Category Archives: Neighbor Issues

Careless Condo Owner Ruining Neighboring Unit

H.H. from Los Angeles writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in Los Angeles and the unit above me has had water leaking into my unit – this will make the 4th time. I had to get my insurance company involved last time and they had to replace my ceiling and shower. 2 days ago, water was pouring into my newly renovated kitchen. She claims she spilled a pitcher of water. I have pics and video. Prior to the last two incidences, I had to replace my bathroom ceiling because she was missing the rubber ring in her tub. Prior to that I had water running down my walls from a seal issue she had in her shower. Should I get an attorney? What can I do? I’ve been living in construction for the last year. I’m losing my mind!

Mister Condo replies:

H.H., I am sorry for your neighbor problems. Thankfully, you have insurance to assist with the repairs but there is no way to protect your peace of mind. You certainly could hire an attorney but to what avail? Your upstairs neighbor is just behaving in an un-neighborly manner. Her careless ways are making your condo life uncomfortable and downright miserable. You can write to your Board and ask that they intervene on your behalf but it doesn’t sound as though any rules or laws have been broken. This is just a case of a careless unit owner causing grief for fellow unit owners, in this case, you. Speak with an attorney if you think you have a case of some sort against ether the neighbor or the association. Other than that, keep your fingers crossed that this neighbor decides to start acting like a responsible adult and realizing that her careless action have real consequences to those around her. Good luck!

Condo Unit Owner Removes Load Bearing Wall; Disaster Ensues

N.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a condo on the fourth floor. An owner of a unit below moved a load bearing wall and now I have cracks on my walls and my floor sags. Who’s responsible; the owner that did the work or the association?

Mister Condo replies:

N.G., Yikes! I always shake my head in disbelief when I hear these stories. A unit owner took it upon themselves to move a load bearing wall and caused great damage. You are lucky that the building didn’t collapse. I hope that you can have your unit repaired to the way it was before this unit owner caused all this problem. The unit owner who modified the building is at fault here and should repair the wall and your unit and any other damage to neighboring units. If the association granted permission for the unit owner to do the work (unlikely) they may bear some of the burden to repair units and/or common areas. There is a reason for architectural compliance and approval before unit owners take on the kind of project your neighbor did. Your example is a worst-case scenario fo what can happen when they don’t do it right. Good luck!

Board and Fellow Unit Owners Making Condo Life Uncomfortable

M.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo is 40% Fundamentalist Christian. They have a weekly Bible study and control the Board. We had a ten-year standing water issue which was finally resolved when we took steps looking into a lawyer. They are so judgmental and repeatedly report us to the board over trivial matters. We moved out and now are moving back in after our home failed to sell. They kept bombing me with “nice” nosy questions and now I refuse contact and have taken steps to insure my privacy. Is there anything I can do to get them from approaching me every time I go on my deck or outside? And is there anything we can do about the favoritism they show such as forgetting repeatedly to cut the weeds behind my condo.

Mister Condo replies:

M.K., I am sorry that you are feeling uncomfortable in your own condo association. Freedom of speech pretty much guarantees all of us the ability to say what we want within reason. You have already taken steps to distance yourself from their expression of speech. As for governance issues, the Board has legal responsibilities to enforce the covenants of the association. One of those covenants is peaceable enjoyment of your unit. The attorney who assisted you with the water problem can likely offer you the best legal advice for your state. If the Board is taking actions that deny you peaceable enjoyment of your unit, you may be able to sue them. Whether you agree with their Fundamentalist values or not, you should not be subjected to harassment of any sort. As for issues of favoritism, that is unfortunate and you should complain, in writing, to the Board when services that are provided to others are not provided to you. I know that selling your unit didn’t work last time but I would strongly urge you to consider trying again. There is no reason for anyone to remain living in a condo that is not to their liking. Lower your price, do whatever you have to do to make your unit more appealing. Perhaps a current unit owner could find a friend or family member more attuned to the community’s nuances? I wish you better success down the road.

Condo Dryer Vent Aimed at Neighbor’s Window and Deck

A.G. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My neighbor’s dryer vent blows onto my deck, heating my personal outside area. My dog can’t go outside, my kids can’t play, and I can’t even open my bedroom window or leave my sliding glass doors open, because the hot air from their dryer blows inside. Other condos have their dryers venting into the alley, but my neighbor won’t do it. What can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

A.G., I am sorry for your problem and I am sorry that your neighbor doesn’t seem to want to work with you to solve the problem. The first question I have for you is if the neighbor’s dryer vent was designed that way or if it was modified over the years? Since others have vents that blow into an alley, it seems strange that this vent is aimed at your “space”. You do have the right to enjoyment of your unit and that should include having your windows open and use of your deck. I would complain to the Board about the dryer vent invading your space and preventing you from enjoying your unit and see if they won’t intervene on your behalf. If they won’t help and your neighbor is unwilling to modify the direction of the vent, you might just want to speak with an attorney to see what, if any, legal options you have. I would think you could sue the association for not protecting your right to peaceable enjoyment of your unit. I hope it doesn’t come to that but you should make sure you and your family can enjoy your unit. Good luck!

A Top 10 Bad Condo Story! 80% of Unit Owners Don’t Pay Fees!

M.D. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How can I get out of a 100-unit condo development where only 20 units pay maintenance and road dues? The association painted over rotten wood siding 4 years ago! They cut what little grass there is every two weeks that’s about the extent of the maintenance for last 10 years. Retaining walls falling down, parking lots are sliding in to the building, the roof leaks with ice build-up and more. Help!

Mister Condo replies:

M.D., I am so sorry for your problems at this poorly run condo association. While I’d like to think I have “head it all” when it comes to condo craziness, clearly you have provided a Top 10 Bad Condo story. Obviously, you want to get out of this poorly run association before the units are condemned or deemed not worthy to sell. The good news is that there is “an ass for every seat” and if you price it right, you just might be able to cut your losses and buy into a properly run association. Without the benefit of a crystal ball, I will make a few predictions about your current association. With 80% of unit owners not paying their fees, the association will collapse. Vendors who are owed money will sue the association at some point. Even unit owners such as yourself could sue the association for not fulfilling its obligation to maintain the common elements. Even one lawsuit could bankrupt the association. If the association is to survive, it would likely be due to receivership (the court appoints an attorney or property management firm to run the association) at which time special assessments would likely be levied and common fees raised significantly. The 80% of unit owners who aren’t paying fees would likely default and eventually lose their homes through foreclosure. The bottom line is that unless you really love your unit and are willing to live through the chaos and expense of such an action, it just isn’t worth sticking around to see how it plays out. If I were you, I would sell as quickly as possible, even at a loss if I had to, and make sure the next association you buy in to is properly run and funded. All the best!

Condo Owner Floods Uninsured Neighbor’s Unit

H.W. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Recently my washer broke (the tube was incorrectly installed by the previous owner and it popped off). I didn’t realize anything was wrong until the unit below me called in a panic about the water leaking from his ceiling. Water was pooling in my catch tray and the overflow was then leaking under the floor boards, so there was never any pooling to alert me. Unfortunately, neither my unit insurance or the master will cover repairs to his ceiling, and he does not have unit insurance. He asked me to split the repair cost. I’m torn! It was my washer that caused his water damage, but the cost would be WAY less if he had insurance (half the deductible versus half the repair cost!). We are very neighborly, so part of me thinks to maintain the relationship I should eat the cost… but I’ve also put a lot of my blood, sweat, tears, and loans into this association to keep it afloat, and after paying the plumber I’m kind of tapped. What should I do?!

Mister Condo replies:

H.W., your neighbor’s lack of insurance is troubling and may even be against your association’s regulations. Many associations require all unit owners to carry their own homeowner’s insurance for just such occurrences as this. If so, and your neighbor was delinquent in his duty to insure, you may not have any liability whatsoever. If that is not the case, you may be on the hook for half or all of the damage. It really depends on how your neighbor proceeds. If he sues, in Small Claims, or other, then and only then. Might you find yourself held legally responsible for the damage. I appreciate your “good neighbor” attitude and paying some of the expense, which you did, should help keep the relationship between you and your neighbor congenial.

Why in the world are you loaning money to your association? Are you a bank? Why does your association need money to “keep it afloat”. You have signaled a big problem with your association’s finances. Common fees should be sufficient to keep any association afloat. Individual unit owners should not be loaning the association money. It is time for your association to get some real world training on how to run itself and practice sound fiscal policies, which include adequate common fees for the association to fund itself. All the best!

Condo Leak Leads to Mold for Downstairs Neighbor

G.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My unit had a leak which was reported by downstairs neighbors who had a water bubble in the ceiling of the bathroom. Repairs were made in my unit but the leak continued. Long story short we went back and forth for a few weeks where we thought we resolved the leak but then a week or two later the unit below reported water. Part of the problem was the below unit is never home. So, they only report their floor being wet days after a possible leakage. During this time, the unit below had the ceiling opened up to allow it to dry before patching it. Finally, one night the unit below called that they see water dripping and we finally figured out it was my AC unit leaking water. My insurance came out and made repairs to my unit. My water damage was cleared within days. My insurance said the below unit should file a claim with their unit. 3 weeks later they are barely getting the insurance company to come see their damage. But now the unit below is saying they have mold growing and want my unit to pay for it. The owner also told me they have still been using their shower during these last few months. I feel responsible for water damage but not mold. The owner took no precautions to reduce damage, to dry the area, and steam from their showers was not helping the situation. Help, am I liable? Neither of our insurances will cover, and the HOA says it’s an issue between owners.

Mister Condo replies:

G.H., I am sorry that this unfortunate issue has escalated to this point. At the end of the day, it is likely to end up in court unless you and the unit owner below you can come to a practical solution. Homeowners insurance should have covered the initial damage for both of you. The HOA is not likely liable as this issue was not caused by a defect between the two units. Water from your air conditioner caused the damage to the unit below yours. Mold that results from water damage is typically covered by homeowner’s insurance but, in this case, your downstairs neighbor’s insurance carrier is not being responsive to the claim. The issue of your liability will only come into play if a lawsuit is filed. If that happens, you should hire an attorney to protect yourself. Do you have a price for the mold remediation? It is quite possible that your downstairs neighbor may have some out of pocket expense to remediate the mold (which they should do as mold can be toxic and even deadly). To be a good neighbor, you might offer to split the cost of the mold remediation but I do not believe you have a liability to do so. The real culprit here is the insurance company. Ideally, they would simply pay the claim and this matter would be resolved. However, many insurers would deny this claim based on the repeated nature of the damage and the lack of a timely repair after the initial claim which lead to the mold problem. I hope you and your neighbor work out a reasonable solution. 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!

Neighboring Condo Unit Owned by a Hoarder

J.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The unit next to me is owned by a hoarder who moved in during 2015. The owner is hoarding on the deck/common elements outside as well as inside the unit. There are no window treatments so you can see piles upon piles of “stuff” inside the unit. I have complained to my association in June of this year because my unit had mice. (I have owned for 10 years and never had a rodent prior to this) They have done very little and communicated very little to me despite my calls/requests for assistance. They had the County Board of Health come and just confirm that it is a hoarding situation, that the mice are most definitely coming from there but the BOH has stated there is little they can do about the conditions on the inside of the unit. I had the Fire Marshall some and speak with the unit owner but they have limited power as well. He did let them know a neighbor is upset and asked them to clean up and they said they would. Of course, they did not. I had an exterminator come out, they did their best but stated if the cleanup doesn’t happen this will be a recurrent issue and it could get much worse. Well two months later and I have mice again. I have contacted the Board several times with zero response, Mister Condo, without the board acting. We have antiquated by-laws that’s don’t address hoarding. What are my options at this point? I was told to sue the board and the neighbor. Do you have any wisdom on this issue? I’m really losing hope and thinking I need to sell my condo.

Mister Condo replies:

J.C., hoarding is a real problem at condos and apartments around the country, not just in your community. I am very sorry for your particular horror story. You are doing all the right things. You also need to contact an attorney. Regardless of what the Board can and cannot do to get this hoarding situation under control, you need to have your property rights protected and that might very well include a lawsuit against the hoarder and the association. The problem is that hoarding isn’t properly addressed in association rules and by-laws. Further, the courts have often sided with the homeowner right to live in their home as they see fit. The legal battle happens when their lifestyle creates “nuisance” for other unit owners (like you). Selling your unit is certainly a viable option but finding a buyer is likely to be quite challenging with a mouse infestation problem. A savvy buyer would surely notice the sights and smells that are usually associated with a neighboring unit housing a hoarder but I wouldn’t rule it out as one possible and realistic solution to your problem. My advice is that you consult with an attorney, gather up as much information as you can, and make an informed decision about whether to stay in place or sell your unit. Good luck!

Unit Owners Informally Question Board Members in Condo Corridors

J.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The president and I are new to the board. We live in a 12-unit building where the unit owners were used to freely going up to past board members doors and address whatever concerns they had. The president and I feel we have a management company that we pay and that the unit owners should address any issues with the management company instead of us. We’d like to post a note addressing the unit owners that going forward they need to contact the management company. Please let me know your thoughts?

Mister Condo replies:

J.L., since the previous Board had a very “open door” policy regarding unit owners addressing concerns, you have inherited their management style, like it or not. The way to correct it is to let all unit owners know that there has been a change in Board members and that new policy is in place. In fact, I would argue that the old policy was fraught with potential disaster, including Board members making “on the spot” decisions that could come back to haunt the association. The proper procedure for unit owners to bring their concerns to the Board is to contact the Board via the Property Management company or in writing so their concerns can be addressed at the next scheduled Board meeting. That way there is written action (Minutes) to document the concern and what action, if any, was taken. Casual conversation in the corridors of the building is nothing more than that. In a small association like yours, I would guess close to half of the unit owners serve on the Board so it is not surprising that such an informal approach was adopted. However, that doesn’t mean it was correct. I hope you can manage it to your liking in the future. Good luck!