Category Archives: Rules Enforcement

Condo Parking Blocks Sidewalks

P.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own the upper condo with a renter in the lower condo. She threatened me with police and association complaint of me parking in my parking slot in front of sidewalks. 95% of parking slots are in front of the sidewalks. Does she have a leg to stand on?

Mister Condo replies:

P.D., I am sorry that you and your neighbor are at odds over the parking in your condominium. Surely, there are rules from the association as to what is and isn’t allowable. I can’t imagine the police getting involved on what happens on association property that the local municipality has no control over. If you have somehow blocked the entrance to her unit with your parking, she may have reason to call the police but other than that, this is an association matter. If you are violating association parking rules, then, yes, she has a leg to stand on and you may be fined and/or towed for violating the parking rules. If not, this is just an unfortunate situation between neighbors. If you can’t work it out amicably, you may be in for a contentious relationship with your neighbor but that may say more about her than you. Good luck!

Noisy Neighbor Making Condo Life Unbearable for New Owner

A.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I know you get a fair amount of questions about how to deal with noise in condo living situations. Here’s another one. I just moved into a unit in a rather large building, back in February. On the night of the walk-through I noticed that in the master bedroom I could hear the next door neighbor’s television. The former owners joked at the closing that the neighbor was fond of westerns and classical music (meaning they were familiar with the noise). Said former owners slept in the guest bedroom and used the unit as a weekend home, so they were not here very often nor did they sleep in bedroom with noise.

I do sleep in my master bedroom. The neighbor is an eighty-five-year-old man who has owned here since the seventies. (I know this because on the only occasion I have had to actually address my concern about his loud television in the middle of the night, he told me that he had lived here for forever and that I should sleep in my master bedroom…) I expect quiet, to the degree that I can get it. I had not expected that I would have to deal with loud television sounds in the middle of the night. The neighbor is pretty deaf and perhaps unaware (?) of how loud is his television. He definitely has a sense of entitlement because of his length of ownership. Are there tools that can assist an elderly person with knowing if they are going above a certain decibel level with their noise?

I am in communication with the management company. So far, they have done nothing about the issue. Instead, they suggest that I have someone come into my unit to ascertain if I am truly hearing something. Considering that I am a light sleeper and have really good hearing, and that their suggestion is based on a truly subjective meter, I’m pretty sure I will not allow someone in my unit at 1:00 a.m.. So, mostly I write emails that don’t get a response and call the door person and don’t get relief.

Any suggestions?

Mister Condo replies:

A.M., I am sorry that you find yourself in this position within your own home. Some condo governance documents are quite specific on acceptable noise levels; many are silent on the subject and simply call for peaceable enjoyment of the premise, which leaves a lot of wiggle room for both the Board and the unit owners. The vast majority of unit owners live by the Golden Rule: Do Unto Others as You Would Have Done Unto You. However, if you have neighbor that is hard of hearing and is unresponsive to your requests to keep the noise down, you now have to look at other options. While your Property Manager may not take action, your Board doesn’t have the luxury of ignoring your formal request to take action and enforce the association’s rules on noise, whatever they may be. Start with reviewing your condo documents to see what they say about acceptable noise levels. Make a formal complaint to the Board, in writing, and site the by-laws that support your complaint. Then, follow up with the Board to make sure they do take action. If your neighbor is violating rules, they can fine him. He will resist and play the “I’ve been here forever” card but that has no legal importance whatsoever. If the Board thinks he is violating the noise rules, they can take action to correct his behavior. You need to continue to document each time he breaks the noise rules and report to the Board when he does. In other words, be a squeaky wheel. Make your problem their problem. If you still get no relief, speak with an attorney to see what other legal actions may be available to you. My guess is it won’t come to that but that would be your path to relief. Good luck!

HOA Sues Owner for Trying to Rescue a Stray Cat

J.H. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My neighbor accused me of feeding a feral cat. HOA is taking me to court. I was not feeding a feral cat! This female cat was tame, but pregnant. I was feeding the cat in order to catch her. If I had not, there would now be 3 females pregnant by the 2 tomcats roaming the condo complex. I did these people a favor! I bought the food, sat outside with the woman from a rescue organization and caught the mother and two kittens. Can a HOA have ordinances to override the County, City and State laws?

Mister Condo replies:

J.H., I salute your efforts to help but I hope you can understand how dangerous feeding any wild animals can be and the potential risk it puts on the HOA. Your neighbor had no way of knowing what you were up to and reported the behavior to the Board, who took the appropriate action for your rules and by-laws. I cannot imagine that any of their rules override local laws and the answer to that question is “no”, they cannot have rules that conflict with local ordinances. I have to believe that the correct solution to this problem would have been for you to report the stray but tame cat to the association and let them take whatever steps they deem appropriate to remedy the situation. After all, this wasn’t your cat. The person from the rescue organization would have been their likely contact and the same end result could have been achieved without your personal involvement in rescuing the animal. I am sure you meant well and I am guessing you are an animal lover, which I certainly admire. However, in most HOAs, feeding stray or ferial animals, regardless of your intention or their tameness, is prohibited due to the risk of pestilence and/or animal attacks on residents. All the best!

Neighborly Pet Behavior Missing at this Condo!

A.S. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a neighbor who has gotten out of control with her little dog relieving its self on her deck. It stinks! I contacted the property manager and health department. They both told me to take photos, proof, so I did. There is a hearing for the owner of this unit. I was told by the police that I cannot take photos, the police told me the property manager needs to take the photos. Our decks are 12′ off the ground, no stairs to them, so what am I supposed to do? Call the property manager and wait for him to come out? By that time, it’s too late!

Mister Condo replies:

A.S., you have a series of unfortunate events to deal with here if you are going to curb your neighbor’s behavior. The violation of your condo rules is the purview of the Board and the Property Manager. The police are only involved if laws are being broken. If your neighbor allowing her pet to relieve itself on the deck is a rule violation (most likely, it is), then you document the violation as requested by the Property Manager and let the Board take action against the neighbor. If the police are involved (likely through a domestic complaint) you need to follow their rules so they can enforce the laws. You may wish to hire an attorney to get a better answer as to what you can and cannot do for law enforcement. Honestly, if the Board takes action against the neighbor (violation letters, fines) that is probably all it will take to get the neighbor to be a more responsible pet owner. If that doesn’t work and you do need to involve the police, you will have to follow their instructions, as difficult and improbable as they sound. Good luck!

Lights, Camera, Action! Condo Fine Fought with TV Presentation!

C.S. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

In the State of Florida, now the Board votes on if a unit owner should be fined for a violation and a fining and suspension committee acts as the hearing committee did in the past, giving the unit owner the chance to state their side, and the committee then decides if the fine voted on by the Board, should be upheld or if no fine is to be given. I have a Unit Owner who wants to state his side and have all of his friends give their opinion at the meeting, while also giving a TV presentation in which not all of the committee members will be able to see since they will be calling in. My question to you is can the unit owner have all of these people speak their opinion on behalf of him, and should he be allowed to give a presentation when not all of the committee members will be able to see. What exactly is the unit owner allowed to bring to this meeting or is this a place that he just pleads his case as to why he feels he shouldn’t be fined? Hope this all made sense.

Mister Condo replies:

C.S., it all makes perfect sense but what a crazy HOA and condo world we live in where unit owners feel the need to give a video presentation to defend themselves before a Board or Fining Committee. As far as friends speaking on the unit owner’s behalf, I would refer to the by-laws and any applicable state law. My guess is that one or two unit owners (neighbors) who have something of interest in the matter that will support the defense of the unit owner, it would be allowed. That being said, all participants should be kept to a timed presentation. Neither the Board nor the Fining Committee should be subject to endless banter in favor or against the fining of an individual unit owner. A complaint was made. The unit owner was notified. The unit owner appears before the governing body and either agrees a rule was broken or denies it. I would think the unit owner would not need more than two minutes to rebut the claim. Supporting unit owner testimony could easily be submitted in writing in support of the defense. I cannot see where a TV presentation is warranted although if there is a short video clip that supports the defense, I suppose it could be offered as evidence. Again, in advance of the meeting for review by the Board or Fining Committee before the meeting. Fines are not court cases. They are simply the Board administering the rules of the association as they are reported to be violated. I think this unit owner may have watched to much “Law and Order”. If the Board fines the unit owner and they disagree, they can appeal. Or they can pay their fine and move on. If they feel they have been discriminated against or treated unfairly, they have recourse through the courts. Other than that, let’s keep it simple, folks. All the best!

NYC Condo Board Forcing Rule Changes on Unit Owners

M.T. from New York City writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We live in NYC in a 22-unit condominium building. We recently received an e-mail from our management company (on direction by our board) that certain “rules” would be changed, including language that limits what the building insurance would cover and how many pets are allowed per unit. We don’t really care about the change in pet policy though it does strike us as funny that one of the condo board members has more than the two dogs currently allowed. The change to the insurance language however does seem odd since it’s contrary to our by-laws. In the same message that contained the new “rules,” we were also informed that we needed to sign the attached document within 2 weeks and return it to them. Failure to sign would result in escalating monthly fines. I don’t see anything in our by-laws that specifically authorizes this – except that the condo board of course can enforce rules and fine for non-compliance. Do I have to sign? Or in other words, can they fine me for not signing this? The rules at this point look more like an amendment of the by-laws and it’s our understanding that we need to vote on that in order to make a change.

Mister Condo replies:

M.T, I can see where you would find it odd that these rules are being changed almost arbitrarily, especially by a Board of such a small condo. If there are 5 Board members and only 22 units, almost 25% of the units are represented by Board members. You are correct to challenge the process of changing rules or by-laws and you should look at both your governing documents and any local laws that may offer you protection from a Board that oversteps their authority to make changes that require a full vote of unit owners. As for signing a document provided by the Board that states they have informed you of the rule changes, I don’t see where that is a foul. Fining you for not acknowledging these rule changes seems a bit extreme. Typically, the Board only needs to notify unit owners in writing of rule changes for the rules to be considered in place and due process to have been followed. Forcing unit owners to sign this acknowledgement and then fining them for not doing so sounds like an unnecessary step to me but your governing documents may call for such a measure. You might want to attend the next Board meeting and observe what is going on. If they offer an opportunity for unit owners to voice concern, you could ask what these changes are about. It could be that the insurer has given the Board reason to make these changes. One instance I can think of is creating maintenance standards for things such as water supply lines inside of units. If left unmanaged, broken water supply lines can cause a fortune in damage. Many insurance companies now require that these lines, even if working properly, be replaced at regularly scheduled intervals. All the best!

Condo President Perplexed as Unit Owners Feed Wild Animals

R.M. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

As president of our association I have been faced with an issue of residents that constantly toss bulk amounts of food outside in common property areas for the purpose of feeding wildlife. This is causing our community to become unsafe due to many varieties of animals from bears to skunks on the property as well as residents complaining about food on the common areas. We have sent letters and threaten fines but nothing has worked. Can we add a policy to our rules and regulations to stop such behavior in the future? Help!

Mister Condo replies:

R.M., rules are only as good as they are enforceable. You mentioned sending letter and “threatening” fines but you haven’t gone as far as to actually issue fines. Your rules, therefore, have no teeth and residents are scoffing at them. As the next order of business, ass the rules and appropriate fines for rules violations to your by-laws. Then, when a unit owner or resident is accused of violating a rule, issue a summons for them to appear before the Board at the next meeting. Ask them why they violated the rule. Then issue either a warning or a fine and repeat. You tried the “common sense” approach and that didn’t work. It’s time to escalate the words into actions. My guess is once it starts costing them money, the rules violators will stop. Good luck!

Condominiums, Security, and Online Deliveries

J.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’m actually a Property Manager looking for some creative ideas. Running into a growing issue of granting building access for home deliveries. With the rapid increase of online shopping and Amazon’s move to sub-contracting delivery to what is similar to an Uber driver (think Postmates or Lasership), leaves me in a dilemma. You can’t arrange access as you might with USPS or FedEx with regular drivers. And some buildings want residents to rely on their keys or fobs and not issue the building door code. Some buildings do allow codes to be issued to residents and then that code is included with delivery instructions. I understand the need for security, but would also like to accommodate residents in buildings that want to restrict the use of access codes. (these are smaller communities with no onsite staff). Much thanks for any ideas.

Mister Condo replies:

J.H., thank you for the question and for your forward thinking. Obviously, security systems in condos are designed to keep undesirables out and residents safe. The idea of allowing unfettered access to buildings and units does not jive with that philosophy so many of these newly created delivery services are, by design, incompatible with condominium safety protocols. In my opinion, one of two things would need to happen. Discontinue the security protocols. Allow anyone who wishes access to the property. This will allow the good in with the bad but it may be the only way to allow delivery of such products without providing security clearance. This is a terrible idea because it removes the security that many unit owners want, expect, and purchased when they bought into the community. The second solution is to disallow the use of these services. This, too seems extreme but it allows for the existing security protocols to be kept in place. This was how the community was designed, it is what owners expect, and there was never any such delivery service to content with when unit owners purchased so they cannot realistically expect any changes to their security service. Effective, but neither adaptive or forward thinking. The final solution may be the most practical and it mimics the current protocols for allowing visitors on the property. The unit owner takes responsibility for the delivery company and allows them on to the property just as they would allow any other guest. If that means they need to be home when the delivery comes, so be it. If they can’t be home then they can’t use the delivery service. No need to restrict the delivery service or the unit owner. And, just like any other guest that is one the property at their request, they are responsible for that guest’s behavior. Delivery companies are notorious for parking in fire lanes, blocking driveways, etc.. If they break rules while they are on the common grounds, the unit owner may decide it just isn’t worth the “convenience”. Condominium and HOAs have rules and regulations and security systems for a reason. It isn’t too make life easier; it is to make it more enjoyable and more secure. Home delivery of groceries and condominiums just may not be a match made in heaven. Good luck!

55+ Condo Reluctant to Allow Young Family Member Residence

C.D. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo I own for 55+. Recently, my six-year-old granddaughter was removed from her parents by CPS and placed with me do I have to move?

Mister Condo replies:

C.D., I am sorry that your granddaughter was removed from her parents’ custody. She is fortunate to have loving grandparents to take her in. However, unless your condo documents allow for family members under the designated age for residents of the community, you may very well have to vacate your unit and find a more suitable community to raise her. There are exceptions and you might want to speak with your condo association Property Manager and Board to plead your case. You may also want to speak with a locally qualified attorney who can offer you legal advice on your predicament. I do know of some communities that are willing to bend the rules, but just a bit. For instance, if someone under the stated age inherits a unit and wishes to reside there. Typically, the inheritor is not that far away from the stated age, so the problem corrects itself in short order. I also know of communities that follow an “80/20” rule meaning that as long as at least 80% of the units are adhering to the age rule, the community has some flexibility in allowing a few (less than 20%) of units to house folks that aren’t of the appropriate age. Again, there is no requirement to do so but I do know of some that have made exceptions. I think the real issue here is the young age of your granddaughter. Folks that buy into a 55+ age-restricted community do so with an expectation of finding nothing but folks their age in the community. Perhaps, that is even why you purchased into this community? You certainly wouldn’t expect to hear the sounds of children playing or riding a bike or other activities associated with childhood within such a community. There is also the challenge of providing peer friendship for your granddaughter. She isn’t likely to find playmates here as she would most likely be the only child in the community. I am sure there are no child-friendly amenities like a playground for her to enjoy. It might be in her best interest as well as your own to find a more suitable environment to raise her. That being said, you asked if you “have” to move. My answer is “maybe”. Follow the steps I outlined above for a more definitive answer. I wish you and your granddaughter the best of luck!

Does Condo Support Animal Count as a Pet?

W.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am the President of our condo association. Our condo rules allow two pets under a certain weight limit. We have a person that presented a certificate stating their dog (overweight) is a support animal due to her husband’s depression issues. The dog was allowed but now they are bringing in two cats stating the dog is not a pet. The dog is clearly a pet. Can we stick to the two-pet rule?

Mister Condo replies:

W.S., I am sorry to say that a support animal is not a pet and, therefore, not subject to the total count of pets allowed. This is a bone of contention around the country and there are some instances where the courts are saying “enough is enough” with folks taking advantage of the support animal exemption that allows them to easily skirt rules. Perhaps you heard story of an emotional support pig recently kicked off of an airplane flight? It seems that this craziness isn’t going away any time soon. In the meantime, don’t get yourself or your association into a lawsuit you will likely lose over this. Speak with a locally qualified attorney that specializes in community association law. Ask about recent cases and how the local courts are likely to respond if a suit were brought. The overweight support animal may be the one you can challenge in court based on the animal’s weight – not it’s stated purpose as a support animal. If the attorney advises you to proceed, that is your call. Short of that, unless the laws change, my advice is to let these folks enjoy their two pets and let them have their support animal as well. Be thankful they didn’t bring a support pig into your community! All the best!