Category Archives: Legal

Condo Construction Defect Loan Cannot be Paid Off Early

W.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Initial construction had problems – BOD suit – went on $2.7M legal fees – won but he filed bankruptcy – urgently needed work done – BOD/Association took loan against common property – $10M – doubled condo fee – was to be provision for buyer pre-pay – never done – demand they do it. Questions: 1) Propriety of binding all condo owners to overall loan – do not allow a owner pre- pay – 2) Isn’t this unusual – As expected, large condo fee has deterred sales.

Mister Condo replies:

W.M., I am sorry for all of your new association’s problems. Construction defects can be quite expensive as can the lawsuits to chase down the developer. In this case, it looks like good money was spent chasing bad to try and recover the funds for the association. As is the case, the unit owners are left footing the bill. You would need to check your association’s governing documents to determine what authority the Board had to negotiate a loan on the part of the association and their ability to limit unit owners’ ability to pay off their portion of the loan at their discretion. You asked if it was unusual and my answer is that it is not. Most newer associations have the ability to enter into a loan agreement on behalf of the association. Depending on how they negotiated the loan, they may not have the ability to pay off the loan early, which would limit the unit owners’ ability to pay off their portion early. In my experience, that particular term of the loan would be unusual but not unheard of. You might ask the Board to refinance the loan with a lender that would allow the association to pay back the loan early if unit owners wanted to do so, However, that is easier said than done as a new loan would carry additional closing fees and costs. My advice would be to simply make your increased common fee payments until the loan is retired or ask the Board to look into refinancing the loan in a year or two, especially if loan rates stay low. Good luck!

Current Condo Owner Cited for Previous Owner’s Unapproved Modification

J.F. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’ve owned my condo for nearly three years. I have put it on the market attempting to sell it. After posting it online, the condo company contacted me stating that my in-suite washer/dryer was never approved by the condo board (it was installed by previous owners). I was not aware of this at the time I purchased the condo. They are saying that I need to have an inspection (at my cost) to insure that it is vented correctly and to obtain signed papers stating the same to present to the board. If it is not vented properly (which I think might be the case), they told me that I need to have them removed and pay for any damage it caused to the building. I don’t think this is my responsibility as I was not made aware of any of this when I bought the condo. The condo company claims they have no record of this and no record of any of the previous owners and that it is my responsibility to find the previous owners. I hardly feel that any of this my responsibility. The realtors I bought the condo with have not been helpful in getting information on previous owners. My condo is currently on the market so I want to get this cleaned up as quickly as possible so as not to deter potential buyers. Shall I get a lawyer involved?

Mister Condo replies:

J.F., I am sorry to say that you are likely on the hook for this previous owner’s unapproved washer/dryer installation, regardless of your lack of knowledge. You are the owner of record when the violation was cited and, as such, you are the person who needs to put your unit back in conformance with the association. You may have a case to sue the previous owner for making an unapproved modification to their unit but that is likely going to be a futile effort. I’d rather see you focus your resources on getting your unit in compliance as quickly as possible so that you can make an unencumbered sale to a new owner. I can’t imagine that this process is going to be terribly expensive but, nevertheless, if you think you can track down a previous owner and bring a suit against them for your damages, I wouldn’t discourage you as long as there was enough money at risk to make it worth your while. Otherwise, follow the association’s instructions for putting your unit in compliance, make your sale, and move on. All the best!

Condo Roof Access Required for Maintenance

J.H. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What is the Florida law on condominium unlocked or locked roof access? This is not a roof deck this is a roof access for maintenance issues only.

Mister Condo replies:

J.H., I am neither an attorney nor an expert in Florida Community Association laws so I cannot offer you any legal advice here. You should seek out an attorney to get a legal answer to your question. I will say that if the association needs to access your roof for maintenance issues, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t allow them the access. How else could they perform the needed maintenance? While I don’t know what the laws specifically say about allowing access to a maintenance person onto your roof to perform maintenance that benefits you and other association members, if it were me, I would allow the access. All the best!

Condo Owner Seeks to Install Solar Panels on Association-Owned Roof

D.E. from Maryland writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo in Talbot County, Maryland I made a request for possible installation of Solar Panel on our rear roof which has the best sun. I told them we were having several Solar companies looking at the project and would keep them informed. The next thing I get is a letter from their Attorney stating they own the roof and denied my request. Is there any law that would support me and we would certainly insure our side, etc.. Your knowledge will be appreciated!

Mister Condo replies:

D.E., as you know I am not an attorney nor am I an expert in Maryland community association law. That being said, I am not aware of any law that would allow you as a condo unit owner to install solar panels (or anything else for that matter) on the association-owned roof. Have you asked the Board if the association as a whole would be interested in install solar panels? It is possible that the association could actually make some money on solar panels (after an initial investment) that would benefit all unit owners. However, as an individual owner, it is highly unlikely that you as an individual unit owner can install your own solar panels. All the best!

Condo Cannot Enforce Rules on Land it Doesn’t Own

J.J. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo association rules state “No Signs of any kind with the exception of one For Sale sign”. With that being said, since all of our roads are county roads and not private roads, can the association stop me from putting political signs in the county road right of way in our subdivision? This is property that is not owned by any association member but the county right of way that is owned by the county road commission. Thank you! I need a quick answer.

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., quite simply the condo can only enforce rules on land that it owns. If you are certain that they don’t own the land you wish to plant signs on then they cannot enforce their rules on that land. However, the land owner of the land in question may have their own rules about what the public can and cannot do on that land. Have you checked with the county road commission? Violating your condo rules can get you a warning or a fine. Violating municipal rules could get you arrested. Better to be safe than sorry. Find out who owns the land and what the rules are for posting political signs before you take any other action.  All the best!

Condo Parking Space Promised but Not Delivered

S.S. from New York City writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 6-unit new construction condominium in NYC. The builder who I purchased my condo originally told me that even though my unit does not come with parking spot, there was a spot on the side of the building that could be converted to a legal parking spot. Recently I wanted to do this and told the board I would incur all the cost associated with the legalizing that spot.The condominium board of directors voted and denied me a spot. Can I still legally do it without their approval by hiring an attorney or something?

Mister Condo replies:

S.S., I am sorry for your predicament. I can tell you that most questions I get that begin with someone telling you something without you having it in writing don’t end well. The statement that “your unit does not come with a parking spot” is a second telltale sign that this isn’t going to end well for you. You can certainly hire an attorney and see what can be done but, from what you have told me, it doesn’t sound like you will have a case to make the Board release the parking space to you. Perhaps you can rent the space from the association? That might make more sense than spending money on a lawsuit that, to my eye, shows little merit. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. You should certainly speak with an attorney for a legal opinion but if the attorney says you don’t have a case, I wouldn’t be too surprised. Always, always, always get it in writing. Good luck!

Noisy Condo Neighbors Refuse to Be Quiet 

P.C. from Maryland writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a renter who receives a government subsidy. The neighbor above me owns her condo. She is loud. Stomps over my head drop objects constantly. Every night until 1:00 am. I sent an email to manager of association, who contacted the owner of my unit. I complained to housing i really want to break my lease. The owner refuses. The association manager says she’s going to,send a letter. I have a police report. I have to go to court to process my complaint to have a noise ordinance enforced. I have a disability. Should i call legal aid? Get a case going? This association i heard is not good. They have issues keeping up the property. I cant wait to leave next year. It wont come fast enough!

Mister Condo replies:

P.C., I am sorry for your troubles. It sounds to me as though you are doing just about all you can do. If your upstairs neighbor is an inconsiderate person and refuses to obey the association’s rules on noise, your next steps are legal, which it sounds like you are taking. Understand that the association can only enforce its own rules. If you have made a complaint of a rules violation, the next step is for the Board to review the complaint and take whatever action they can against the violator as outlined in the association’s governance documents. This is typically a warning letter, followed by a fine or fines for multiple violations. That is really all they can do. If laws are being broken, i.e. noise ordinances, then you can follow through with legal action, which you are doing. While your disability may impede the ease of making such a complaint, you are free to hire an attorney to represent you if need be. If Legal Aid will handle that for you, by all means, have them do so. Ultimately, I think your plan of leaving the association is a good one. Hopefully, your new home will come with better neighbors. All the best! 

Florida Rental Condo Sold with Previous Owner Keeping Future Rental Deposits

S.C. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We recently bought a condo in Florida. The previous owner has booked rentals through to next year. Is he entitled to keep those deposits even though he does not currently own the condo?

Mister Condo replies:

S.C., it depends on how you negotiated the sale and purchase of the condo. Are you physically living there or is it a rental property for you as well? Are the future leases in your possession or the previous owner? I can’t imagine any situation where an attorney handling this transaction would have let such a potential problem go unanswered during the closing process. If you handled this transaction without the advice of an attorney, you will very likely need one now as the folks expecting the rental property to be available for them will most certainly expect that their deposits will be used towards payment of their rent for the property. My advice is to review the purchase and sale agreement and see what it says about these previous deposits. If it looks unfavorable to you, you should get in touch with a qualified attorney who can best advise you what your next steps should be. Good luck!

Can the Board Enforce a Weight Rule Against Tenant With an ESA?

A.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am on the HOA Board of our 11 unit complex. One unit is being rented out to a tenant with a pit bull. The HOA knew the tenant had a dog but only recently started receiving complaints about the dog. It has jumped on other residents, barks all day, and has tried jumping on other resident’s dogs. The HOA also was informed the dog is over our weight restrictions. When served with a violation notice the tenant gave a letter stating they are allowed one ESA. Can the HOA continue to pursue action against the dog being over weight limits? And can the HOA do anything about the dog being a nuisance? The owner of the unit is siding with the tenant and wants them to keep the dog. But now other residents, including the neighboring unit, are afraid of being attacked by the pit bull. I don’t think the ESA is exempt from all HOA rules but it seems the tenant is hiding behind that ESA letter.

Mister Condo replies:

A.G., the winds of change are blowing on Emotional Support Animals and your tenant may be on the losing side of the latest court rulings. Also, the HOA may be able to enforce rules about breed or weight restrictions based on your local laws. However, this is not a “do it yourself” project. Violating the rights of any unit owner or tenant with a legitimately documented ESA is a potential lawsuit waiting to happen. You are very well advised to seek the advice and guidance of a locally qualified attorney who is verse in this area of law. Otherwise, your small association could find itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit. Based on what you have shared with me so far, it sounds like both the tenant and unit owner are ready to do battle so tread lightly and get the legal advice you need before you take any action. Good luck!

Condo Roof Leak Creates Insurance Mess for Unit Owner

G.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo roof is over 20 years old (I believe 23 years). Was already patched once when we first started getting water two weeks ago. With more rain it has begun to leak into the ceiling and wall in our kitchen/dining area (shared with a neighbor who currently isn’t having any water issues). The ceiling drywall was so saturated it began pouring into our unit through the seams of the drywall. We tore out the drywall. Damage appears to be very extensive. Our association doesn’t want to file a claim with their insurance. They called roofers (for the second time) to come patch the flat roof over the area. We called contractors for water damage out for an estimate. Who is going to pay for all of the damage? As of now it looks as though the wall behind our cabinets is damaged, cabinets are wet, and the subroof is also saturated and water is still pouring in. Since this wasn’t caused by a storm or anything we did as the unit owner, does that make the building/association liable?

Mister Condo replies:

G.G., I am sorry for your troubles. Water intrusion is a nasty, messy situation that requires professional help to remedy. Typically, your insurance would pay for the damage done to the interior of your unit. In fact, your insurer may be the ones who go after the Board to help pay for the damage, especially if it was caused by negligence to maintain. The Board is not under any obligation to submit an insurance claim. However, that does not free them from the responsibility of repairing the roof (which they did) and the possible claim against them for the damage caused to your unit. My best advice to you is to work with your insurer to collect as much money as possible to cover your loss. You might also want to involve an attorney to see what other legal rights or claims you may have against the association. My guess is that this might take some time to remedy but you will get your damage repaired without too much more than your deductible as an out of pocket expense. Good luck!