Category Archives: Legal

Condo Owner Acting as Unofficial Landlord

C.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

One of the condo owners in our complex does not reside in her unit. Instead, she lets “various friends??” use her condo for periods of time ranging from a few weeks to several months. There have been several residents in her unit and lots of problems, ie: drug overdoses, excessive drinking, police in and out. She claims these people are guests and therefore does not have to abide by the condo rules or town rules regarding rentals. Therefore, she avoids having her place inspected by the local Board of Health and paying the fee involved. No leases exist and the people staying at her place are supposedly “guests” and paying nothing. Everyone in the association knows the whole setup is bogus and we would like to put an end to it. Any suggestions.

Mister Condo replies:

C.P., there are solutions to every condo problem, in my opinion. In your case, it is a job for an attorney. If your current governance documents do not have enough definition of who can live in a unit with or without a lease, it is time to stiffen the rules and the penalties for violating those rules. Any competent community association attorney in your area should be able to help. Once these rules are in place, residents without a lease will no longer be allowed. Keep in mind that these new regulations will have to be observed by ALL unit owners and residents. You may limit guests to no more than a day or a week of residency, for instance. That might affect unit owners who have family come visit for extended periods of time. Understand that once these rules are enacted, all unit owners will be affected. That is why I recommend you work with an attorney to draft the right regulations, properly vote them into the by-laws, and then enforce them evenly. I am confident that you can get this one unit owner to start playing fair and get your vagrancy problem under control. Good luck!

Condo Board Lax in Enforcing Leasing Covenants

S.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

There are 17 out of 80 condos that are rented or have rooms rented out with no permission or application submitted by any of these owners or tenants. I have a list supplied by the former maintenance man. I got this when he still worked there. They have refused by request to rent mine out. I am recently widowed and am hoping I can arbitrate based on selective enforcement rules. Also, there seems to not be a census though president claims to mail it in. Do I have a good chance to win?

Mister Condo replies:

S.A., typically, condo governance documents require landlords to disclose who their tenants are and to provide a copy of the lease to the Board or Property Management Company, acting as the Board’s agent. Like any governance provision, it is only as effective as it is enforced. From what you are telling me, your current Board is uninterested in enforcing the regulation. Therefore, chaos rules and it puts unit owners such as yourself in a precarious situation with regards to leasing their own unit. When your case comes to arbitration, it will force the issue with the Board as to why there are so many undocumented rentals in the community and why are they choosing to enforce the regulation only against you. This could put them in a potential discrimination lawsuit position and they may be eager to see it your way and allow your lease. However, when it comes to Boards, attorneys, and arbitration, it is difficult to predict which way the wind will blow on any given day. I would encourage you to seek the arbitration and I wish you the best of luck. I do think that if what you have told me is true, you have a very good chance of prevailing.

Do Condo Boards Have to Take Minutes?

E.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When condos board meet to hey have to take minutes?

Mister Condo replies:

E.G., absolutely! Minutes are the only official record of Condo Board Meetings. Without Minutes, it is as if the meeting never happened. Condo Boards are representatives of a corporation and have a responsibility to the shareholders of the corporation (the unit owners) to maintain proper records of actions they take. Not every item discussed needs to be in the Minutes but every vote taken certainly does. A Board that operates without taking Minutes risks being sued by any unit owner who doesn’t agree with decisions made by the Board. While state laws vary on what must be included in the Minutes, almost all are based on some type of Corporation Act and some type of Condominium or Common Interest Act. These laws typically demand that Minutes be kept and be made available to unit owners upon request once approved by the Board. This protects both the Board and the unit owners. Some Boards farm out the actual recordkeeping to a Property Manager or other third party but the Minutes need to be submitted back to the Board who votes on their correctness and ratifies them into association records. I hope your Board is keeping Minutes. Thanks for the question!

Condo Owner Suffers 9 Years Without Kitchen Hot Water!

K.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have no hot water pressure in my kitchen. It is a building problem for several units and is on the “to do” list. I have asked about getting a reduced HOA fee as I am not receiving the same amenities as other condo owners. This has gone on for 9 years!!! Whenever I bring it up they assure me it is the next priority. Can I put my HOA payments in an escrow account until the problem is fixed?

Mister Condo replies:

K.D., I am sorry for your problems and your Board’s ineffective management of the repair. No, you cannot withhold your common fees or the Board can foreclose on your unit for unpaid fees over time. What you can do is sue the association for not providing the hot water. Ultimately, that will get you the hot water, which is what you really want here. Saving money on the common fees doesn’t help. Hot water will fulfill your expectation of what the association is supposed to provide. 9 years is far too long to wait. Speak to an attorney and see what you can do to get a lawsuit against the Board in place. They will likely find it less expensive to get your hot water running than to defend against a suit. Good luck!

Curtain Wall Responsibility Questioned by Condo Owner

L.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do you know of any condominiums where the unit owner is responsible for curtain walls?

Mister Condo replies:

L.S., I am sorry to say that I do, most commonly where glass is the building material in question. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here and my guess is that you will most certainly need one to interpret your condo docs to determine who actually owns the curtain walls. I have seen court cases ultimately make the final determination when associations and unit owners disagree over the curtain wall ownership. Even the state your unit is in will have an impact on the final decision as condo laws vary from state to state. Depending on whether the curtain walls are common areas, limited common areas, or specifically owned by the unit the responsibility will be determined. This litigation process can also be quite expensive so make sure you speak with a locally qualified attorney for an opinion before you proceed with a lawsuit. I hope this all works out for you and your fellow unit owners. Good luck!

Board Cites “Attorney/Client” Privilege in Questionable Condo Document Amendments

E.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our Board of Directors are amending our documents without the required 75% of the membership. I was told that two legal opinions were obtained by the BOD stating they have the right to do so. When I requested a copy of the legal opinions, the Management Company said they were invoking Attorney/Client privilege and I was refused. I am an owner of this Corporation and believe these opinions were obtained and probably paid for with my money. Should I be entitled to see these documents?

Mister Condo replies:

E.C., the short answer is “yes” but there are certain caveats in place to protect the Board. In other words, they have the right to withhold the documents during the period in question. I doubt it has anything to do with “attorney/client” privilege as much as it is an action they are taking as an Executive Board, which your governance documents likely give them the ability to do. Either way, if your documents or state law don’t allow them to amend your documents without a 75% vote, these amendments can and should be challenged by you or any other member of the association. You will want your own legal opinion, if necessary. Also, and more importantly, feel free to vote these folks out of office at your earliest convenience. Amending documents should not be done secretly, covertly, or improperly. Regardless of “legal opinion”, the will of the unit owners needs to be respected. These folks were elected to serve, not clandestinely revise the amendments to the association. I would interfere loudly with their plans and then prepare to vote new Board members in to office who will do a better job serving the will of the people. It may very well be that your association needs to revise its bylaws. Holding a meeting and involving the majority of unit owners as outlined in your governing documents is the way to do so. Good luck!

Condo Resale Disclosure

P.E. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What are the disclosure laws in New Jersey for the resale of a condo?

Mister Condo replies:

P.E., I am not an attorney so I cannot give you a legal answer here. You should speak with a qualified attorney in your region to get a legal response to your question. However, I can offer some friendly advice. Michael Odenthal of the New Jersey Cooperator has an excellent piece I commend to your reading: https://njcooperator.com/article/rules-of-disclosure/For the most part, it is a “buyer beware” transaction. However, a buyer that withholds pertinent information is typically liable for withholding of that information. My friendly advice is that any buyer have an attorney represent their best interest and have a full home inspection performed BEFORE signing any purchase and sale agreement.

Bank Still Owns Condo Parking Spaces

Z.A. from Illinois writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in Cook County Illinois. I am currently the President of our Board. The parking spaces in our building are deeded, and 24/26 spaces are currently owned by Unit Owners. However, the Developer was unable to sell all of the garage spaces, even though he already sold all the Units. The bank just foreclosed on the remaining two garage spaces and has stated that they will try to sell the garage spaces to someone outside our building. We would like to create a rule that requires the sale, exchange, or leasing of any garage space must be to a Unit Owner, and not to anyone outside our building. Would you recommend we do this with a simple Rule/Regulation, or do we need to amend our Declaration for this? Thanks in advance.

Mister Condo replies:

Z.A., I am not sure you can do this at all! Since I am neither an attorney nor an expert in Illinois condo law, I need to refer you to someone who can help. There are various stages of a condo. Developer Transition sounds like the one you are in right now. If the bank owns the land, you may not have the jurisdiction to make a rule over their land. You may need to purchase the land from the bank before making any rules about how the spaces will be used. Frankly, I am surprised one or more of the 24 existing unit owners hasn’t pounced on the available spaces seeing as parking is at such a premium in your region. I would recommend that the association consider purchasing the spaces from the bank and speak with your association attorney about what to do with them. My guess is they will provide income for the association over time. Good luck!

Condo Board Keeping Election Results Private

V.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Voting for three trustee positions with four individuals seeking a position was done primarily via proxy ballot. At the annual meeting, a quorum was not achieved. Some unit owners believe we have an obligation to post the results of the ballot count even though there was no quorum. What is your opinion?

Mister Condo replies:

V.M., results of any vote, proxy or other, are association records. As such, all unit owners have a right to see the results. However, allowing access to records and posting the results are two different things. I would say that any unit owner who wishes to see the results should request the record inspection. The association may or may not charge a small fee for the record inspection as detailed on your state law. My advice would be to always keep communication channels open between unit owners and the Board so as not to give the appearance of impropriety. An informed constituency is generally happier than one that is kept in the dark.

The lack of quorum at your Annual Meeting has no effect on this but it does bear the question of why proxy voting is required and why unit owners are not attending the Annual Meeting. This is common in seasonal properties (i.e. beach communities where owners may not be present year-round) but uncommon in associations where unit owners are typically at home. If the reason for no quorum is unit owner apathy, the unit owners have no one to blame but themselves. As long as the Board has nothing to hide, I would publish the results of the vote just to keep everyone happy and informed. All the best!

Condo Restricts Renters Use of Rooftop Amenity

V.S. from Boston writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own a condominium in Boston, MA. The Condominium Association amended the Condominium Trust document with a 67% vote of Unit Owners and recorded it at the Registry of Deeds. The amendment prohibits renters from having furniture on the roof deck. Owner occupants are allowed to have furniture on the common roof deck but renters are not allowed to have furniture on the roof deck. Renters are allowed to use the roof deck but cannot leave furniture up on the roof deck. Can the Condominium Association enforce such a provision or is this discriminatory against the renters? Thank you for your guidance.

Mister Condo replies:

V.S., the answer is “Yes” to both questions. Yes, the association can discriminate against renters regarding the use of the roof. Yes, they can enforce the rule seeing as it was passed properly. The real question is can you now sue the association for discrimination seeing as they have created a “class” of residents called “renters”. I am not an attorney nor am I an expert in Massachusetts state law but your question really needs to be posed to a local attorney to see if it has merit. You are not being denied access to the amenity; you are simply being denied access to have furniture placed on the roof. I wouldn’t think such a case has merit but if you think it is worth pursuing, I encourage you to do so. All the best!