Category Archives: HOA

Pre-Sale Special Assessment Assigned to Current Condo Owner

K.K. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When I purchased my condo in 2014, I was told no upcoming assessments. Surprise! Last August, I was told assessments for work done will cost me $15k or $155/month for 10 years. Now, I am selling my condo, can the remaining monthly 155 be transferred to buyer?

Mister Condo replies:

K.K., I am sorry you got hit with a “surprise” Special Assessment. In my opinion, there are no “surprise” Special Assessments unless the community experienced an unexpected and/or uninsured loss or a lawsuit that requires an unforeseen infusion of cash. If the assessment were for something as common as a replacement of a roof or to repair old decks or sidewalks, it was no surprise. That being said, the assessment is made against the unit owner at the time of the assessment. That was you. The association has an interest in you making the payments, not the new owner. You will very likely have to pay off the assessment before you can sell the property. It seems unfair but that is how it works. I hope your new home has no surprises like this for you. Good luck!

HOA Sues Owner for Trying to Rescue a Stray Cat

J.H. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My neighbor accused me of feeding a feral cat. HOA is taking me to court. I was not feeding a feral cat! This female cat was tame, but pregnant. I was feeding the cat in order to catch her. If I had not, there would now be 3 females pregnant by the 2 tomcats roaming the condo complex. I did these people a favor! I bought the food, sat outside with the woman from a rescue organization and caught the mother and two kittens. Can a HOA have ordinances to override the County, City and State laws?

Mister Condo replies:

J.H., I salute your efforts to help but I hope you can understand how dangerous feeding any wild animals can be and the potential risk it puts on the HOA. Your neighbor had no way of knowing what you were up to and reported the behavior to the Board, who took the appropriate action for your rules and by-laws. I cannot imagine that any of their rules override local laws and the answer to that question is “no”, they cannot have rules that conflict with local ordinances. I have to believe that the correct solution to this problem would have been for you to report the stray but tame cat to the association and let them take whatever steps they deem appropriate to remedy the situation. After all, this wasn’t your cat. The person from the rescue organization would have been their likely contact and the same end result could have been achieved without your personal involvement in rescuing the animal. I am sure you meant well and I am guessing you are an animal lover, which I certainly admire. However, in most HOAs, feeding stray or ferial animals, regardless of your intention or their tameness, is prohibited due to the risk of pestilence and/or animal attacks on residents. All the best!

HOA Bills Unit Owner for Repair Team’s Lack of Unit Access

J.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The unit above me leaked into my garage. The owner happens to be on the Board of Directors. He is having the HOA pay for it. Now, I got a bill from HOA that my tenant was not home for them to do the work.

Mister Condo replies:

J.C., well this is certainly a series of unfortunate events. I am sorry for your troubles. Typically, the association carries insurance for damage caused by your fellow unit owners. The fact that this unit owner serves on the Board of Directors is irrelevant unless you are alleging wrongdoing on the part of the Director. From what you have told me, I do not see any wrongdoing here. The Director is also a unit owner and protected by the same association insurance that you are. The HOA dispatched a repair operation to your unit, which is what they are supposed to do. Was their communication between the HOA, the repair firm, and you or your tenant? If so, and your tenant agreed to be home when the repair team was dispatched yet failed to be there, I can see where the HOA would assess a fee to you for the cost of the repair team not being allowed access to your unit. If there was no communication that a repair team was coming and they are still charging you, I would challenge that fee and maybe even speak to an attorney about the fee to see if it is something you could sue over. Chances are the amount in question is too small to sue over. The bottom line is that you want the repairs to your unit made so work with your HOA to make sure that happens. If your tenant can’t be there, you may have to be there yourself to make sure the repair team has access. All the best!

Homeschooling Condo Unit Owner Seeks to Add Garage Window

A.R. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I want to add a window in the garage because I homeschool my kids and is too hot inside for them.

Mister Condo replies:

A.R., I appreciate your desire to provide a window for your children as you feel it would help cool your garage, which I gather you are using as a classroom for homeschooling purposes. However, adding items like windows falls squarely under the governance authority of the Board who has to consider the architectural compliance issues that allowing you to do so may create. If you are allowed to add a window to a garage, theoretically all unit owners who asked for the same modification would have to be allowed. That creates a potential nightmare for the Board, who has a duty to keep the community looking in a uniform fashion. You can certainly ask but please respect the decision of the Board in this matter. It isn’t as simple granting your request to assist with your homeschooling efforts; the decision has far-reaching consequences. All the best!

Jersey Co-op Unit Owner Strong-armed into Questionable Repairs

L.S. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have unit in a large co-op (almost 500 units) which is rented out. The Manager of the co-op is pushing me into renovation of 2 bathrooms in this unit. The claim is that high moisture reading in adjacent hallway is caused by my bathroom. The reading of moisture is provided by co-op engineer who does what Manager wants. The Board doesn’t want to help. The Manager has only 2 approved contractors who do all work in co-op and gets paid from them (no proof, all cash). The Manager has same bullying background and law suit from previous work place (co-op) requesting unit owners to do unnecessary repairs and getting kickback.  Both bathrooms have no visible defects and look perfect from inside. What can I do? The Board doesn’t respond to my complaints. I wrote to them showing Manager’s background. All correspondence goes through Manager. Is there any organization that protects unit owners in co-op in NJ?

Mister Condo replies:

L.S., thank you for writing. I am sorry for your situation. I am not an attorney so I cannot offer you legal advice. You are describing a particularly legal situation that may very well require legal action to settle. Further, since the Board isn’t amenable to take your side and question the tactics of the Property Manager, that leaves you alone in your battle. If you can’t afford an attorney to represent your best interests you may have little other practical choice but to sell the unit and buy elsewhere.

In NJ, the Department of Community Affairs is tasked with investigating allegations of HOA abuse, which this may fall under. Their website is http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dhcr/ and I encourage you to look there and see if there isn’t a resource to assist you. Good luck!

Partial Unit Repair Leaves Condo Owner Vulnerable to More Damage

T.N. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi, I have been having issues dealing with my association property management in resolving in what I consider emergency situations. Would you consider a roof leak an emergency situation? It is the HOA’s responsibility to maintain the exterior and roof of the condo complex. During a 2014 rain storm, the roof leaked. The association tore the wet walls down but failed to call anyone out to tarp or cover the roof resulting in further leak into the condo from the opened walls when the following storm arrived soon after. After some stressful and emotional fighting with the HOA they finally fixed the roof leaving me with the interior damage repair. About one year later another roof leak occurred and the association tells me that they cannot get anyone out to temporarily stop the leak while it is raining due to unsafe conditions and that I am not the only one waiting to get their roof fixed. It is forecasted to storm for a couple of days. They have the audacity to say that if it keeps raining they will not be able to get anyone out to do anything until it stops raining and if it rains for a week it will be a week before anything is done. They even have the audacity to say that any further damage resulting will be dealt with later. I had to call a roofer out myself and pay the up-front fee to tarp the roof to prevent further ingress of water into my unit. I feel like I am being bullied by my own association. I learned from the first situation to take photos and document all calls and summarize them. Can you provide any insight to the situation proposed?

Mister Condo replies:

T.N., I am truly sorry for the damage your unit has sustained. I am further sorry that your HOA did not do more to remedy your situation at the time of the intrusion and subsequent damage. Alas, this is what insurance and lawsuits are for. I am guessing your personal insurer was advised and paid for whatever damage occurred inside of your unit. However, insurance companies often draw the line at repeated claims for the same type of damage, especially when it could have been prevented had the association taken swifter action, according to your account of events. This is typically where the attorneys come in. You hire one to represent you, the association hires one to represent them and the two either reach a settlement or head to court. There are some associations and states that require mediation or alternative dispute resolution to resolve the matter but my best advice to you is to consult with an attorney knowledgeable about your state’s laws and get the settlement process under way. At the very least, it may be a wake-up call to your HOA Board of Directors to treat these types of urgent repairs with more speed than how yours was handled. Unsafe conditions may have made the remediation difficult but I think there is more at play here that merits further investigation. Good luck!

Denver Condo Owner Getting a Snow Job from the Association!

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K.A. from Denver, Colorado writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hello! My HOA piles all the snow from our parking lot directly behind my parking spot making my spot unusable until it melts, which can be 2 days or 2 weeks, depending on how much it has snowed and the temperature. My spot is deeded and I own that spot. They have said there is nowhere else to put the snow. I disagree; there are options but just not as convenient. My dad owned the unit since 1981 and rented most of them time for a very small amount so the tenant who lived there about 20 years just dealt with it and never brought it to his attention as her rent was VERY low. I only became aware after I bought the unit from his estate after he passed away. Parking on the street is very difficult after about 7pm as I live in a dense urban area so it can take a while to find a spot and it’s not very close at times. We have a company that we pay to deal with HOA issues and the man who does our building acts like I just need to deal with it. My question is, do I have ANY legal recourse??? To me it seems to be a right of way issue- like if I had a driveway and some blocked it. Any info or advice would be greatly appreciated!!

Mister Condo replies:

K.A., thank you for your letter and I think you have already answered your own question. Yes, you have legal recourse against the association for taking over your deeded space with their excess snow. Yes, it will cost them more to remove the snow in proper fashion but neither of those problems are yours. Speak with an attorney, threaten the association with a lawsuit, and, if they don’t change their ways, sue them! They will need to modify their snow removal arrangements to make sure your space is as free of snow as everyone else’s space. The extra cost of snow removal may cause a need for extra money in the snow removal budget but that expense is shared by all unit owners, not just you. Please keep in mind that I am not an attorney nor am I an expert is Colorado community association law so please speak with a qualified local attorney at your earliest convenience for a proper legal opinion. Good luck!

Community Manager Test Specifics

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J.B. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When and Where is the next state test to become a community manager?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., that is a great question! You can always get up to the minute information at the CAI-CT website at caict.org and, in particular, on the Manager Licensure page at http://www.caict.org/?page=ManagerLicensure. You will find a link there to the Frequently Asked Questions about Community Association Manager Licensing at the State of Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection website (the state’s DCP oversees Community Association Manager licensing in our state) – http://www.ct.gov/dcp/cwp/view.asp?a=1629&Q=521982 Everything you need to know is there. I will say that there is not a scheduled time for a particular test and that many applicants simply take an online or onsite computer driven test for the testing portion of the licensure. It all starts with completing the coursework from CAI to become a community manager. Once completed, there are several testing options available to you, including a pen and paper test if there is enough demand for one. Traditionally, these have happened in March and September but there is no formal scheduled event for me to direct you to. Good luck fulfilling the requirements and passing the test!

HOA Board Assigning Parking Spaces

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T.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have 14 units and 28 parking spaces. The HOA is currently talking about assigning one parking space per unit. Is this a good idea?

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., management of common resources and elements like the parking lot is the purview of the Board. 14 units and 28 parking spaces is a fine ratio assuming all unit owners use one space for a personal vehicle and leave the other space for guest parking. However, what happens when one unit has more than two cars parked on the property? What if a unit owner had no available parking for their own vehicle or guest because another unit owner occupied available parking spaces? These problems become the problem of the Board so I think it is wise of them to address the issue before it becomes a problem and before bad habits set in. If you follow my column on a regular basis, you will see that I field an awful lot of parking-related issues. Assigning parking spaces is likely a good idea and will create a better sense of parking rules for residents. Good luck!

Does the HOA Have a Say in Who I Hire for My Own Basement Repair?

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B.R. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a condo HOA force me to use their maintenance person as a contractor to repair something inside my own unit? I have a problem in the basement with moisture on the wall. It is not clear whether it is coming from my unit, another unit, or a common element. It’s not a very big spot, but I am concerned that it be repaired correctly and safely as to not create a bigger problem. I’d prefer to hire a licensed contractor that I trust to investigate the problem. The HOA keeps acting like they can tell me I can’t do this or that I need some sort of approval unless I use their person. It is my understanding that as long as my investigation/repair doesn’t involve something clearly indicated as a common element, they really have no say in this? Am I mistaken?

Mister Condo replies:

B.R., determining who has ownership of the basement and all of the components that go into a basement within an HOA can be challenging. Does your basement abut to a neighbor’s basement where you share a wall? Do common utilities run through your basement? Do you have a sump pump that dries more than your unit? Depending on the nature of the work being done, it is possible that the HOA does not have a say other than to require you to provide a license and proof of insurance for the contractor before work begins. Sometimes, it is just simpler to use their preferred contractor because the contractor has inside knowledge of how the buildings were built and how they run best. Your water spot may be something their contractor has seen a dozen times and knows what the likely culprit and remedy are. In that case, they HOA may actually be doing you a favor by having you use their contractor. One final caveat is to review your HOA governance documents. It should spell out when you need to use an association-approved contractor. My final piece of advice is just practical. If this is not a very big spot and likely a small repair, if any, why not just go with the HOA’s suggested contractor? I can’t imagine this is going to be a very big deal one way or the other. Hope it all works out for you.