Category Archives: Neighbor Issues

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! 

Neglected Condo Roof is Only the Tip of This Problem

M.L. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’m in a condo association of two just outside Boston. We split common expenses 60(upstairs)/40(me). We need a new roof and upstairs neighbors are stalling and finally admitted they don’t have the money. This repair is long overdue and I am concerned that deferring could lead to damage. What are my options?

Mister Condo replies:

M.L., I am sorry for your problem. 2-unit condos like yours can be the perfect arrangement for some and a horror show for others. Your situation, I am afraid, is a bit of a horror show. I am not a lawyer and offer no legal advice here. However, I suggest you speak with an attorney from your area to see what other legal remedies you might have available to you. Your only real option, in my opinion, is to sue the other owner. But that won’t necessarily solve your problem seeing as you already know they don’t have the money. The truth is they can’t afford to live in this condo since they can’t shoulder the financial burden of doing so. In my opinion, your best bet is to sell and leave this problem to someone else. If you wish to fight the good fight and stay, you can either live with the problem roof or you can begin a lawsuit that will likely end in them losing their home through foreclosure and might still not get you the new roof you need. That is a very ugly, complicated, and nightmarish way to live for the next year or two that this would take to unfold. If it were me, I’d put my unit up for sale and spend my time and energy elsewhere. Good luck!

Upstairs Condo Neighbor Needs Downstairs Condo Neighbor’s Cooperation

P.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My neighbor upstairs wants to renovate their bathroom to make it more accessible to their elderly father. She wants to change the plumbing and needs to come through my unit to do so. I am not really comfortable with this as my ceilings have recently been painted and plastered and I do not want a patch up after they drill holes in my unit. Not sure what to do.

Mister Condo replies:

P.K., I feel your pain. You want to be a good neighbor but you also want to protect your home and investment. There is no right or wrong answer here. If the governing documents don’t prohibit the type of modification your upstairs neighbors are seeking, this will largely come down to how cooperative you want to be. I guess my best advice is to ask yourself if the situation were reversed, how would you want your neighbor to respond. Typically, you can stipulate that the ceilings in your home will need to be left in the same condition they are currently in. In other words, if a patch job isn’t going to suffice, you can explain that you just had all of this work done. While you are willing to accommodate the construction, you expect more than just a “patch and paint” at the end of the project. If your neighbors are serious about needing/wanting their modifications, they may be willing to agree to you terms. After all, being a good neighbor works both ways. All the best!

Seasonal Condo Landlord Faces Pushback from Year-Round Owners

S.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I bought a condo as a vacation home in Maine. There are five units. As I live in Massachusetts, and still work full-time, I am only able to use it intermittently in the summer, and then I rent it out November – May. There is another owner that rents hers year-round, and a third that comes intermittently in the summer and closes it up for the winter. That leaves two other units that are owner-occupied year-round. One of them is proposing that the non year-round owners pay an extra percentage or dollar on the monthly condo fees “for months when owners are not here to cover all the management/maintenance issues that fall to those who live here full time”. Can they do this? I would agree that the year-round owners are the ones who have to call the repairman, or may sweep up between cleaning lady visits, or admit inspectors to our units if required, but should they/can they be compensated through additional fees?

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., unless your governing documents allow for such a fee (unlikely), then the only way to add one would be to modify the documents. Since three of the five unit owners would likely vote against such a rule, it is unlikely to pass. That being said, there may be some validity to what the other year-round unit owners are asking and since it is such a small community, you might want to find an agreeable solution to keep peace and harmony in the community. Personally, I would argue that the year-round unit owners are benefitting by being the ones making the calls to repairmen and keeping their homes in good working order. If they need additional “sweeping up” between cleaning lady visits, perhaps it is time to schedule more cleaning lady visits, an expense shared by ALL unit owners, even those not there year-round to benefit directly from the additional cleaning. Other than that, I think they should review the governance documents and realize that the real estate purchase they made entitles them to the common services as outlined. Anything above that is an unreasonable expectation on their part. Good luck!

Family Not Welcome in Older Condo Community

D.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My husband, me, & our preschool child live in a privately-owned condo rental. A senior neighbor advised me that there are no kid bicycles allowed here as well as toys & they will be disposed of. Next, the condo manager came by and accused us of not supervising our child and that he was in the street, also parking lot. Allegations not true. Then another Senior resident came knocking with the condo rules. I read them and gave them back. I received a copy of my own rules and did note it stated there are to be no bouncing balls or bicycles in the common areas. My son and I have been yelled and screamed at by neighbors for absolutely no reason at times so it’s obvious they have a problem with us but we are pretty good people who keep to ourselves. I was told by a senior resident that all the neighbors here do not like us living here. He stated it was because of our little boy. Our car broke down on a Saturday and we went to take the bus, I noticed that I was being followed part way to the bus stop by one of the neighbors. I also noticed that she was on the phone. I told my husband I’m sure she was calling the association and letting them know that our car was broke down. I can’t prove that but we did within about 48 hours receive a notice that we were going to have our car towed within 24 hours because it was not running. There are several other cars in our area that are out of compliance with their rules, they have not received any notification to move their cars and they are also good friends with management. Is it legal for them to tow our car only and not tow other cars that are not following the same rules? We were told to just move if we didn’t like the rules, this was by the manager. We never said this and my husband has responded to them via letter. They have now been threatening to tow the car for 2 weeks at least. But they still have not. We are in process if attempting to sell it as per our mechanics advise. Any help would be appreciated.

Mister Condo replies:

D.S., it certainly sounds as though you and your family are not being welcomed in this particular community. Is this an age-restricted community, meaning it was designed for older residents (aged 55+)? If so, I can see where the presence of a child and a young family is not welcome here. Regardless of the reason, you are on the enforcement side of rules violations and I am guessing that will continue unless you are able to fully comply with the association’s rules. That can be quite the challenge with a young child and a broken-down vehicle. As for the enforcement of the rules, that is the association’s duty. Rules are typically enforced at the request of a fellow unit owner who complains about the violation or by the Board or Manager if so empowered. If you observe other violations, you would likely notify your landlord who would inform the association. The association could then take action against the rule violators if they so choose. It is possible that may have a discrimination complaint against the association but I cannot offer legal advice in this column. If you feel you have a case for discrimination, you should contact a local attorney who could better advise you of your options. If I were in your position, I would speak to my landlord and let him know how you are being treated. I certainly wouldn’t renew my lease and I would consider moving out as soon as possible. There is no reason for you to not enjoy your rental home and I am sure you can find a more family-friendly community. All the best!

Violent Condo Resident Danger to Himself and Others

A.O. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I reside in a 4-unit condominium, all owner occupied, in Massachusetts. We are a self-managed property and three years ago a new resident purchased one of the units; this owner’s Master Deed is both in their name and his mother’s; his mother does not live on the premises.

Since this individual has moved into the Association there have been significant violations of bylaws as well as safety concerns that have involved the police: spray painting the exterior of his door with red spray paint, stating obscenities; screaming for hours on end at night while also causing physical destruction within his own unit; threatening to murder people; leaving pools of his own blood in common area; taking a baseball bat to the fire alarm; and a series of other disconcerting behaviors.

We, and our neighbors, routinely call the police and they have taken him into custody on some occasions and not others. In some cases, unfortunately, association members have not called the police out of fear of escalating the situation (fears include that this individual could hurt himself, others or cause damage to our property). We have attempted to engage the parent, who is also on the deed, who only assures us that this individual is harmless.

While we are not certain that this individual is mentally ill, we assume that the presenting behaviors are indicative of such, so we are at a loss as to how to protect ourselves and our property while also being mindful of the law.

What can we legally do?

Mister Condo replies:

A.O., there isn’t too much that you can do other than what you have already done. There are no laws that prohibit mentally ill people from owning real estate. The police have been called (as they should be) and have taken appropriate action as they deem fit. That takes care of the criminal activity. As for the violations of rules and by-laws, the Board should be taking whatever action is appropriate to protect the association. However, if you have a violent or mentally unstable resident in your building, there is little that can be done by the Board. Ideally, this person would leave your condo and get the help they need. Until then, I am afraid the only other option you have is likely to put up with the behavior or sell your unit. I know which one I would do. Good luck!

Neighbor Damages Unit, Refuses to Pay for Repairs

L.W. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

A few months ago, a neighbor (a tenant – owner rents it out) attempted to make a change to the plumbing in his kitchen. It was done incorrectly, causing water to flow incessantly for several days into my garage which is below their kitchen. Water flowed all across the length of my ceiling (into the area where the air conditioning ducts are housed), and down the sides of the walls causing the sheet rock and insulation to be very soaked with water. I hired a painting and home improvement company who has done work for me and several others in this complex to get rid of all the water-soaked materials, and then to replace the materials once the area had time to dry out. It took them a several hours for several days to complete the work. It was done nicely, and I am satisfied with the work.

The problem is that the owner of the unit believes my contractor’s final price was too high – $750. I believe it was a fair and reasonable price. He is someone I trust, and he does good work. The owner paid half of that bill. I believe he should be the rest. He (by allowing his tenant to perform unlicensed plumbing work) endangered not only my unit, but those nearby. If I had not been home and noticed the leaking in my garage (the tenants were away for the week), the damage may have been disastrous.

Do you have any ideas on how to get this unit owner to pay the rest of the bill? I am considering Small Claims Court if he doesn’t pay within the next few weeks.

Mister Condo replies:

L.W., I am sorry for your problems. Typically, when a unit owner damages another owner’s unit, their insurance or even the association’s insurance is used to handle the repair of the damaged area. Since you took it upon yourself to handle the damage repair, you may be on the hook to collect from the other unit owner (or their insurance). Personally, I like your “take charge” common sense approach to getting the repair handled in timely fashion. However, now you may need to take your neighbor to Small Claims court to get your money back. Honestly, it sounds to me like you got an exceptional price for the work but your “shoot first, ask questions later” approach is receiving pushback from your neighbor. You might want to run the information past an attorney to see if you have a legal leg to stand on. Also, since the neighbor has already drawn a line in the sand at $375, you may need to ask yourself how much aggravation you are willing to suffer to recover the extra $375. You might just want to write this one off and pay attention to what happens the next time and hope that there isn’t a next time. All the best!

Neighbor’s Children Ruining Condo Living Experience

S.F. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo in Florida. We have 1 assigned parking space. However, the neighbors from hell have moved in with unruly children and company taking up the visitor spot in front of our building. They have visitor spots closer to their building but prefer ours because of the shade. Also, I have sent pics of their kids jumping from one a/c unit to the next and, again, these are in front of our building not their and right in front of my bedroom window which for some reason they like to play. I have a 6-year-old but I don’t allow her to go past our patio. I don’t understand. It’s like they play in front of other people’s window/building except their own. I only rent and wish I could up and move. But what are my options as far as them hogging the one visitor space in front of our building instead of the visitors in front of theirs and these unruly children. Help! I am a migraine sufferer.

Mister Condo replies:

S.F., I am sorry for your troubles. Unruly and poorly behaved children would be a difficult problem in any condo. Many associations are challenged by rules enforcement issues when it comes to children but your only recourse is to report the rule-breaking activity to the management company and Board so they can take corrective action. Parking is a separate issue but with a similar solution. If anyone is parking in a space assigned to another unit owner, they can be reported to the Board and dealt with by fines and/or towing as allowed by your by-laws. However, simply parking in a visitor space is not a violation. If the visitor space is up for grabs or “first come, first served”, there is nothing you can do to stop your neighbor from parking there, any more than they could prevent you from parking in a visitor space other than the one closest to your unit. As for the migraines caused or exacerbated by living with these in considerate neighbors, I would honestly consider renting somewhere else. Why stay in a unit where the neighbors are such a problem? I wish you all the best!

Neighbor’s Smoke Forces Condo Owner to Sell!

J.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a condominium owner who can no longer hack the smoke. I see from this forum that the raging conflict rarely goes well. I AM LOOKING TO SELL THE PLACE. I am not looking for legal advice nor interested in beating a dead horse with the association again. I did all of the polite and never uncivil neighborly discussions, bought all the expensive air cleaners, spent countless dollars and days fixing insulation and ventilation, and tried countless variations of adjusting fans and windows.

The sooner I sell, the sooner my freedom from this. While I am not a Zen Monk I wish to enjoy my life in the here and now, free from resentments and in harmony as much as I can. At the risk of going off on a tangent, it’s not in any control freak power-hungry thinking to want fresh air any more than wanting food. Point being that the cosmic “here and now” talk goes out the window when basic survival needs are in the forefront. You may see an animal with flies around its eyes not even twitch, but if somebody blew smoke at it, it would freak out.

NOW TO MY QUESTION. How can I show the place to potential buyers during hours conducive to do so (nonbusiness hours; evenings weekends). The problem smoking neighbors leave for work during normal business hours and I can get the place aired out. I don’t feel obligated to put anything about neighbors in a seller’s disclosure document because that document is not about neighbors any more than the neighbors’ religion on sexuality or race and I chances are the buyer won’t be as sensitive to smoke as myself. My problem is that all hell breaks loose here when they get home from work, the times most conducive to show the place to potential buyers. I look forward to my newfound freedom after selling a place I really liked everything else about, but now how do I keep the culprit smokers from blowing the deal?

Mister Condo replies:

J.S., as a fellow non-smoker I feel your pain. There isn’t anything you can do about showing your unit to unsuspecting buyers. However, since there are so many folks unlike you and me, who prefer to smoke, why not use it to your marketing advantage. Use words like “smoker-friendly” or “ideal for smokers” in your marketing. In this world of “smokers be damned” I wouldn’t be surprised to see several potential buyers who smoke entering your unit and thinking they found their own Zen Monk experience. Win/Win, my friend. More and more, there are smoke-free communities and states that are outlawing smoking in high-density housing like condos. My guess is that you will be thorough in your quest for your next home. I wish you clean air and healthy living. Good Luck!

Condo Neighbor’s Leaking Air Conditioning Causes Moldy Nightmare!

B.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi Mr. Condo! I hope you can help me. I’m an owner of a condo in an apartment style building. Last week, I discovered a leak from above into my AC closet which shares a wall with my linen closet. My AC is non-operable (since 2012) so I know it isn’t mine. I checked my linen closet and found the back wall covered in mold. I contacted the property management company right away. They said they would contact the above tenant/owner to stop the leak so I can begin repairs. I’ve since sent several emails and called twice. For the past 5 days I have not received any response. I even went so far as to call the tenant myself. No response there either. What are my options?

Mister Condo replies:

B.L., I am sorry for your problems. Leaks caused by neighbors are bad enough but mold problems are quite serious. You did the right thing by contacting the Property Manager. You should also document the mold intrusion with lots of photos in case they are needed down the road. The association is responsible for getting involved and making the repairs. Unfortunately, it sounds like the manager is off to a slow and ineffective start. You need to be persistent and write to the Board along with your documentation showing what is going on and demanding they make the repairs. The other unit owner’s lack of cooperation may be a problem for you but the Board can take legal action against them to make them comply. You should not need to contact them at all, email, in person, or otherwise. If they are responsive to you, you can certainly speak with them to ask them to be more helpful but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Board needs some time to get this situation remedied and you may wish to be patient for a few months while they get this straightened out. However, you may also wish to speak to an attorney if things are moving too slow for you. Mold can be deadly and you need to have it removed quickly. You may even need to vacate your unit if it is found to be toxic. In that case, you would turn to your own homeowner’s insurance to see if you have coverage that would pay for your temporary relocation while the mold is abated. Ultimately, you want the neighbor’s A/C unit repaired so it stops leaking. You want your unit dry and you want the mold removed. Once all that is done, you’ll be back in business. Be persistent and apply the right amount of pressure to make sure you aren’t forgotten. Your problem is there problem and it needs to be taken seriously by all involved. Good luck!