Category Archives: Property Management

Condo President Refuses to Relinquish Association Checkbook

T.C. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We recently changed management companies because they violated CT laws. Our President dragged his foot for 4 months before receiving a letter from the state ordering us to change companies. He was given the check book until we found a company. We found a company and he refuses to turn over the check book. Is this legal?

Mister Condo replies:

T.C., I am not an attorney and offer no legal opinions here. If you are asking me what I think of the President holding on to the checkbook and refusing to turn it over to the management company, I would say that is not a very friendly gesture and not stepping off on the right foot with the new management company. Is it criminal? Not in my book but it isn’t very sportsmanlike either. The great news is that your Board President can be voted out of office at the next Annual Meeting. Why don’t you and a group of like-minded unit owners volunteer to serve on the Board? That way, after you are elected, you can determine who will hold the various offices of the Board. If, on the other hand, the Board President has held the checkbook because there is evidence of missing money or such in there, and he has done something criminal, it is time to call the police. Stealing from the association is a crime. Work with your new management company to see what, if any, wrongdoing has occurred. If there is no harm, there is no foul. Either way, it sounds like it is time for a Board President who will act in the best interest of the association. Good luck!

Condo Management Company Charging Statement fee to Unit Owners

M.N. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo association recently hired a new management company. For the first time in history I was late on a monthly HOA fee and was charged a late fee of $15 and a statement fee of $5. The management company nicely waived the late fee since my check crossed in the mail but refused to waive the statement fee. I told them I want to opt-out of paper statements and they told me they only mail statements. Is it lawful to charge me $5.00 per statement?

Mister Condo replies:

M.N, yes, it is lawful for them to charge you a statement fee. The Board hired the new management company and should have been made aware of the fees and practices of the firm. The late fee was waived but that would have gone to the association’s coiffeurs. The statement fee goes directly to the management company and is a cost of doing business with them that your Board agreed to. If you are unhappy, you need to complain to the Board and ask them to either renegotiate with the management company to have the statement fee removed (unlikely) or find a management company that doesn’t charge a statement fee when their contract comes up for renewal. Or you could just pay the $5.00 statement fee and realize that it is part of how this management company collects its revenues from your association. All the best!

Has the Property Management Company Breached Their Co-op Contract?

A.S. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I moved into a co-op recently. The board hired a new management company. After being unsatisfied with the property manager in place (3 months) the management company suggested we take the receptionist with limited skills and no license/certification as the new property manager. The board agreed for some insane reason and this girl has made it her mission to drive off all of our contractors and service providers to bring in the people the management company uses. There is talk of kickbacks. They have done this on other properties. Every memo, directive, repair or task this girl executes is wrong, mismanaged and just turns out badly. She has offended and outraged a dozen usually nice normal shareholders with her behavior, demands, and stop work orders. She is also the management company owner’s new girlfriend and he obviously wants her on some property. Can she act as property manager with only 1 ten-hour online class and zero experience in construction, property management, facilities, etc.? The contract between the co-op and the management company states we have a property manager, a receptionist and an Acct Exec. They are in default of their contract, correct? Please let us know.

Mister Condo replies:

A.S., you have made a lot of accusations here and, if true, are certainly worth contacting the association’s attorney to discuss. Breaking a management company contract for an association of your size is no simple matter. Just because you claim the management company is in default does not mean that they are. You would need to be prepared to prove it, very likely in court, as the management company would be likely to sue for breaking of the contract. My best advice to you is to speak with the association attorney. As for the Board’s “insane reason” to agree with the management’s company proposal to use a secretary as the property manager, it is time to call them to task for making such a decision. The Board is comprised of elected members. They can be recalled or voted out of office at the next election cycle. People that use “insane reasoning” have no business representing the financial interests of co-op owners. This is very real money of the co-op owners they are spending and protecting. They need to behave like the Board of any business and make decisions that are in the best interest of all shareholders. It would appear to me that they have shown exceptionally poor judgment in this matter. Of course, that also means you need to be ready with a slate of new volunteers to serve on the Board. Without that, this Board may continue to serve the association poorly. In that case, putting the blame on the management company is only half correct. Good luck!

Condo Electronic Key Deactivated by Property Manager

O.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The property manager disconnected my electronic key because I authorized a person HE DOESNT LIKE IT to enter to my property as desired.

Mister Condo replies:

O.P., I am sorry that your electronic key privileges were revoked. Without knowing the rules of how your electronic keys are allowed to be used, I am not certain if sharing it with anyone is allowed, let alone a person disliked by the Property Manager. I doubt the Property Manager can simply disable a key without having to report such activity to the Board, to whom the Property Manager must answer. If you feel your key was deactivated inappropriately, complain to the Board so they can take action. On the other hand, if you have violated the rules of the electronic key use by sharing the code with someone who you shouldn’t have shared it with, I would advise you not to do it again. I assume the reason there are electronic keys in the first place is to provide building security. They are convenient to be sure but must be protected if they are to be useful as a security measure. All the best!

Property Manager Purchases Condo in Managed Association

B.S. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Wondering if you see any conflicts for a Florida CAM to purchase a unit to reside in and still remain as the onsite property manager. The Board sees no conflict of interest but some owners are questioning if there is a conflict, as the onsite manager may have some inside information that other owners may not be privy too. Your thoughts on if you think there are any conflicts?

Mister Condo replies:

B.S., I do not see any conflict of interest but I do appreciate the concern of some owners for the potential for a conflict of interest although as a unit owner who would be affected directly by insider information, I would also think the conflict of interest might even go in the direction of the association. What unit owner wants to see his/her own association make financial mistakes or poor decisions? Not only does the property manager need to worry about his/her job performance but also has a personal interest in the success of the association. On the flip side, if the property manager’s unit gets preferential treatment, unit owners would be right to call foul. My advice would be to allow the property manager the ownership of the unit and to keep a vigilant eye on how the unit is treated. The Board keeps an eye on the Property Manager by default. They might need to make sure there is nothing unusual going on but I really doubt the manager would risk his/her job over abusing their power to give themselves preferential treatment. Good luck!

Condo Sheetrock Project Creates Dusty Nightmare for Residents

J.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 65-unit owned condo. Our manager refuses to clean the hardwood laminate flooring until the plumbing project is complete. It is covered in sheetrock dust and tracking everywhere in the common areas. What can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

J.T., there isn’t too much you can do as a resident other than complain to the Board to apply pressure to the Property Manager and/or the contractor doing the work. Sheetrock projects generally create dust and a better plan for the project would have included dust control measures. That component was either overlooked or the Board decided to take a cheaper route and not include it. The end result is the messy situation you have right now. Not all projects are as simple as hiring a contractor to do the work. Sometimes you need to think about the side effects on residents. This is a great example of how that lack of foresight lead to a bad living experience for residents. The good news is that “this, too, shall pass” and that the project is likely already over and the repaired area looks great. Remind the Board that future projects should include a plan for dust remediation, even if it costs a little extra. All the best!

Leaky Toilet Noise Disturbs the Condo Peace. Shoddy Repair Work Disturbs the Owner!

N.H. from Alberta, Canada writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I had issues with a continuous flow of water from my toilet. Although the flap is closed, it’s not filling water in the tank. I did not know that flowing noise had affected the units below me, & made complaints to the manager. Got a call ” someone is coming to check your water between 9-10am” That’s all. I thought they are checking each unit of our building due to murky water issues as posted in our mailroom & elevators. I let the guy in. I was surprised why he went to my bathroom fixing it. I told my kids, how did this guy knew about my toilet? Two days later, a lady phoned me if my toilet was fixed. I said No, it started to run again unless I close the rubber flap manually with my finger. She asked if she can send Environment ??? to come fix it. I said No, my son can fix it. Then I got an invoice to pay the condo a back charge of over $500.00 for 5 hours labor including 1 hour travelling. I relayed the message to the manager that I am not paying. I was not made aware of the complaints made, & did not specify what that guy was doing. Then for the weekend, I intentionally let the water run again all night to prove that the plumber’s work was not successful. They got complaints again. One lady came up & told me to shut off my toilet. Then the caretaker phoned that I should shut off the switch underneath my toilet which I did. Few days after, my son came & fixed it in 10 minutes time. I also read in their March 31 board meeting minutes that they found where the noise came from & the owner will pay. This is totally without my knowledge what was happening. My manager just went ahead & did her thing without telling me anything. Today, my manager left a phone message that it is a by law. Is she right? If not, I`ll fight it in court & go to the media Go Public. Thank you very much for your kindness on helping a senior like me. Thank you for responding & for your advice.

Mister Condo replies:

N.H., thank you for your letter and let me express how sorry I am that your situation was not handled better all the way around. You seem like a reasonable person who meant no harm and was very willing to use a “common sense” approach to fix a problem that you were largely unaware of having an effect on your neighbors. That being said, “common sense” and common interest communities don’t always exist together. Your by-laws define what is and isn’t acceptable. The reality is that you had a faulty toilet valve of some sort creating a noise nuisance for your fellow unit owners, who have the right to a peaceful environment as defined in your by-laws. The neighborly way to approach this would have been to alert you to the problem and ask you to fix it or offer to have a repairman come fix it at your expense. While I don’t agree with the customer service or lack thereof that you received during this little fiasco, it sounds like the problem is now resolved. That the good news. The bad news is that you are being stuck with a $500 repair bill for a repair job that didn’t work and that you don’t want to pay for. Here is where “common sense” goes out the window and the association’s governance documents will come into play. It is quite possible that the association has the right to dispatch a repairman to your unit at your expense. The only way to know for sure is to check your by-laws and see what they say about handling unit repairs, especially those repairs that cause damage or nuisance to neighboring units. It may be cheaper to simply pay this bill than try to fight the association. Perhaps you can offer to split the bill with them or ask them for a refund from the repairman since he didn’t actually fix the problem. The bottom line is that the repairman was hired by them but at your expense, as per association documents. They should expect that the repair was done properly and at a reasonable price. Neither are true. If they can negotiate a lower bill or a waiving of the bill for failure to perform the repair, you might benefit from the savings. If the dollar amount were a good deal higher, I might suggest you hire an attorney and fight it but at $500 it would cost more to fight it than just pay it. And keep your son handy for any other repairs that he can make so quickly. If his handyman skills had been made at the beginning of this problem, none of this would have happened. I wish you all the best!

Property Manager Running Condo Board Meetings

K.M. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can/should a manager chair Board of Directors meetings. The Board of my Condo in Florida asked our manager to chair the meetings because they believe he can do it more efficiently.

Mister Condo replies:

K.M., that is a good question and I could go either way with my response. First and foremost, it is clearly the role and responsibility of the Board President to conduct and preside over the Board meeting. Governance documents require it and it is usually right in the description of duties for the role. However, perhaps the Board president is not familiar or comfortable with Roberts Rules of Order, has no interest in becoming a parliamentarian, or just isn’t comfortable actually chairing the meeting. I can see no reason that the manager could not assist the President by taking on the duties of running the meeting without actually having any authority or ability to cast votes. The authority is granted to the Board. The ability to vote is a Board right, not a Property Manager right. So, while I would be careful to keep a close eye on the situation, I have a hard time telling you the practice should not be allowed. It is quite possible that the Board could not properly carry out its duties without the Property Manager’s assistance and guidance at the Board meeting. However, if there is any sign that the Property Manager is influencing vote outcomes or doing anything else that is preventing the Board from truly functioning independently, I would suggest ceasing the practice. Additionally, I would hope the Board President is learning from the Property Manager’s leading of the meeting and can, at some point, resume the duties of running the meeting. Running a Board meeting is such a rudimentary duty of being Board President that I would have to question the long-term leadership ability of a Board President who wasn’t eventually up to the task. All the best!

Condo Manager Turns Off Unit Owner’s Furnace!

A.H. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can my association manager turn off my working furnace because it makes loud noise when kicking on without notifying me first? This furnace is known for this and we’ve been having this same furnace for over 15 years without any complaints or issues…overall, it’s a working furnace. Please help!

Mister Condo replies:

A.H., I am sorry that your association manager took such a drastic measure as turning off your furnace and gave you no warning. As to whether or not he should have done that and without warning is really a question of who owns the furnace and what the rules say about it. I have to assume someone complained about the loud noise and the manager took action to address that complaint. Now, it’s your tune to complain about the lack of a functioning furnace. You will want to involve the Board as they are the folks responsible for giving the manager his marching orders. Ideally, the furnace will run and the noise will be abated. However, that may require a new furnace to be installed and the Board may not want to do that. Work with all the parties involved. I am sure you can find a happy ending here. Stay warm!

This Condo Repair Job is for the Birds!

L.W. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi, I’ve had an issue with a bird nest outside on my soffit. My condo is refusing to pay for the removal even though it’s part of the building. This has been going on for several months. I’ve been calling the condo President constantly to no avail. We recently hired a Management company and the President is very rude. I had my cousin talk to both of them and they both told him the birds are gone. Due to this problem, I have copious amounts of bird feces on my balcony. I own a screened in balcony which is the problem. Since their handy man doesn’t know how to take the screen apart they told my cousin I refused service. I have rights as a home owner and not wanting it to be damaged. What recourse do I have?

Mister Condo replies:

L.W., I am sorry that you are facing such an ornery challenge enjoying your condo living experience. Birds, bats, raccoons, rats and other wildlife often find condo dwelling to their liking. You are correct in assuming that the Board is the responsible party for correcting the situation. However, calling the condo President constantly is not a good strategy to have the situation remedied. Since you have a Property Management company to deal with, they are likely going to be the ones who will dispatch the handyman to remove the nest. The complication of the screened porch adds a new wrinkle but it shouldn’t be the end of the process. It sounds like another repairman will be needed to remove the screen without damaging it. Who owns the screen? If it is you, you may have to arrange to have the screen removed at your expense so the association’s handyman can do his work to remove the bird nest. If the screen is association-owned, then they will need to have the screen removed before they can remove the nest and then return the screen to its original position. You asked about recourse. First, you need patience. Coordinating two different repair people may take some time and the Board is not technically under a time constraint. That being said, your only true recourse is to bring action against the Board for not dealing with the problem. That can be costly and time-consuming. My advice is to work with the Board, the Property Management company, and the workers dispatched to deal with the problem. It will take some time but it sounds like they are on the way to getting it done. Good luck!