Category Archives: Governance

Condo Property Manager Offends Unit Owner

P.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If an owner contacts the PM regarding an issue and the PM’s response is that “I am a pain in the ass and a little prick” is there any formal rights I have to request his replacement with another agent from his Firm? Thank You!

Mister Condo replies:

P.J., I am most sorry to hear about such rude and unprofessional behavior from a Property Management professional or anyone for that matter. It reflects the general lack of civility that seems to be far too common in today’s society. As for “formal rights”, I don’t think you have any. The Property Manager is hired by the Board. You should most certainly complain to the Property Manager’s supervisor if he or she has one and you should complain in writing to the Board who can pressure the Property Manager to behave better or be replaced. But the reality is that you were insulted, not assaulted. Anyone who uses such terms when dealing with a client is saying far more about their own behavior and upbringing than yours. Take the high road, P.J.. Good luck!

Condo Unit Owners Sluggish to Return New CC&R Ballots

J.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We drafted new CC&Rs and mailed ballots to owners late last year, but we’ve only received 51% of the ballots, which the management company can’t even open until we reach 67%, and even then, we don’t want to open them because once we do, we can’t count ballots that continue to arrive, plus because we need 67% in favor to pass, it’d have to be unanimous if we started counting. So, we really need more like 85% or greater ballots. We’ve sent out additional letters and ballots using different wording, short and long, but only coaxed one more ballot back. Our management company said some other HOAs try enticements to vote, like a free $15 certificate at a store or ice cream, etc.  What enticements or wording have you seen work to get reluctant owners to vote?

Mister Condo replies:

J.G., how sad is it that we have to entice unit owners to avail themselves of their right to vote on something as important as an amendment to their CC&Rs? I am not familiar with your provision that once you start opening any ballots that you cannot continue to collect and open more. I have never heard of that before. Kindly check with your association attorney to make sure you fully understand the ballot process. Typically, you can review and keep track of where you are as you go along. That should help speed up the process significantly and let the Board know exactly how many more ballots they need to achieve the acceptable 67% quorum needed to ratify the CC&R change. That being said, there really aren’t any reasons you couldn’t encourage unit owners to submit their ballots. I am not a fan of gift cards but community get-togethers can be quite effective and offer all community members a chance to socialize. You could bring in a local politician or celebrity to encourage attendance. You could certainly offer food or entertainment at the event. As long as you aren’t in violation of your governance documents, the sky is the limit. The good news is that you shouldn’t have to do this again any time soon. CC&Rs aren’t rewritten very often. Hopefully, this is a “one and done” event for the Board. All the best!

Florida Condo Owner Needs to be Home When Family Stays Overnight

G. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi! After 13 years at my condo I was told that my family members could not stay at my condo for a few days unless I was there. Is this legal? I had people stay there several times throughout the years for a few days and was never told I couldn’t do it. Your answer would be appreciated. Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

G., your answer lies in your association’s governing documents. My gut instinct is that you will likely find that you are required to be in attendance with any guests, especially if they are using any amenities, such as a pool, tennis courts, clubhouse, etc.. Many associations have added such rules in recent years to prevent unit owners from subletting using services like AirBnB or VRBO, where they are actually making income from their units when they are not home. Check your documents. If there are provisions prohibiting you from having people stay in your unit when you are not at home, be thankful you weren’t fined for past violations and follow the rules moving forward. Good luck!

Condo Documents Dictate Double Late Fees and Fines

I.G. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our By-Laws stipulate a late fee of interest plus prime rate if a payment is 30 days past due. The Rules and Regulations stipulate a $100 fee after 15 Days. Which prevails? One or both?

Mister Condo replies:

I.G., hopefully, every unit owner pays on time and you don’t have to implement late fees. It is not uncommon for governing documents to have conflicting terms. It is up to the Board to correct the documents and implement a proper late fee policy. Since one dictates a fee after 15 days and the other dictates a fee after 30 days, you could make the argument for both being applicable. However, it would make more sense to have just one fee and a detailed collection strategy for what happens at 30 days and what happens at 60 days, with 60 days being the time the matter is turned over to the association’s collection agent or attorney. I hope you never need to do that. Good luck!

Who Should Rewrite the Condo Documents?

T.M. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo association was chartered in the early 1980’s, and most of our buildings are converted motel units. There have only been a few amendments made to our documents since then; suffice it to say we know our documents should be rewritten. We need an attorney for that, correct? And the most recent attorney we had retired last year. So, we need another of those, too. Our membership is split on the issue: some feel it’s most important to have an attorney who specializes in condos only, while others feel we need a general attorney who is local to our northern Michigan locale. What do you think? Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

T.M., I think modifying your governance documents make ssense. A lot has changed since the 1980s and if there have been numerous additions or modification to your documents, a fresh set probably makes perfect sense. My advice would be to hire an attorney who specializes in Michigan community association law. Unless there are specific local laws in your part of Michigan, any community association attorney from your state should suffice. I actually know several really good ones and you can find a great list online at http://www.cai-michigan.org/resources/service-provider-directory.html?LocationCategory=63&LocationSearchGo=SearchI found more than a dozen fully qualified firms on that page who can really help you get it right. Good luck!

Condo Owner Must Produce Common Fee Check Archive

A.B. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The association where I reside is on its third management company since I moved in back in 2009. The biggest issue with the last two management companies is their lack of proper financial records and management of the associations funds. Our current management company is in the process of doing an audit on each unit based on the files/paperwork they were able to gain access to from the previous management companies. I provided a reconciliation when the second management came on and since I keep good records, I was able to put together a reconciliation of my payments since. I received a letter from the new management company telling me I owe a balance on my account and that I need to provide back-up (check copies). I am able to submit a list of checks and their bank posting date, but the check copies are going to cost me money. (My bank, as well as many others no longer provide check copies with statements. And I have e-statements). Can they force me to provide check copies or is my list of checks and the bank posting dates sufficient? Is it fair for me to push back and have them pay the fee for the checks they are requesting? What are my rights? I know for a FACT I do not owe any back payments.

Mister Condo replies:

A.B., I am sorry that you find yourself on the receiving end of what must feel like financial incompetence by the previous management companies. The reality is that the banks do charge a very small fee for providing archives of checks but that is just a cost of doing business. I would rather pay the very few dollars it will cost you to reconcile your payment record with the association than find yourself having to defend a collection action by the association. The association has the right to ask for these records and you have the right to provide them or not. If you don’t, the association will very likely hit you with late fees and other collection expenses. You don’t want that so go ahead and work with your bank to provide the records the new management company seeks. And, by all means, keep copies of any checks they provide so you don’t find yourself doing this again should the association hire yet another management company in a year or two. Good luck!

Condo Board Member Education Expense

C.L. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can the association pay for a class or course upfront for a board member instead of the board member paying for the course first and then getting reimbursed?

Mister Condo replies:

C.L., I don’t see how it matters. Either way, the association is paying for the course. Unless your documents forbid the association from paying for such items upfront (most unusual), the Board Member can have the association either pay up front or reimburse them for the class or course. I am glad they are getting training! All the best!

Condo Minutes Do Not Show Previous Year’s Votes

M.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I was just elected to our BOD earlier this year and I am the secretary. I have requested and reviewed the minutes of last year’s minutes, to get a feel for how they have been done, and sort of follow what was being done previously. I am very disappointed in what I found. Many actions were taken place through the year that were talked about but not voted on, no motions were made on so many things, it seems ridiculous to me. My main question at this point, is did that board act illegally, and could they be held liable for acting without the proper documentation?

Mister Condo replies:

M.H., welcome to the Board! I trust you will do a bang-up job as Secretary. Legally, the Minutes are the official record of what actions the Board took, what votes were held, what motions were made, and so on. They don’t need to be overly detailed but they do need to reflect basic activities and votes of the Board. Actions taken without a proper vote are subject to scrutiny from any unit owner who can challenge the action since there was not vote or record of a vote. It is a dangerous practice and sets the association up for lawsuits from disgruntled unit owners. That being said, if no unit owners have objected to the actions taken by the Board, there is quite literally no harm and no foul. However, since you are now on the Board and you are armed with the proper information about Minutes, votes, and actions of the Board, I strongly suggest you inform the Board of their erroneous ways and that they have set themselves up for all sorts of problems in the future from disgruntled unit owners. You wouldn’t want to defend actions taken without great records. Good luck!

Who Can Enforce the Condo Rules?

S.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Who can enforce the rules?

Mister Condo replies:

S.P., I appreciate a question of simple words. Let me give you a simple answer. The Board of Directors is the democratically elected group of unit owners who can enforce the rules. Unit owners, such as you, can submit violations of rules by other unit owners but it is up to the Board to enforce (or not enforce if they so choose) the rules. If the Board doesn’t enforce the rules, you can always elect new Board members that will enforce the rules. It really is that simple. Hope that help!

Must Board Members Attend Condo Special Meeting Called by Unit Owners?

F.C. from New Haven, County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When members hold a special meeting, can they make decisions that override Board, cause Board to do things they do not believe are in best interests of association? What happens if a special meeting is called and no Board members attend?

Mister Condo replies:

F.C., without seeing your community association governance documents first-hand, I can only offer you an overview of what could be going on here. The situation you describe is uncommon. Most associations are governed by their elected Board of Directors. If the Board isn’t doing their job to the satisfaction of unit owners, they are typically voted out of office and replaced with more popular candidates. It sounds to me like you have a group of unit owners who are trying to completely circumvent the Board by holding their own meetings. While there are protocols that allow them to do so, they need to follow the rules for calling a special meeting of unit owners. Typically, those meetings are for very specific purposes, including recalling Board members and electing new Board members to serve in their place. There is no requirement for sitting Board members to attend a special meeting called by unit owners but there may be no grounds for a group of unit owners to call a special meeting and take actions that are beyond the scope of the special meeting. My advice is to remove and replace the seated Board members, either by special meeting as outlined in the association’s governance documents or at the next election. You might also want to consult with an attorney who specializes in community association law to make sure the incoming Board does not make any legal blunders that could lead to lawsuits. Unit owners may want new leadership but there are rules they need to follow. The condo’s governance documents and your local state law will instruct the right way to do so. Good luck!