Category Archives: Renting

How Too Many Non-Resident Unit Owners in a Condo Association Changes Everything

E.C. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The same people who established the condominium in which I live still control it. Though units were first sold in 1990, one of the developers maintains 15 of the 130 units. This block of condo units represents 15 votes, which when added to condo units controlled by their friends on the board, leads to a lot of apparent financial shenanigans and bullying of owners who simply want a little transparency. About 70% of the owners currently rent out their units, mainly because they hate the way this place is run. Those of us who are left living here cannot seem to oust the trouble-making board, nor win the support of the non-resident owners who are generally apathetic, now that they’re gone and have a paying tenant to cover their costs. Many resident owners, however, are either angry, stressed, depressed, chronically ill, demoralized, etc. as a direct result of feeling powerless to do anything about their maltreatment by the current board, which has both directly and indirectly ruled the roost since the beginning. This is one miserable place. We have turned to lawyers and they say get a petition together to call a special meeting and vote the board out. This is not possible, given the apathy of so many non-resident owners — many of whom also fear retaliation by certain board members and their property management company, which has been with them from the very start. The resident owners who really care about reform — and who have been suffering physical and emotional harm — have already been burned by one attorney who proved incompetent, so we are wondering if a class action lawsuit might be a viable avenue for us. We would let the attorney have all the winnings. We just want to see some justice done after all these years.

Mister Condo replies:

E.C., I am sorry for your situation. Associations that are largely under developer control even after the developer transition period is over can be tricky. Associations with large percentages of rental units come with their own problems. You have a double whammy at your association. Your best bet is increasing the numbers of resident owners who are willing to volunteer and serve on the Board if elected. As long as the resident owners are the minority, nothing will change, in my opinion. At their core, condo associations are democracies. The people with the most votes are the ones who govern the association. As long as those people are not resident owners, I don’t see much motivation for them to change how they govern. You indicate that this behavior has been going on for years. If it were me, I would have sold my unit by now. Unless you see the pendulum swinging towards more resident owners, I would encourage you and anyone else who is unhappy there to consider moving out. You can contact an attorney to see if you have a case but I haven’t heard of anything you’ve mentioned as being a valid reason for a lawsuit. Please keep in mind that I am not an attorney so my advice is strictly friendly. For a legal opinion, you will need to seek out the services of an attorney who could better guide you legally. Good luck!

This Condo Has it All! Renters, Roaches, Broken Trash Chutes…

S.M. from Miami writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo in Miami and we have the most incompetent Board. The building is self-managed and we currently are under a lot of problems, like roach infestation, water leaks, building trash chute compartment broken and trash coming out of the compartment. The building runs more like an AirBnB. The rental ratio is at 61% and we have no support since there’s so many investors. Please advise, I have approached the Florida Department but they don’t intervene in situations like this.

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., it sounds like your association has really gotten away from what unit owners like you were expecting. Whether the Board is incompetent or not, without rental caps (the percentage of units allowed to be rented at any given time), I am not surprised to hear of so many rental units being used in AirBnB fashion. First things first. The Association is governed by volunteer leaders elected by the membership. If these leaders aren’t making sure that the problems are being addressed (water leaks, roaches, broken trash chutes) then it is time to elect new leaders. You may be able to bring suit against the association for not maintaining itself but that can be costly and still not yield any real results. If it were me, I would consider running for the Board myself on a platform of restoring the association to good working order. If that seems unreasonable, I would consider selling. It seems there is no shortage of investors looking to purchase into this association. I would look carefully at the next association I purchased into. Hopefully, the percentage of investment units would be far lower and the Board would do a better job of maintaining the common elements. Good luck!

Can the HOA Restrict the Number of Rental Units?

S.P. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can the HOA restrict the number of rental units in a complex?

Mister Condo replies:

S.P., yes! Although they cannot do so randomly or without following the rules for making rules that would limit the number of rentals. Rental caps are quite common in condominium association or lots of reasons. What do your governing document say? Often, there is a limitation right there. If not, what is the limit? Many associations find they cannot get FHA financing for their unit owners if more than a certain percentage of units are rented, hence, the rental cap. What they can’t do is change the rental cap while you are currently renting your unit, forcing you to evict your tenant. However, they could prevent you from renting the unit again until the percentage requirements are met. In that case, they start a rental list that allows you to rent when the availability for rentals will not exceed the rental cap. If you have further questions, you should consult with a local real estate attorney who can offer you proper legal advice on the matter. Good luck!

Condo Revokes Renters Pet Ownership Privileges

K.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I rented a unit in a condo building with a lease that allows me to have a dog (under a certain weight limit). I waited months to adopt a dog and a week before the dog arrived the condo association posted a notice in the Common Area announcing that only OWNERS were allowed to have pets. I promptly talked to my landlord about this and he said he would talk to the Condo Association. Fast forward several weeks and I now have the dog. The landlord informed me days ago that the “condo association” won’t allow him to bring the matter to the Board. I’m frustrated and confused and ready to break my lease. What recourse do I have?

Mister Condo replies:

K.L., I am sorry you find yourself in this unfortunate situation. The association has the right to regulate who can and cannot have pets on the property. Of course, they need to follow the rules for passing the rules but let’s assume that they did everything right and the rule now stands. Your beef is with your landlord who contractually allowed you to have a pet as a provision of the lease. He can no longer fulfill that provision of the lease which may give you a valid reason for you to break your lease, provided that is what you want to do. Hopefully, your landlord will not challenge your breaking of the lease based on this provision but you may need to speak to an attorney to protect yourself from a suit from your landlord for breaking the lease. Your landlord may be in a position to sue the association or ask for a grandfathering of the pet clause but this will cost him more time and trouble than simply replacing you with another tenant. It is an unfortunate situation to say the least. I wish you and your landlord a happy parting of the ways and a fast turnaround in you finding a new apartment and him finding a new tenant. Good luck!

Movers Damage Condo Elevator; Tenant Being Held Responsible!

H.R. from Fairfield county writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi! I rent a condo in a 3-floor building. I bought furniture and the delivery guys used the elevator and damaged a little bit inside of elevator. The manager made me go after them to pay to fix it, then they paid like $5000 but when somebody came to fix to change the panel on the wall said the panel are part of the whole wall and need change wall recalibrate elevator and the manager call me again asked me $13000 more to fix it or go after them again. All this start happened before my landlord lost the house with the bank so the manager sent him statements of elevator fees before now and somebody told me if he lost the house that problem is of the bank, the bank takes the condo with all debts? But now the board put that amount under my name. I am the tenant. And I told the condo manager that the rules said the landlord is responsible for any damage of the tenants and visitors of the tenants and she told me that rules change because of state but this happened a year ago when she recognized her condo rules. Help me please if she can make pay even the house is bank owner now is in process of foreclosure.

Mister Condo replies:

H.R., I am sorry for your problems and I am sorry I couldn’t get to your question sooner than now. I expect this problem to be resolved by now but, needless to say, since I am not an attorney, I offer no legal advice or remedies in this column. The association is going to go offer you, your landlord, the moving company, even the new bank holding the mortgage in an attempt to collect the money needed to repair the damaged elevator. It is hard to imagine a moving company doing so much damage to an elevator but that is a matter for the courts once the lawsuits get under way. Your question to me is whether or not you can be found responsible. My answer is that you caused the situation that lead to the damage and that may be enough to hold your partially responsible. My advice would be for you to hire an attorney if you are named in a lawsuit so that you can best protect your legal interests. The party with the most responsibility is the moving company, who it looks like has already paid $5000 ($5000!) for the damage they were initially accused of causing. They may be on the hook for the rest of the cost as well but that doesn’t mean you won’t be named if a lawsuit ensues if they refuse to pay. All the best!

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 Owner Acting as Unofficial Landlord

C.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

One of the condo owners in our complex does not reside in her unit. Instead, she lets “various friends??” use her condo for periods of time ranging from a few weeks to several months. There have been several residents in her unit and lots of problems, ie: drug overdoses, excessive drinking, police in and out. She claims these people are guests and therefore does not have to abide by the condo rules or town rules regarding rentals. Therefore, she avoids having her place inspected by the local Board of Health and paying the fee involved. No leases exist and the people staying at her place are supposedly “guests” and paying nothing. Everyone in the association knows the whole setup is bogus and we would like to put an end to it. Any suggestions.

Mister Condo replies:

C.P., there are solutions to every condo problem, in my opinion. In your case, it is a job for an attorney. If your current governance documents do not have enough definition of who can live in a unit with or without a lease, it is time to stiffen the rules and the penalties for violating those rules. Any competent community association attorney in your area should be able to help. Once these rules are in place, residents without a lease will no longer be allowed. Keep in mind that these new regulations will have to be observed by ALL unit owners and residents. You may limit guests to no more than a day or a week of residency, for instance. That might affect unit owners who have family come visit for extended periods of time. Understand that once these rules are enacted, all unit owners will be affected. That is why I recommend you work with an attorney to draft the right regulations, properly vote them into the by-laws, and then enforce them evenly. I am confident that you can get this one unit owner to start playing fair and get your vagrancy problem under control. Good luck!

Condo Board Lax in Enforcing Leasing Covenants

S.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

There are 17 out of 80 condos that are rented or have rooms rented out with no permission or application submitted by any of these owners or tenants. I have a list supplied by the former maintenance man. I got this when he still worked there. They have refused by request to rent mine out. I am recently widowed and am hoping I can arbitrate based on selective enforcement rules. Also, there seems to not be a census though president claims to mail it in. Do I have a good chance to win?

Mister Condo replies:

S.A., typically, condo governance documents require landlords to disclose who their tenants are and to provide a copy of the lease to the Board or Property Management Company, acting as the Board’s agent. Like any governance provision, it is only as effective as it is enforced. From what you are telling me, your current Board is uninterested in enforcing the regulation. Therefore, chaos rules and it puts unit owners such as yourself in a precarious situation with regards to leasing their own unit. When your case comes to arbitration, it will force the issue with the Board as to why there are so many undocumented rentals in the community and why are they choosing to enforce the regulation only against you. This could put them in a potential discrimination lawsuit position and they may be eager to see it your way and allow your lease. However, when it comes to Boards, attorneys, and arbitration, it is difficult to predict which way the wind will blow on any given day. I would encourage you to seek the arbitration and I wish you the best of luck. I do think that if what you have told me is true, you have a very good chance of prevailing.