contract, the president of the board has mentioned something about blocking my sale due to my partially finished basement. The basement was finished much like others in my building, but I don’t have a second form of egress. I spoke to the town building inspector about this when I did the work and he mentioned that as long as I did not deem this livable space, or make it a bedroom, or damage the structural integrity of the building, it was not an issue. The president mentioned to my real estate agent that I may be forced to tear it out. Can the association legally block a sale due to this or make me demo the work I did?

Mister Condo replies:

J.R., it doesn’t sound to me that the Board has actually blocked the sale as much as cast a doubt as to whether or not the sale should proceed by giving the realtor a heads up about a potential problem. What the realtor does with that information is out of the control of the Board. You mentioned speaking to a town Building Inspector at the time you made the installation. I don’t suppose you got something in writing from him, did you? That would make this “problem” magically go away. Without a certificate of some sort, it would appear there is a grey area surrounding your basement make over. If a different building inspector came out and inspected your property, what would the outcome be? Can you be certain that the lack of egress wouldn’t halt a sale? I agree with you that the Board may be overstepping by alerting the realtor to the potential problem. However, once the sale is complete and you are out of the picture, the new homeowner may have a problem. Problems for owners often become problems for the Board. I don’t agree with the tactic but I understand the sentiment. You may be able to solve this issue by asking the Building Inspector to come to your unit now and issue a letter that states that your basement makeover is, in fact, acceptable as is. That will give you and your realtor the confidence to sell your unit knowing the new owner (and the Board) will not have a problem. Good luck!

Can the Condo Prohibit a Washing Machine Installation?

J.L. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I want to add a small washing machine and electric dryer to my unit to help with resale value and also to help as the community laundry room is sub-par, ruins my clothes and is very expensive. I don’t see anything in our bylaws that prevents this. Heat and hot water are part of my common charges. Is there any experience you have with unit owners doing this and anything that would hinder my hopes to install the washer/dryer?

Mister Condo replies:

J.L., adding appliances within your own unit are generally under your own discretion unless your by-laws prohibit it. I do know of associations that do restrict appliances like washing machines because there may be liability issues of flooding from burst water supply lines or the potential noise that could be caused by operating heavy machinery in a small unit. If you are unsure about your rights, check out your condo documents to see what they say. You might also want to ask a Board member or Property Manager if there is any problem with your plans. That way, you won’t have to regret making a purchase and installation only to find out it isn’t allowed. Good luck!