Category Archives: Governance

Condo Owner Excused from Paying Special Assessment

M.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When is an owner excused from paying their share of a special assessment?

Mister Condo replies:

M.A., as far as I know, an owner is NEVER excused from paying a Special Assessment once it is levied by the Board. The whole point of a Special Assessment is to collect monies needed by the association from ALL of the association members. As an example, think of a 100-unit association where every unit is assessed 1% as their percentage of unit ownership. If the Board needed to levy an assessment of $100,000 to pay for parking lot repairs, the Special Assessment would equate to all unit owners paying $1000. If the Board were to excuse one or more owners from paying their share of the Special Assessment, they would come up short of the $100,000 needed to repair the parking lot. And what about all of the unit owners who did pay their share of the Special Assessment? I know I wouldn’t be too happy to learn that one of my fellow unit owners didn’t have to pay. In fact, I would sue the association for making an improper assessment. Unless your governing documents specify a situation where a unit owner is excused from paying a Special Assessment (I have never heard of one), there is no excusing of payment of a Special Assessment. All the best!

V.P. Resignation Creates Big Vacancy on Small Board

D.G. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are a 23-unit self-managed complex, with a 3-member Board; President, Vice President and Treasurer. In September, the Vice President resigned from the Board. Can we run the Board with just the President and Treasurer until our next election?

Mister Condo replies:

D.G., you certainly can but you should look at what your governing documents say. Typically, the remaining Board members are free to appoint another unit owner to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the Board Member’s term. In a small association like yours, there is a very limited pool of resources to find the next Board Member. Chances are the two remaining members would pick someone who they would like to work with for the remainder of the term. Then, when the original term is over and the Board position is open, the appointed Board Member is free to seek election by running for the position. That would be how it is typically handled. Check your own governing documents for exact details. All the best!

Feral Cats Find Friendly Unit Owners; Association Board Not So Much!

R.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi! We are currently feeding and maintaining a mama cat and her 3 kittens plus 2 other friendly feral cats on our front porch. Association putting pressure on us to “get rid” of our outdoor friends. We are good people and good home owners. We have done so much to be good neighbors and keep up our property on our own. We are trying to find shelter for these babies before winter and have taken 4 of them already at our own expense. What can we do to keep these babies from harm?

Mister Condo replies:

R.S., I applaud your love of animals and your desire to help these fuzzy fur-babies. However, in its duty to protect the association from the potential danger and liability of keeping and encouraging feral cats, the Board is exactly correct to insist that you stop this behavior. You can contact your local animal control (some, not all, are helpful) to see what can be done. Keeping these babies from harm is a noble goal. Keeping you and your neighbors free from the vermin, feces, and other potential risks of having feral animals on property is the job of the Board. Be a good neighbor and stop encouraging activity from feral cats. It may seem cruel and heartless to abandon these critters but if you continue to violate the association’s rules, you should expect to get summoned and fined for the behavior. Good luck!

What is Adequate Meeting Notice for an HOA?

B.H. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How much time should an HOA give residents that a meeting is scheduled?

Mister Condo replies:

B.H., HOAs should give as much notice as possible to owners before a meeting takes place. Some governing documents spell it out specifically; some just say adequate notice. The Common Interest Ownership Act spells it out as 5 business days (one week) which would be the minimum for those associations that need to be compliant with the CIOA law in Connecticut. The bottom line is that the HOA must give fair and adequate notice to all unit owners lest they wish to have an owner claim they received inadequate notice which could nullify any actions taken by the Board at an improperly noticed meeting. Hope that helps.

Board Wishes to Grant Exclusive Use of Handicapped Parking Space to Unit Owner

D.B. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The association installed a handicapped spot per owner’s request. He is upset since visitors are occasionally parking in it. Can we put the unit number on it?

Mister Condo replies:

D.B., the association is free to enforce the handicapped parking spaces in their association-owned parking lots as they see fit. If non-handicapped cars are parking in handicapped spaces, they can be towed at owner expense, especially if there are signs indicating that non-handicapped cars will be towed from handicapped designated spaces. However, just because there is a handicapped space that was set up by the Board at an owner’s request, that doesn’t make the spot his. Other handicapped unit owners (and/or guests depending on the parking policy) with properly marked handicapped placards may also use the space. Generally speaking, it is “first come/first served”. However, if the Board wishes to designate a space for the specific use of one resident, it could try. However, don’t be surprised of other unit owners balk at the idea. After all, if everyone else is fighting for the limited spaces available at the association, they would be right to call foul for any single unit owner getting special treatment. Shared association parking is at a premium; the Board has a duty to protect the rights of all unit owners to use the amenity. All the best!

Condo Staff to Unit Owner Ratio

S.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is there a staff ratio per condo unit? I live in a 500-unit condo (12 buildings) and want to know how much maintenance staff or cleaning staff is standard per unit. Thanks!

Mister Condo replies:

S.B., the short answer is that there is no staff ration per condo unit other than that negotiated between your Board and Management Company. Even then the staff that works for each entity is generally tasked with performance, not a head count. In other words, if the grounds can be maintained by 10 folks instead of 20, the company responsible will likely only employ 10 people as that makes the most business sense. The same is true for any other function or service provided by contractors for the association. Are you happy with the work that is being done? Then, there are probably enough people doing the work. Are you unsatisfied with the work or services provided? Chances are a few more staff members might do the trick. My advice would be to focus on the outcomes, not the number of staff. If you think services are lacking, you might want to reach out to the Board to see what, if anything can be done. Hiring more staff might just be the solution although it will come at a price. Are you willing to pay more to get more? Are your fellow unit owners also willing to pay? If so, anything can be done. If not, it is what it is. All the best!

Condo Board Refuses to Address Major Safety Concern of Unit Owner

J.J. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a townhouse complex of 46 units. There are 7 board members who seem to play favorites and pick and choose who they will and will not respond to. There are 2 basements attached to owner units, where the association actually owns half of the basement and the exterior entrance to each. One of these basements is next to mine, and the cement stairs leading down to it have been collapsing for years with only talks of repairs. Now, because of the poor stability of the cement, the metal railing is no longer stable either. It’s come apart and very wobbly. I have a small child as does the renter that lived in the unit this is attached to. I wrote an email with my concerns asking that the railing be addressed. If a child were to lean on that railing they could absolutely fall in and the drop is high enough I fear it could be fatal. As usual I’ve not gotten any acknowledgement at all that my email was even received. What would be my next step in getting them to address something so dangerous?

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., I am sorry that your Board has allowed this common asset to fall into such disrepair that a child fatality could occur if the element fails. I would say that an email isn’t getting the job done. You mentioned 7 Board Members but no Property Manager. If you have a Property Manager, you should bring it to their attention, if not you need to address the Board in another way that they cannot ignore. Pictures and documentation should do the trick, presented in a letter to the Board (not an email). Send a copy to the local Building Inspector as well and cc: the Board that you have done so. You should also consider attending the next Board meeting (that is your right). Address this concern face to face with the Board. In other words, be a squeaky wheel! If they still don’t respond, you have two choices. Run for the Board yourself or elect better leaders that will address the issue. The other choice is to just accept that the Board is a group of self-serving people who aren’t going to address your issues until there is an injury and a lawsuit. That would be truly unfortunate. Good luck!

Foul Odors From Infirmed Neighbor Ruining Condo Owner’s Life

M.F. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in Glendale, CA. There is a person (‘a room-mate’) as she says who takes care of a bed-bound person. The kitchen curtain is always open which is directly across from my 2nd bedroom and she spends her day outside on the walkway smoking. I have asked her to NOT smoke outside my windows but it seems as if every time I open my door there she is. The board has done nothing and the smell from the unit smells like feces. I am thinking of moving as I cannot take her much longer. Suggestions would be appreciated.

Mister Condo replies:

M.F., you are right to consider moving as the legal solution could take years to implement, if it can even be implemented. I am sorry for your situation and I know many others who feel as you do about foul-smelling odors (second hand cigarette, cigar, pipe, marijuana smoke, feces, spicy cooking, and so on). The reality is that the solution is as simple as the Board enforcing the association’s forbiddance of “Nuisance” as it applies to odors. However, most governing documents are vague on what “nuisance” is so enforcing the nuisance provisions are tricky at best. Have you complained to the Board? Have you claimed that the unit owner is breaking the rules by allowing these foul odors to penetrate your unit? That is your first step. If the Board agrees, they make steps to correct the situation. However, you can’t expect instant results which is why I suggested that you may be correct in thinking of moving instead of waiting for all of this to happen. If the Board acts against the unit owner, they may push back and a lawsuit may ensue. This is expensive for both parties and could take a great deal of time to settle. If it were me and I found the odors as foul as you claim they are, I would sell and move out. There are always better communities to move into where you won’t have to deal with the problems this infirmed unit owner is creating. All the best!

Arbitration Forced Upon Unit Owners While Board Can Choose Other Remedies

C.I. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is it legal for Condo Assoc. to require owners to go to arbitration with a complaint against the Board, but reserve for itself the right to litigate in court a complaint against an owner?

Mister Condo replies:

C.I., I am not an attorney so I cannot offer you any legal opinions in this column. However, in my non-legal opinion, I don’t see where there would be a problem. Many states require unit owners with complaints against the Board to go to arbitration. The reason for this is simple. There are just too many unit owners that they could easily overwhelm the courts with matters that are far easier to settle in arbitration. Complaints from the Board are far fewer and are generally not the type of complaint that arbitration would assist. When Boards take legal action against a unit owner, it is usually over financial matters (unpaid common fees or Special Assessments). These aren’t items for arbitration; they are simply the Board enforcing the covenants and collecting the monies that are owed to the Association. For a proper legal opinion, you should consult with an attorney but I hope this friendly response helps you understand the situation. All the best!

HOA Turns Off Water on 5-Day Delinquent Owner

B.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’m wondering if our Property Management really has a right to authorize disconnection of water in my unit due to unpaid HOA dues (only 5 days overdue to be exact) even if I don’t have an outstanding balance from my water provider. I can say that this is the first time that my HOA dues was paid late because I’ve been paying my dues always 1 year in advance. Hoping for your advice. Thanks

Mister Condo replies:

B.A., I am sorry that your HOA took such a drastic measure as turning off your access to water after you were only 5 days overdue with your payment after having a great track record for so many years. The reality is that every association has its own policies for such things and it would appear that yours is quite strict. As to whether or not they had the right to do so is a legal question best posed to an attorney in your area. My guess is that they tool lawful action and that you aren’t the only unit owner who has had this happen. You can always make a quick call to an attorney to confirm if your rights were abused. Other than that, my advice is to set up auto-payment or prepay as you have done in the past. Common fees are the lifeblood of any association. The association is right to do all that they can to assure they are paid in timely fashion by all unit owners. All the best!