Category Archives: Insurance

Inadequate Condo Board Meeting Notice

N.T. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a first-time condo owner in California for a year. I wrote a letter to the board requesting for reimbursement for an expense that my condo insurer and I felt was a responsibility of the HOA to prevent further damage to the interior since the HOA contractor was overwhelmed and was unavailable. I wanted to attend the next board meeting in case my issue comes up on the agenda. The board typically meets on a certain day of the week every other month. The community newsletter typically indicates which day the month prior or it has been rescheduled. However, the past month the date was left empty on the newsletter but there was a meeting and my issue was raised and I was not there to clarify the statement the manager made which was not true. My question, is the board required to publicize the dates of the board meeting? I plan on attending the next board meeting which was publicized in this month newsletter which listed both the prior month meeting date that occurred and the upcoming meeting date. Thank you in advance and will greatly appreciate any information you can provide.

Mister Condo replies:

N.T., I am sorry that your introduction to condo living has been so controversial and that you experienced problems right off the bat. You asked about meeting notice requirements and the short answer is, yes, the Board does need to give advance notice to all unit owners of the association as outlined in either the governing documents or local or state law. Typically, the notice requirement is in writing to the individual unit owners, although other methods may be acceptable as long as they are agreed to by the unit owners. If the newsletter is the standard and medium used then that is how it is done in your community. I will say that a newsletter alone is not typically considered due process for serving notice of a Board meeting and that email would be more common in this day and age. The notice needs to include the agenda as well as the date and time. Board meetings are open for unit owners to attend but unit owners don’t participate unless asked by the Board to do so. In your case, you wanted to clarify your petition to the Board for reimbursement for expenses you made to prevent further damage. Ideally, the Board would have undertaken this expense and you wouldn’t have been out of pocket in the first place. The Board, and only the Board, can make repairs or alterations to common elements even though common sense likely drove you to take the action you took. I hope you are not out a tremendous amount of money. It might be best to write this one off and understand that you need to let the Board take this action if it comes up again. Good luck!

NYC Condo Board Forcing Rule Changes on Unit Owners

M.T. from New York City writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We live in NYC in a 22-unit condominium building. We recently received an e-mail from our management company (on direction by our board) that certain “rules” would be changed, including language that limits what the building insurance would cover and how many pets are allowed per unit. We don’t really care about the change in pet policy though it does strike us as funny that one of the condo board members has more than the two dogs currently allowed. The change to the insurance language however does seem odd since it’s contrary to our by-laws. In the same message that contained the new “rules,” we were also informed that we needed to sign the attached document within 2 weeks and return it to them. Failure to sign would result in escalating monthly fines. I don’t see anything in our by-laws that specifically authorizes this – except that the condo board of course can enforce rules and fine for non-compliance. Do I have to sign? Or in other words, can they fine me for not signing this? The rules at this point look more like an amendment of the by-laws and it’s our understanding that we need to vote on that in order to make a change.

Mister Condo replies:

M.T, I can see where you would find it odd that these rules are being changed almost arbitrarily, especially by a Board of such a small condo. If there are 5 Board members and only 22 units, almost 25% of the units are represented by Board members. You are correct to challenge the process of changing rules or by-laws and you should look at both your governing documents and any local laws that may offer you protection from a Board that oversteps their authority to make changes that require a full vote of unit owners. As for signing a document provided by the Board that states they have informed you of the rule changes, I don’t see where that is a foul. Fining you for not acknowledging these rule changes seems a bit extreme. Typically, the Board only needs to notify unit owners in writing of rule changes for the rules to be considered in place and due process to have been followed. Forcing unit owners to sign this acknowledgement and then fining them for not doing so sounds like an unnecessary step to me but your governing documents may call for such a measure. You might want to attend the next Board meeting and observe what is going on. If they offer an opportunity for unit owners to voice concern, you could ask what these changes are about. It could be that the insurer has given the Board reason to make these changes. One instance I can think of is creating maintenance standards for things such as water supply lines inside of units. If left unmanaged, broken water supply lines can cause a fortune in damage. Many insurance companies now require that these lines, even if working properly, be replaced at regularly scheduled intervals. All the best!

Shared Water Main Creates Condo Chaos

K.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 4-unit condo where two units share a main water line. HOA newsletter in Nov. 2015 there was an article stating to make sure you notify your neighbor when you turn off the water line to both units. Recently my neighbor has been working on their condo and turned off the water while they were working. I was never notified that the water was going to be turned off. I saw their contractors leave and my neighbors return home around 4:30 p.m.. Water still was not turned back on, at about 6:00 p.m. I knocked on the door, no response. I thought they forgot to turn on the water. I turned on the water to take a shower. I went straight up the stairs heard water running and ran back down the stairs to turn the water back off. Not till 6:30pm did my neighbor return home. Their contractors did not cap her pipes in the bathrooms and she expects me to pay for the damage. Who would be responsible for the repairs?

Mister Condo replies:

K.B., it is too bad that there weren’t better communications between you and your neighbors. They needed to communicate with you when they turned the water off. You needed to communicate with them when you turned the water on. Neither of you did. Typically, I would say neither of you are responsible and let each of your insurance companies battle it out for how to handle the expense of the repair. The newsletter article is a nice way of reminding unit owners about the issue but it isn’t a legally binding notice. If your neighbor has insurance, I would think their homeowner’s policy would cover the damage. If not, they might elect to sue you in small claims court or such. Unless the damage was extensive, I doubt they will do that. I would offer my apologies and also ask them to make sure they do a better job communicating when and if the water is ever shut off again. All the best!

Hoarder Refusing Unit Access Adds to Hurricane Irma Damage

E.E. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We just suffered flooding due to Hurricane Irma in 3 of our 6 townhome buildings. The building where we are having an issue has 6 units adjoined by a 2-hour firewall. We have 1 unit owner is a hoarder – very bad, almost no walkpath. The unit flooded and we need her to move everything on the 1st floor for the repairs that the Association’s insurance is willing to do so that she doesn’t have a black mold issue. The drywall, the cabinets and flooring all have to be removed. She is saying she has no plan to move anything out or make repairs. The concern is not only for her but the adjoining unit owners. Can we make her comply for repairs?

Mister Condo replies:

E.E., I am sorry that your community suffered Irma’s wrath. Like so many other condominiums in your region, damage was significant and clean-up efforts will be ongoing for quite some time. You now face a serious challenge with a hoarder blocking access to her unit for clean-up. While most folks would welcome the cavalry arrival to get things back to normal, the hoarder’s brain works in a different manner. All is not lost, although I think you will find this a difficult battle. It’s all about where the line is drawn between unit owner’s rights and the rights of the HOA. My first call would be to the association attorney who can help guide you through what may become a lengthy legal process of actually having access granted. Of course, your first step is to work with the unit owner and/or any known family members who may be able to step in and let the restoration company get in and do its work. However, if the unit owner refuses to voluntarily provide access (typical hoarder behavior from my experience), the association needs to take more aggressive action. While the unit owner’s health is most certainly at stake, so are the neighboring units and even the entire building. Mold isn’t just unsightly; it can be deadly. This is an unfortunate complication to an already bad situation but, trust me, you will get through this. I wish you all the best in your recovery efforts.

Exterior Rot on Condo Leads to Interior Water Intrusion

R.S. from Missouri writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a condo unit owner for 13 years. I recently experienced my third interior damage leak from rotted siding and decades old flashing. Would the HOA be responsible for the cost of these repairs? My monthly common includes maintenance of the exterior of the unit. Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

R.S., I am sorry that you have had three different water intrusion events that have caused damage to your unit’s interior. I hope you have homeowner’s insurance to help you mitigate against the losses. It would appear that your condo isn’t being maintained as well as it might if you are experiencing rotted siding. Properly installed flashing may last decades but not if water is getting in behind the flashing. The Board of Directors is charged with maintaining, protecting, and even improving the common elements of the association as outlined in your condo documents. They are also responsible for putting in place a strong fiscal plan that includes building up association Reserves for the eventual replacement of common elements. Have they done that? Is there money in the Reserve Fund to pay for the needed repairs? If not, this problem is only going to get worse as further deferred repairs will lead to more decay and more water intrusion events as you have described. It may be time to have a heart to heart with the Board and fellow unit owners. It may be time for a community association loan to make these repairs and it is most certainly time to raise common fees so that a Reserve Fund can be built for future repairs. This may mean that common fees will rise significantly but if there is no Reserve Fund, they have been artificially low for too long. The HOA is responsible to repairs made to the exterior of the unit. You are responsible for repairs made to the interior, even if they are caused by neglectful maintenance by the association. That is why you have to have insurance for these losses. It’s time to get your condominium association back on track financially or these claims are going to become larger and much more frequent. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Good luck!

Condo Insurance Payment Made to Unit Owner for Building Damage

S.V. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

There was damage to the outside of our building. Insurance check was made payable in the name of a condo owner, who is the brother of president of condo association, in the amount of $6,000.00. I could not get an answer from either party and the insurance company why this was not made out to the condo association. Was this legal? I don’t know how the money was spent. This was several years ago. Is there a statute of limitations?

Mister Condo replies:

S.V., that is a strange way of processing an insurance claim at a condominium. However, it is not unheard of and without a full review of the insurance and the claim, it would be very difficult to prove whether anything illegal occurred. In fact, the insurance company would more likely be the one to have a claim if they were defrauded out of money. Was the building damage repaired? Was there further money paid for the repair by the association that the insurance should have covered? If there were no additional monies paid out by the association and the damage was repaired, it is probably best to stop worrying about it. I am not aware of a statute of limitations for you to investigate and/or file a complaint with your association on how the insurance money was distributed but to what end? If you weren’t harmed financially, this is really an item for the insurance company to worry about, not you. All the best!

Condo Has to Purchase its Own Clubhouse!

L.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When many of the first purchasers bought from the condo developer they were told that one condo unit on the first floor would be the owners’ clubhouse/fitness center. At some point (I’m unsure of when since I’m a new owner) the documents given to purchasers said that the clubhouse condo was owned by the developer and could, at some future time be sold. Now the building is nearly sold out and being turned over to the owners. The board is asking the current condo owners as to our interest in purchasing the “clubhouse” condo to ensure that the building continues to have this amenity. All of this is very early; we have an attorney who would negotiate the best price for us. However, I’m wondering what questions the owners should ask the board before they go further. Obviously, the price, how we would be assessed and for how long are questions but are there other considerations?

Mister Condo replies:

L.P., while it is unfortunate that the clubhouse/fitness center was not included as part and parcel of the development, I cannot say this is an uncommon practice. It sounds like the developer used a “bait” tactic of enticing early owners into thinking that there would be an amenity of a clubhouse/fitness center as part of their purchase but I am guessing no one has anything like that in writing. Again, this is not uncommon from stories I have been told from around the country. The unit owners will likely have to vote to add this common amenity to the association. Since it is almost certain that the unit owners will want this amenity, it is wise to work with the attorney to handle the negotiation. Aside from the purchase itself, you might want to ask about staffing requirements (if any) and insurance repercussions to the association from adding the amenity. There is also the issue of purchase and maintenance of fitness equipment, hours of operation, open to the public or just unit owners (or guests). Will it be rented out and to whom? The Reserve Study should be updated to reflect the new building and all costs should be considered. Like I said, it is likely to go through any way but I think it would be helpful for unit owners to know exactly what they are buying and what the real costs of owning it are going to be. Enjoy your new clubhouse!

Ownership of Burst Condo Water Line Questioned

T.G. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If a hot water line bursts in an outside wall who is responsible, the unit owner or the board? Also, the line was not where the Board said it was. Our kitchen sits above our neighbor’s garage. The board said both hot and cold lines are in the ceiling of the garage.

Mister Condo replies:

T.G., typically when water lines burst it is the responsibility of whoever owns the area where the line has broken. In other words, if you own from the wall in, a line that breaks outside of your walls is very likely the responsibility of the association. Regardless of what the Board says about it, a reading of your documents will very likely clear this up. If, by chance, the documents don’t appear to provide you with a good answer, it is time to speak to an attorney who can read any “legalese” that might make a simple determination possible. There are exceptions, of course. I know of some associations that have allowed modification of water lines at owner’s requests and along with the approval to do so came the responsibility to maintain the water lines. This is highly unusual though and does not sound like your situation. If you do own all of the interior walls where the water line burst (garage ceiling is a good example, a bathroom supply line would be another) then you may be on the hook for the repair. Like I said, when the unit owner and the Board don’t agree, it is usually time for a legal opinion. Good luck!

Condo Maintenance Standards vs. By-Laws

J.J. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have heard that maintenance standards overrides the bylaws. If so, what is stopping associations from just putting in what they want rather than changing the bylaws, which is very costly?

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., maintenance standards are generally enacted to ensure the community association insurance policies will protect the unit owners. Maintenance standards, or rather lack of, makes the association particularly vulnerable to damage caused by items that commonly wear quickly. Water supply hoses and water heaters come to mind. When either fail, tremendous damage can ensue. Without maintenance standards in place, the association could find itself uninsured for the liability. That being said these standards are still introduced and voted upon by either the Board or the full membership of the association before they are put in place. By-laws cover so many other areas of association governance that it is hardly fair to put them in the same category as maintenance standards. You couldn’t simply make a rule about something like “use of the clubhouse” and call it a maintenance standard. That would be a by-law change. Other associations feel that maintenance standards are important enough to actually create a by-law change. Either way, unit owners are bound to these standards once they are properly adopted. It is in the best interest of all association members that these standards are in place and enforced. All the best!

Condo Insurance Check Issued to Unit Owner for Building Damage

S.F. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Insurance check for house damage was made payable to a condo owner, who is the brother of the president of the condo association. Why did the insurance company allow this? Check amount was substantial, for several thousand dollars.

Mister Condo replies:

S.F., there are a few reasons that the condo owner was reimbursed directly for an insurance claim. For starters, the policy holder typically designates the payee. Was this entirely association-owned insurance or was it homeowner’s insurance as well? Typically, the homeowner gets paid for claims made against their own policy. If the damage had already been repaired by the homeowner, the check may have been for reimbursement. A typical association claim for exterior building damage would go to the association, who would then hire the contractor to repair the exterior building damage. It the damage were internal (water damage for instance) and the association’s insurance were covering that damage, it would not be uncommon for the payment to go directly to the homeowner.

Keep in mind that insurance claims are also records of the association. As such, you have the right to inspect the claim. If you think foul play is afoot, I would suggest you review the paperwork to determine why the payment went to the owner and not the association. Good luck!