Category Archives: Legal

Hellish HOA Landlord

M.G. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What if an owner lies to the renter and their HOA concerning the number of dogs living in their unit? My owners put on the lease and collected $450 nonrefundable pet fee for 2 dogs. However, unbeknownst to me until I moved in, they put 1 dog on the HOA form. This is because there is a strict “20 pound, 1 dog” limit on the property. However, I was told there was only a strict 20 pound weight limit. (This would not have been a problem, because my 2 Maltese are only 16 pounds together.) I was there less than 24 hours, when I was informed by the groundskeeper that there was a 1 dog/unit policy & that they would give me a hard time about having 2 dogs. I was handed the keys after they’d had approximately 20 people over for one last party. It cost me $450 for a two day deep clean move-in to remove all the filth and sand from everything. Do I as a renter, have any recourse after signing a deceitful lease?

Mister Condo replies:

M.G., I am sorry for your problems. I had to shorten your letter for space but, needless to say, you rented from the landlord from hell. The short answer to your question is “yes”, you have recourse but not without hiring an attorney who will sue this landlord for leasing the unit to you while not fulfilling the contract and flat out lying to you about the pet restrictions. You will need to ask the attorney about the cost of this suit and the likelihood of you getting your money back. Weigh the cost to return benefit before proceeding. You should also check with the state to see if you have protection as a renter that the state will pursue for you against your landlord. It goes without saying that you should not lease with this landlord again and I encourage you to do be as diligent as possible before signing your next lease. Just as a landlord requires references from you, you should require references of a landlord. Good luck!

Developer Obligation to Pay HOA Fees on Undeveloped Lots

C.C. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Does a developer of A PUD have an obligation to pay dues on unsold lots once the transition/takeover of board has taken place?

Mister Condo replies:

C.C., an unsold lot is not the same as an undeveloped lot. If the PUD consists of built units, then it is likely that the developer would be liable for the dues from the unsold units. Undeveloped lots, do not likely carry the same burden, especially since they are undeveloped. You would need to check the documents for further clarification but it is uncommon for a developer to pay fees for undeveloped lots. If the association has an attorney (and they should have their own attorney during the transition/takeover period), this is a great question for him or her. Good luck!

Deceased Majority Condo Unit Owner Creates Governance Issues

P.D. from Texas writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have 116 townhome units that fall under the Texas HOA Condo law, and 50 of those units were bought out years ago by a gentleman who has since died. His estate is tied up in court and with the IRS because he didn’t have a will (I know RIGHT)? Anyway, for years his ‘property management’ lady that rents and lives on property is always using her 50 votes to tilt outcomes in her favor.  

We are hoping one day if we take it to court and have a judge look at the unequal leverage that one person holds over us that isn’t even a homeowner, we are hoping that could change or that a judge would see it as not a true democracy. 

Wondering if you could give us any advice? We don’t get a full turn out of homeowners because many are elderly on our property, and she single handedly runs the show/votes/outcomes on how she wants it to happen (and even voting HERSELF on the board!) 

Thanks so much for all you do for us in sharing your knowledge 🙂

Mister Condo replies:

P.D., I am sorry that your association finds itself in such a predicament. The “property management lady” you refer to must have some arrangement/authority for the deceased seeing as she is living in one of his units and managing the others. You should look at your by-laws and even state law on the number of votes any one single unit owner can cast. Some limit to a percentage (15% of total votes cast, for instance), others limit to a set number of votes. If that is the case, you can simply impose those limits on here the next time there is a vote. The reality is that you have a single unit owner who owns almost half of all of the units. I would not personally wish to live in a condo with that kind of single ownership ratio because, as you can see, this can create exactly the kind of problems you are dealing with. What if all 50 units stopped paying common fees? What if the association had to take adverse possession (foreclosure action) against the deceased’s estate? The legal fees and glut of units could create a hardship for the other unit owners. You should really be thankful that the association doesn’t have far larger problems than what you have described.My advice is to speak with a locally qualified attorney who specializes in community association law. You can find a list of such attorneys by clicking on https://www.caionline.org/Chapters/Pages/Chapter-Listing.aspx#TXand finding the CAI Chapter that services your part of Texas. Austin, Dallas/Fort Wort, Greater Houston, and San Antonio all feature many qualified attorneys who can guide your association through the proper steps to regain control of your association.Keep in mind that there may be little the association can do. After all, even though he is deceased, his estate still controls 50 of the 116 units in your association. The right to vote is part of what you purchase when you buy a condominium. You are a shareholder in a corporation and you most certainly have a right to vote. I wouldn’t easily give up my right any easier than you would. Good luck!

Condo Unit Owner Claims Negligence as Reason for Not Paying Assessment

V.M. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If I do not pay an assessment because of negligence by the trustees do I lose my rights as a unit owner?

Mister Condo replies:

V.M., regardless of what the reason for not paying an assessment, the association will very likely take collections action against you, up to and including foreclosing on your home. You do not fight a claim of negligence by withholding fees or assessments because the association has a legal duty to collect those funds from you and from all unit owners. You have rights as well and challenging the Board with a claim of negligence is done with a lawsuit initiated by you against the association. The only thing withholding fees or assessments will accomplish is legal fees and possible loss of your condo through foreclosure. That is not a good strategy, in my opinion. All the best!

Transitioning Outgoing Condo Manager Fees

R.S. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What can we expect legally that a transitioning property manager must provide to a new incoming property manager upon termination? What is the outgoing manager allowed to charge after termination, and what is considered reasonable or unreasonable?

Mister Condo replies:

R.S., developer transition in a condominium association is a tricky time at best. There are very few rules or laws to guide you here and my best advice is for the association to have its own attorney review all of the transactions that take place during the transition period because there are just too many things that can go wrong. Association that tackle this without professional and legal help often stumble and find themselves on the short end of the stick with missing funds, incomplete work, missing paperwork, etc.. An experienced attorney is worth twice their fees during this period as they can actually save the association thousands of dollars if the transaction is handled incorrectly. If the outgoing manager has a contract in place, the association is bound to pay whatever the contract calls for. If there is no contract in place, the manager may be free to try to charge whatever they wish. This is one area where an attorney can be incredibly useful as the association may not have to pay anything if there is no contract. At the very least, the attorney can negotiate such items for the association making sure it doesn’t pay a penny more than it needs to. All the best!

Previous Condo Owner Installed Hardwood Floors Improperly

S.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are having problems with our hardwood floors cupping. We just found out that our Management told the previous owner that the floors were not being properly installed and this could happen. Isn’t it the responsibility of Management to let us know of this improper installation before we purchased the unit? Shouldn’t they help pay for some of the very expensive repairs we now have? Thanks for your help.

Mister Condo replies:

S.B., I am sorry that you find yourself in this position. In my opinion, this is your problem and not anyone else’s. I assume you had the home inspected before you made the purchase. I could argue that the previous owner had a responsibility to let you know about the potential problem as a disclosure to the sale of the property but other than being an “oversight” on their part, I doubt any real estate disclosure laws were broken. Typically, units are sold “as is”, meaning the unit is now your responsibility, defects and all. My understanding is that is it very difficult to cure cupping hardwood floors as moisture is typically the culprit. Unless you can remove the moisture, it is likely you will need to replace the floors. My recommendation would be to heed the advice of proper installation so you don’t have a repeated failure. Sorry I don’t have better news. All the best!

Condo Association Recordkeeping Requirements on Previous Owners and Renters

P.S. from Illinois writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How long must a condo association keep files/paperwork of owners and renters who have moved out of the building? Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

P.S., all association records in your state must be kept a minimum of 7 years. However, unless it is unreasonable to do so, many attorneys would recommend holding onto them forever as the condo association is a business corporation and prefer to keep their records in perpetuity, even if it means warehousing them after seven years. It really depends on your documentation requirements for owners and renters. Most associations do require records of who is currently living in their association, making these records association records subject to the seven-year recordkeeping requirement. For a proper legal answer to your question, ask the association’s attorney. They will give you a proper legal answer to your question. All the best!

Question of Financial Liability for Condo Decks Leads to Foreclosure!

D.U. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own a condo in a building without deck units, whereas other buildings in the condo have decks attached to their units. Since a deck or balcony is not a common element, I feel that it is not fair to be asked to pay $2,000.00 for the repairs of other units’ decks. Plus, I was appalled to learn at one of the meetings that some decks were repaired not long ago but the shabby job done made them fall apart in the following year. The Board of Directors members, who, by the way, have decks to their units, were quiet about it at the meeting. The association should be held accountable for not preventing such a failure. Instead they are imposing a lot of money to cover their mismanagement on many other units without a deck. Many of owners are elderly, as myself, living on a limited income. To involve a lawyer to fight such an abusive manner in the court, cost a lot of money which we cannot afford. As a matter of fact, I have already got a letter from the association, to be informed that a lawsuit including a foreclosure is intended on me. I have to add the association couldn’t provide, at my lawyer request, a copy of the relevant portions of the By-Laws, Rules, or Regulations which authorize the imposition of such assessment on me. Where should I address this issue other than here? I think that an investigation is overdue on Property Management at my association.

Mister Condo replies:

D.U., I am sorry you find yourself at such odds with your association. To hear that you are being threatened with foreclosure now tells me things have progressed even further than your letter lets on. Let’s start with what comes next so that you don’t lose your home. You have hired an attorney to represent you and that is critical to protect your rights. He has asked for the supporting documentation giving them the right to assess and then foreclose for failure to pay the assessment in timely fashion. I can assure you that they do have the right to collect assessments from you and they can foreclose against you if you don’t pay the assessments. You also have rights and you may be able to sue them if the assessment was passed incorrectly or if the decks are not common elements, as you claim. Unfortunately, my guess is that the decks are considered common or limited common elements and that you may, in fact, be liable even though your unit does not have a deck. I realize that this seems unfair but unless you or your lawyer can show where they have done something wrong, the assessment will stand and you will be held liable. There is no central authority in our state to investigate the management of your association and I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. You have already hired an attorney which is your best option to see this through. I wish I had better news for you here but I think the only real problem here is an understanding of how a condominium association operates and governs itself. Hopefully, your attorney will help you navigate this legal turmoil. All the best!

Laws About Condo Flooring Materials in High-Rises

J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am on the lower level of a condominium and the owner above me removed area rugs, and walking on hard wood floors above me sounds like horses walking around!! Are there any laws or standards regarding wood floors in condos?

Mister Condo replies:

J., there are no laws about floor types or covering in condos that I am aware of. However, many associations, especially those with upstairs/downstairs unit owners have their own rules about materials that may or may not be used by owners. Many apartment style condos require wall-to-wall carpeting to help prevent noise from travelling downward. Check your condo docs and see what they say about floor types and coverings. It is quite possible that your upstairs neighbor has violated the building’s policy by having hard wood floors, regardless of area rugs. At the very least, you might ask the Board to intervene as the noise is disturbing your peaceful use of your own unit. Good luck!

Condo Association Evicts Dog Owner After 5 Years!

K.V. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’ve been living in my condo for over 5 years. The association has never ever enforced the no dog over 20-pounds rule the entire time. Now I have an eviction notice on my door. Are they able to do that? Can they now kick me out for my dog? I’ve had her there for 5 years. I would have never moved in if I knew this would happen. 5 years!!!! Not one word about it being against the rules.

Mister Condo replies:

K.V., I am truly sorry for your problems. Just because the association chose not to enforce a rule doesn’t mean they can’t enforce a rule. What they do have to do is enforce the rule evenly (not just against you) and they have to follow the rules for notifying you of the violation, giving you an opportunity to contest the violation, make sure your dog is not an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), etc.. If they have done all of those things and your by-laws allow then to evict you and/or your dog, then they may be well within their rights. If you have not already done so, you should most certainly hire an attorney to protect your rights. Eviction is usually an extreme measure and a very legal procedure. It should not begin with a notice on your door. There are many more steps than that in the process. You can and should fight back. Whether or not you will prevail depends on the association’s governance documents and your local laws. All the best!