Category Archives: Legal

Condo Association-Hired Contractor Damages Unit Owner Ceilings

D.R. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

A unit owner notified the condo association of a roof leak. A contractor, called by the association to inspect and give an estimate, caused several cracks in the ceiling while up in the attic inspecting, even though he was told the attic had no floor. Who is responsible for the repair, the contractor and his insurance or the Condo association insurance. The condo insurance company said they are not involved.

Mister Condo replies:

D.R., what an unfortunate situation. I am actually surprised that this contractor didn’t fall through the ceiling, which would have caused an even bigger problem for the association and perhaps even caused injury. The association hired the contractor to handle the inspection. Regardless of what the contractor was told, his actions caused the damage as reported by you. Typically, the association should go after the contractor for the damage he caused. Typically, that would have the contractor calling his insurance company to file a claim. It sounds to me like that didn’t happen. Instead, someone initiated a claim with the condo insurance who has subsequently denied the claim as it wouldn’t typically be covered by the type of insurance most associations have for their buildings. In fact, you have stated that the damage was caused by the contractor.

Without knowing all of the details, I would suggest the association needs to go after the contractor they hired and have the contractor make good on the damage he caused. If his insurance will cover it that should be a fairly simple process. If his insurance will not cover it, he should pay out of pocket for the damage. If he won’t do that, the association should sue him for the damage and make good on the repairs for unit owners. If all else fails, unit owners may have to sue the association for hiring the contractor that caused the damage. Sounds like everyone has to do what’s best for them in this situation although the legal fees could quickly outweigh the actual cost of repair. Good luck!

New Jersey Condo Board Not Holding Elections

J.B. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

  1. Our Condo Board meets in a conference room in local town hall. The meeting is open to all condo owners. Is it possible to have the Board Meeting in Skype or conference call instead of meeting in person? Will it meet the NJ Condominium Act requirement of “All meetings at which a board takes a binding vote are required by law to be open to all owners and advance written notice of such meetings must be given as provided by law.”
  2. Some of our Condo Association Board Members have continued without any election for years. Is that legally allowed? No election notices were sent out, they just continued on for years. Can other members who got elected request for an election? If yes, how do we do it?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., “without any election for years”!!! I have never heard of that in a functioning condominium. Surely, your governance documents call for an Annual Meeting and a proper election process for Board members. Adding Skype to your Board meetings is the least of your worries right now!

I am not an attorney nor am I an expert in New Jersey Community Association Law, J.B., so please accept my advice as friendly. If you require a legal opinion, you will need to seek out a local attorney. That being said, let’s start with your governance documents with regards to election of officers. Typically, the condo docs require a minimum of one Annual Meeting per year. This is also done to satisfy most states’ Corporation laws that require an Annual Meeting of Shareholders be held to conduct corporation business. Your condo is a corporation, albeit a non-profit one, but a corporation nonetheless. At the Annual Meeting, a few pieces of business must happen. Perhaps the single most important is the adoption of the Annual Budget for the upcoming year. The second is to hold the election for officers. Now if there are no new candidates to select from, it is quite possible that a single vote is cast returning the Board members up for reelection to another term. Terms can vary but are typically one, two, or three years. The Board also has the ability to appoint Board members in the case of vacancy. However, it is done, there needs to be Minutes of the meeting to reflect the action. As a unit owner, you have the right to inspect Minutes once they are approved by the Board. In other words, you can go back and look at the election records for your association. If you can’t find any, you have a problem. My guess is that these folks have run unopposed for many election cycles and have simply continued to serve. If that is not the case, you would be wise to insist that elections are held at the next Annual Meeting or sooner if the situation merits it.

Whether a meeting is held in person or via conference call or Skype, the same rules apply as if the meeting were held in the real world. I know of many associations that have adopted technology advances like Skype to their meetings. However, just like any meeting of the Board, there must be minutes and the meeting must be made available to all unit owners, even if they are required to be muted during the meeting, they have the right to observe. The use of technology does not dissolve the burden of advance notice and all unit owners should be given notice of upcoming meetings in accordance with law.

Hope that helps. All the best!

What is a “Reasonable” Amount of Time for A Condo Record Request Inspection?

L.L. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How long should I wait to view my condominiums financial records? I requested to see them 6 business days ago.

Mister Condo replies:

L.L., as a unit owner you have the right to inspect just about all of your association’s records, including the financial records. Typically, the records need to be available during normal business hours or within a “reasonable” time. That is where the real answer to your question lies. What you consider “reasonable” and what the keeper of your records considers “reasonable” may vary so the key is likely for you to remain vigilant but patient. If the record keeper fails to provide you with access, your recourse is to sue. I am not an attorney nor do I offer any legal advice in this column. My friendly advice is to ask again and ask what the association considers as a “reasonable” amount of time to honor the request. My guess is you’ll get access to the records when the other party is available to accommodate your request. Keep in mind the records are owned by the association. If you wish photocopies, you may be charged for the service as well as a small fee for the employee’s time for assisting you. Good luck!

Florida Condo Homeowners Insurance Requirement

V.B. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’ve lived at my condo in Orlando since 2009, when it was vetoed that unit owners are required to have insurance for condo. Are unit owners required to have condo insurance?

Mister Condo replies:

V.B., I am not an expert in Florida community association law so please consider this a friendly answer and not a legal one. You may wish to check with a local attorney for a legal opinion. Generally speaking, unit owners should have a homeowner’s insurance policy at the very minimum, regardless of requirement, to protect themselves from potential losses. Many association governance documents require unit owners to hold such policies but I am not aware of any legislation that requires unit owners to hold policies. In fact, my understanding of the Florida Condominium Act is that it does not require the insurance but it does state that the interior damage is the unit owner’s responsibility. As long as it is unit owner responsibility, the unit owner should want to have that risk insured, regardless of the law. That being said, if your original documents did call for a requirement to carry the insurance and the association voted to discontinue that requirement, there may, in fact, be no requirement for unit owners to do so. However, most mortgage companies would have a requirement for the unit owner to carry homeowner’s insurance and it is certainly a best practice to do so.  All the best!

Mentally Ill Child of Condo Neighbor Creating Noise Nuisance

D.E. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have been living in our condo for three years and love it. Recently new owners moved in next door with their 9-year-old child. Come to find out she bangs her head against the wall and screams bloody murder at all times of the day. Unfortunately, she has mental illness – bipolar, OCD, etc. I have spoken with them nicely 3 times and when we have asked it does stop so it seems like it is in control and they are just lazy. They came from a 3800-square foot home to a 1450-square foot condo. Knowing there are issues like this I would think you would investigate your surroundings first before buying this type of place. My brother was mentally challenged so I certainly have compassion but this really has to stop – I am on the verge of calling 911 every time this happens. What is my recourse?

Mister Condo replies:

D.E., you are kind to be considerate and compassionate to understand the challenges your neighbors are facing. However, all unit owners, including you, have a right to peaceable enjoyment of their units. Clearly, this noise, regardless of the source, is violating your right to peace and quiet. Your recourse is to file an official complaint against your neighbor with the Board who will then take appropriate action. Typically, that involves summoning your neighbor to appear before the Board to address the rule violation. The Board then can take further action which is typically a fine or whatever else is outlined in your governing documents. If the noise continues, you continue to report it to the Board in writing (usually via the Property Manager). Your complaints are records of the association and, as such, are subject to review by any association members, including your neighbor. For this reason, some unit owners are reluctant to file a formal complaint. However, you have already tried the nice route and only received temporary reprieve. It is up to you to take the next step to restore the peace and quiet you are entitled to. Perhaps your neighbor will do a better job of restoring the calmness or perhaps they will realize that this close living quarters just isn’t the proper environment to raise a child with these types of special needs. Either way, I hope you get your peace and quiet back. All the best!

Can Husband and Wife to Serve On Condo Board Together?

M.H. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a couple owning 2 condo units be on the HOA board at the same time in Florida?

Mister Condo replies:

M.H., thank you for your question. As you know I am not an attorney nor am I an expert is Florida community association law so please consider my advice here as friendly and not legal. If you think you need a legal opinion on this matter, I strongly suggest you speak with an attorney in your area knowledgeable of Florida Community Association Law. That being said, your question has two possible answers that I am aware of. Start with your governing documents. My guess is that the documents are either silent on the issue or prohibit two owners from the SAME unit serving on the Board. Since there are two different units involved in your example, I don’t see why there would be a prohibition of the husband and wife serving as long as they were each representing one of the two units they own. While I am not an expert in Florida law on the matter, I have read that the laws in Florida that pertain to condominiums – the Florida Corporation act and the Florida Condominium Act – do not prohibit co-owners who own more than one unit from serving. The Florida Condominium Act does address the issue but also allows for an exception if there are no other unit owners willing to serve. You can read an interesting article on the subject here: http://www.floridacondohoalawblog.com/2016/01/articles/qa/can-husband-and-wife-serve-on-the-board-at-the-same-time/. All the best!

Board Declares No Parking in Condo Driveways!

P.W. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The declaration states and the plat shows that the driveways are limited common elements. There is a driveway pad outside the garage. The condo association states that the bylaws say that there is no parking on any street or common element so they don’t want anyone to ever park in their driveway.

The deed says that there are no restrictions and the limited common elements are listed in the declaration. But it also has a comment that the bylaws are to be followed. I’m confused, please clarify.

Mister Condo replies:

P.W., and this is why we have community association attorneys and courts to interpret poorly worded declarations. The concept of a limited common element means that the area is reserved for your use. That certainly makes sense for a driveway as you need exclusive use to come and go to your garage. If the bylaws state that there is no parking allowed on any common element, the Board needs to decide if that includes limited common elements as well. It sounds like they have made a determination that the parking ban extends to limited common elements, too. They may be correct but that doesn’t mean they can’t be challenged. You should speak with a qualified attorney in your area to determine if it is worth challenging the Board’s assertion that cars cannot be parked on limited common elements. Also, you should speak with the Board and fellow unit owners about the restriction. You could certainly modify the by-laws to keep the no parking ban in effect but not include limited common elements. All the best!

Condo Denies Disability Parking Request

S.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can the condo association deny a request for disability parking especially since the condo is on private property?

Mister Condo replies:

S.B., you may have noticed that there are many questions and answers about disabled and handicapped parking on my website. It is a serious matter, to be sure, but the answer remains the answer. It depends. Generally speaking, since condominiums are private property, there aren’t too many restrictions on how they parcel out their parking lots. If the unit came with deeded parking (a specifically assigned parking space that is part of the deed of the property), then the unit owner has exclusive use of that space or spaces. All other parking is usually owned by the association and can be used as they see fit. If a request for a handicapped space is made of the Board, the Board should review the request and determine if it is reasonable to grant the request. For most associations, since parking is usually in high demand and short supply, they can claim that dedicating association parking for handicapped use creates and undue burden on the association. If the unit owner in question has deeded parking and is simply looking for additional dedicated parking, they are often out of luck. Of course, to be safe, I usually recommend that the Board consult with the association attorney to make sure no local, state, or federal laws are being violated if the Board decided to deny the request for dedicated handicapped parking. Handicapped parking seekers often cite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as their grounds for requesting the handicapped parking. However, the ADA does not deal with privately owned parking lots such as those found in typical condos. Exceptions are if the association is renting out the clubhouse or has amenities that are also open to the public for a fee. Then the rules change. Other than that, the Board is usually free to use the association-owned parking as they see fit. All the best!

Unapproved Remodel to Upstairs Condo Damages Downstairs Unit

L.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The question I have is this, I live in a condo that has 4 units per bldg. I own mine. These condos were built in the late 50’s maybe early 60’s. Unfortunately, there is an HOA fee of 150 dollars a month and the outside of the buildings look horrible. They really need to be painted and new front and rear doors placed. The front porch is falling apart. The condos were not built like the newer ones are. Someone purchased the upstairs condo and decided that they would remodel the whole condo. There was a wall removed and other major repairs without a permit that has caused damage to my condo. I spoke to a contractor who looked at the damage and informed me that if we were to try to fix it, it would cause more damage. The upstairs condo would receive damage also. I am just wondering who should pay for the damage. The owner knows that there were issues and he wanted his handy man who caused the damage and himself to look at it. I am not sure what good that would do. Should I file a claim with my insurance company and let them fight it out or is there another way to deal with this? Am I going to be stuck with a huge bill?

Mister Condo replies:

L.S., you certainly have a lot going on inside your 4-unit building. Let me address each item separately. First up, the HOA isn’t maintaining the property as they should. There is no reason for painting to go undone other than there is no money in the Reserve Fund for the project. You mention a fee of $150. If that fee isn’t enough to cover operating expenses and set aside money for routine maintenance like painting and door replacement, there will need to be a Special Assessment and/or an increase to common fees. Neither option is popular but that is the only way to get the association back on track so it can fulfill its duty to maintain the building exteriors.

The remodeling project is another issue entirely. It sounds like the upstairs unit owner did some unauthorized and unpermitted work on their unit causing damage to your unit. It’s time to speak with an attorney about suing the unit owner for the damage. You should file a claim with your insurance if you have suffered financial damage worth filing a claim over. However, the fault is clearly with the unit owner who did the unauthorized remodel. You governance documents likely spell out what types of repairs and improvements can be made to unit interiors. If they knocked down a supporting wall, you could be looking at a very expensive repair, not to mention the potential danger you are in. I would want to get this taken care of immediately. If they are amenable to correcting the problem at their expense, you may not need to sue but, in my experience, once the dollars start adding up, a lawsuit is almost inevitable. You should be able to recover your damages though and I am hopeful that your upstairs neighbor will do the right thing. Good luck!

Withholding Repairs to Delinquent Condo Unit Owner

M.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a condo board withhold unit repairs to an owner who is delinquent?

Mister Condo replies:

M.B., that is a loaded question with lots of possible answers! Since I am not an attorney, I must recommend that you speak with a qualified community association attorney from your area to determine if withholding repairs is within the association’s rights. Typically, my answer would be that the association has a duty to upkeep and maintain all common elements as they are property of the association and not the individual unit owners. The association’s governance documents clearly state what is the association’s duty to maintain. This would usually include parking lots, landscaping, amenities like pools, sidewalks, roofs and building exteriors. Now, if a unit owner became delinquent in their common fees and needed a roof replaced over their unit, the association would still have to maintain that roof because they own it, not the individual unit owner. Failure to maintain a common element would be akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face. It will still need to be done whether the unit owner living under that roof is delinquent or not. I think the more important question here is what steps the association CAN take to either bring this unit owner up to date with fees or force a foreclosure where by the association evicts the unit owner, and, hopefully, replaces the unit owner with a dues-paying owner. If you haven’t already done so, consult with your association’s attorney and make sure the proper steps are being taken. Good luck!