Category Archives: Neighbor Issues

Condo Landlord Reluctant to Pay for Damage to Neighboring Unit

D.J. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a condo. A little over 1 month ago, water was pouring out of my linen closet. I immediately ran to my neighbors, thinking they must not be home or left water running. They were and I advised water is pouring out of my linen closet. They came down to take a look. They are renters. I’m an owner. I notified the HOA that night, by phone and email. Eventually, after 2 days the HOA sent out professional to dry vac my carpeting and to detect the problem. Once the bathroom ceiling was opened up, linen closet ripped out the problem was located, and it was & has been determined the renter’s condo owner is responsible for basically getting my bathroom back together/carpeting replaced/drywalls repaired: I have no linen closet, because it was ripped out.

The owner of the other unit and the HOA are going back and forth as to who is responsible. The HOA has brought in an attorney to confirm they, meaning the other condo owner, are totally responsible. The owner feels as though the HOA is responsible, because it’s a common area. This is so bad, the owner has asked for the bylaws, which was provided. No one is doing anything, and I’m caught in the middle, totally. I can’t see this being resolved any time soon. The owner will not provide his insurance information, so a claim can be started. I’ve already asked the HOA for information & was told, the owner will not provide that information.

I’ve been very patient and understanding, but nothing is being done. I’m at the point I need to contact an attorney and sue the HOA, as well as the Owner, for my insolvencies, as well as repairs/replacement of items.

Mister Condo replies:

D.J., I am sorry for your worries and problems. Water damage at condos is far too common and, as you are seeing first-hand, it isn’t always a simple case of pointing to the cause and assessing the cost of repairs. Your closing comments are my best advice to you. It is long past the time of being patient and understanding. The other parties have hired attorneys, so should you. If the damage came from a common area, the other owner may have a point. If not, he may be responsible and have to pay or have his insurance company pay. Either way, your best interests will be protected by having your own attorney look out for them. Have you read the by-laws yourself? Sometimes it helps to have your own understanding of what is being contested. It doesn’t necessarily help resolve the matter any sooner but it might help you understand what the legal bickering is about. All the best!

Homeowner’s Insurance Should Cover Damage from Condo Neighbor’s Air Conditioner

A.B. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 100-unit condo in Cambridge, MA. My upstairs neighbor’s air conditioner leaked, causing water damage to my unit. Who is responsible and who files an insurance claim?

Mister Condo replies:

A.B., I am sorry you took damage from a neighbor’s air conditioner. Your own insurance is your first line of defense. Your insurance should cover any interior damage to your unit, less your deductible. Your neighbor may also have insurance that would come into play if your insurer goes after him/her for the damage caused. There are also times when the association insurance can come into play but this doesn’t sound like one of those times. File your own claim with your own insurance and get your damage repaired. Good luck!

Neighboring Association Trash Dumpster Intrusion

T.P. from Chicago writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The neighboring condo association has had their 2 garbage bins on our property for the last 6 years. I’ve always had a problem with that because, 1) they don’t maintain the area, I do, and 2) the liability of a “slip and fall” happening on our property by our neighbors or their trash removal company. I recently asked them to move the bins and was told “no”. Can I contact their trash removal company and have them move the bins? What other options do I have? Thank you from a Chicago Condo Board President.

Mister Condo replies:

T.P., unless there is some kind of agreement between the two properties, the neighboring association has no business intruding on your private property. This is a simple matter for your association attorney to remedy via lawsuit. Quite simply, the trash contractor is trespassing on your property. A “cease and desist” order should do the trick. If not, your association attorney can direct you to the next steps. You tried the easy was with the request for them to stop. They didn’t comply so it is time to escalate the situation. Good Luck!

Irresponsible Dog Owner Concerns Condo Residents

L.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are senior citizens who have filed 10 complaints about a resident who does not leash his German Shepherd dog in the common areas, e.g., hallways, elevator, garage. We live in the same building as this resident. The CCR’s require all dogs to be on a leash. The HOA stated the attorney is working on our issue. They have yet to levy a fine on this resident. It has been 8 months and the resident is verbally abusive to us. What can we do?

Mister Condo replies:

L.H., I am sorry that you have such an irresponsible pet owner in your association. Honestly, it sounds like you can do all you can do. Once the association attorney is involved, it is up to the Board and the attorney to take the next steps. Hopefully, this dog will not attack you or any other unit owner before the dog’s owner leashed the dog and follows the rules. Sometimes, you just get a jerk living in an association. This is one of those times. If the verbal abuse continues, call the police. Protect yourself as best you can. My guess is that the attorney’s involvement will help correct the situation. Good luck!

Aggressive Behavior in the Condo Laundry Room

S.W. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo has a rule that allows people to remove clothes from a washing machine after the machine has finished without a grace period. I have witnessed people keeping laundry in the machine overnight but when I happened to receive a short call (ten minutes) and returned for my clothes they were removed. Isn’t that legally called the tort of conversion?

Mister Condo replies:

S.W., you’d have to ask an attorney (I am not one) if this un-neighborly action qualifies as a tort of conversion. I guess your clothes would have to have been stolen, not just removed from the machine for there to have been an actual crime committed. Even then, I don’t know if there is a writ of “habias clothesius” that should have been served… JPardon my joke, as I am sure you were not happy to find your clothes removed from the washing machine. If another unit owner violated an association rule, all you can do is report it to the Board or Property Manager. Of course, if you don’t know who did it, there is almost nothing you can do. It’s too bad that people have so little respect for your personal property but you might want to consider delaying future phone calls for the short amount of time you need to keep an eye on your laundry. That way, no one can mess with your stuff when you’re not around. Good luck!

Uncollected and Unaccounted Condo Common Fees!

T.N. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’ve lived in a 3-unit condo for almost 2 years. For the first year I tried to get in touch with its only Trustee—I wanted to become involved in the HOA and help plan an annual meeting—but he continually put me off (he lived elsewhere and rented his unit). A week or two before a new owner closed on his unit, this guy asked me to take up the mantle as Trustee (this was also the first I was finding about him selling!). He cancelled 2 meetings with me, and then on the day of his closing, texted me that he was in the city and could I take a long lunch to settle business. At this lunch meeting (which took 2hrs!), we got my status as Trustee notarized, my name on the bank accounts, and I got a giant bag full of paper records.

To say the least, I was completely unprepared for being the Trustee. After spending 8 weeks going through these incomplete and disorganized records, I came to find that for years the common bills and landscaping were paid late or not at all (apparently 2 companies quit over non-payment). I intervened with the electric company terminating our service and the city issuing a lien. After doing what I could with the records, I hired a forensic accountant to do some triage, and she was appalled at what she found. For years the association has increasingly been coming in hundreds of $$ under budget, and the reserves have been being drained and not replenished to compensate (basically as an association we have $600 to our name).

It’s also clear that he didn’t keep track of HOA dues—there is no ledger to speak of and some of the “deposit notes” are written on napkins and sundry receipts—and, from what I can tell, over the past 7 years we’re missing nearly $4K in HOA dues mostly from the unit owned by an elderly couple.

The accountant and I had a long discussion and we decided that since we have no records proving who owes what and since it’s been years, we should forgive the HOA dues, but put them on a payment plan for the 10K they owe in back assessments. The elderly couple had been claiming we were not a legit association and thus not under the same governing rules as one, so I dug up the declaration of trust and the master deed I got during my purchase for them to see (5 months in and we finally all agreed on a payment plan).

When I closed I had my lawyer look over the docs and synopsize them for me, but I didn’t really read too much about the duties of a Trustee at the time. Now I’m seeing that according to the by-laws we *have* to have 3 Trustees, each one a rep for each unit. I want to eat my own face. The new guy is busy with a PhD and has no interest in taking on this responsibility, and the elderly couple has no idea how an association is run or how HOA fees or assessments work (they called me each time they received a monthly HOA fee invoice, asking me what this bill was; they also don’t know why I can’t “get a guy” to repaint their unit, for example).

Right now, I feel like the only interested, sane, informed person trying to make sure the association doesn’t collapse (I’ve contacted several property managers who have haughtily told me they don’t manage associations this small). How terrible would it be if I remained as the only Trustee for another year, just until I get us out of this financial mess and put processes in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

Mister Condo replies:

T.N., I would love to tell you that yours is the first horror story I have heard from very small (2 or 3 unit) associations but, unfortunately, the situation you describe is far too common, although not always as financially shocking to read about. The phrase “Buyer Beware” comes to mind when I read your list of wrongdoings by the previous Trustee and unit owners. I admire your realistic approach at fixing the problem but, honestly, you are the only person who can correct what is going on and, perhaps, right this sinking ship. Or you can abandon the ship by selling your unit to an unaware individual. There seems to be an endless demand for these units in smaller associations although, personally, I would never own one unless the other unit owners were family. As you have seen, most property managers are loath to manage these small associations. How can they make any money doing so? Even a modestly sized association would yield several thousand dollars per year for the efforts. Your association would have numerous management issues and they would be lucky to make a few hundred dollars a year for their time. Not going to happen. As far as you remaining the only trustee, technically, you are operating outside of the scope of the governing documents. However, who is going to challenge you? The PhD candidate with no time or the elderly couple with no understanding of what they own? I think you are free to do as you see fit. If it were me, I’d sell and consider this a lesson in something to never do again. Good luck!

Delinquent Owner Causing Big Mess at 3-Unit Condo

S.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 3-unit condo that was converted from a single-family home 2 decades ago. When I closed on my condo, I was required to give the HOA a sum of money to cover my share of an estimated driveway repaving that was planned in a year (I have this in writing in my P&S and the closing papers). Before that could happen, and almost right after I moved in, the roof sprung a leak. Being tapped out on my recent purchase, I told the Trustee they could use half the money I put in for the driveway and I would pay half out of pocket for my share for the roof; when time came for the driveway in the next year, I would pay the difference. As it turned out, my half share of the roof and the whole share of the driveway amounted almost perfectly to what I put in at Closing. Now that it’s time, I’ve been asked to pay the whole amount of my share for the driveway out of pocket. The Trustee is saying she used the rest of my sum to cover a unit that couldn’t pay for the roof (they’re on a payment plan but it’s going to take them 2 years to pay the HOA back!). I asked if I would be reimbursed and was told no. I’m arguing that I was assessed at Closing and paid my share. She’s arguing that once the money went into the HOA reserves it became common funds for her to use as she saw fit. Can she really make me pay twice and not reimburse me given that the offending unit is paying back the funds albeit slowly?

Mister Condo replies:

S.B., ouch! Small condos like yours can have some mighty big problems when unit owners don’t have the money to sustain maintenance and repair items equally and as outlined in the governance documents. You may very well have the right to sue your association to get your money back but the real question is one of value. Would it be worth it? Probably not. As the funds from the delinquent unit owner come in, the association is made whole. In theory, that would be the time for you to pay for your driveway as originally agreed, less the money you already paid for the driveway. Your trustee is wrong in assuming that any money put in the Reserve Fund can be used at the Trustee’s discretion. However, to enforce your rights as a unit owner, you will have to sue. Again, it is a question of value. In a small association like yours there is rarely any tangible amount of money in the coiffeurs to make a lawsuit worthwhile. It is in everyone’s best interest that you get along. Play nice and ask for fairness. If you can’t get the trustee to play nice, consider selling. It would likely be easier in the long run than doling out good money on a lawsuit that may not yield any money to you at the end. It’s your choice. Good luck!

Condo Owner Harassed by Board President and Other Unit Owners

D.T. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How to bring about a board meeting to discuss being harassed by the president of the condo board and other owners?

Mister Condo replies:

D.T., I am sorry that you feel you are being harassed by unit owners or Board members at your association. Typically, you would simply hire your own attorney and bring a lawsuit or criminal charges against the Board members or unit owners that are harassing you. You don’t have the ability to call a Board meeting but you could attend an upcoming Board meeting and ask that the issue be addressed by the Board. The Board does not have the ability to intervene on legal matters. In other words, if your attorney thinks you have a case for harassment, the matter is settled through legal channels, not community association governance. I hope you have a positive outcome. Good luck!

Can Condo Owner Park in Guest Parking Space?

R.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Each building has 36 tenants. Each owner has their own parking space. We also have guest spots. One owner has a spot they don’t like and parked in a guest spot nearer to them. Is there a rule against that? Thanks

Mister Condo replies:

R.C., you tell me! Is there a rule against that? A simple examination of your condo’s governing documents will tell you who can use the guest parking spaces. Typically, the spaces are reserved for guests but many condo documents say nothing about who can or can’t park there. In other words, if there are no rules about how the community association-owned parking lots are used, there may be no issue with your neighbor parking there. On the other hand, if there are rules or the Board decides to create rules about how the spaces are used, it is possible that neither he nor any other resident will be allowed use of these spaces. It seems to me that they were intended to be used as guest parking spaces and that is likely their best use. Good luck!

Failed Condo Water Heater Creates Question of Responsibility

M.A. from New Haven writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My hot water heater leaked into the condo below me. I had the heater replaced. Am I responsible for the damage caused to the ceiling of the downstairs condo unit?

Mister Condo replies:

M.A., I am sorry for you and your downstairs neighbor’s damage and problems. Whether or not you are responsible depends on a few things. If your association provides and enforce maintenance standards for common wear items like water heaters and you didn’t violate those standards, then the association may have insurance to help cover the cost of your neighbor’s damage. Your neighbor should have his or her own homeowner’s insurance policy which should cover some of the damage, less a deductible, that could be passed on to you or the association. Your own homeowner’s insurance may offer you some coverage against these costs as well. If you didn’t follow any published maintenance standard for replacing your water heater (typically every seven years or so) then you may be on the hook for the damage. I am not sure what you have been asked to pay but make sure all of the players involved have checked with their own insurers before you start parting with any cash. If it turns out you are being asked to pay money that you do not agree with, you may wish to speak to an attorney who can tell you what your legal responsibilities are. Good luck!