Category Archives: Selling

Condo Let Lapse FHA and VA Certification

C.W. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our complex has always maintained FHA/VA certification. This certification certainly can be viewed as either a positive or negative by some. As I understand it, last fall the government separated the two, requiring two separate certifications. My complex let the certification lapse and then chose only to renew the FHA certification. Now, the FHA cert costs about $1800 with attorney’s fees and is only good for a limited time (I believe 2 years), the VA certification is a lifetime certification and a one-time expense of approximately the same amount. There was nothing in our complex financials reflecting payment or budget for either. There was no notification from the board regarding maintaining or dropping either. I only found this out because I had put my unit for sale and was notified of the lack of certification. After going to the Board, they said they were unaware of the separation of certifications. I lost my first buyer because it was during the lapse of either, and then lost my second buyer because of the non-VA renewal. The board originally asked if I would front the cost and they would reimburse me at the closing, which I agreed. They then reneged and asked me to pay half, then they said they would not reimburse me at all but would supply the attorney with the paperwork. I have lost both buyers because of this. I am now 4 months later with no buyers and multiple price drops. Do I have some sort or recourse because of the lapse and non-renewal and no notification or owner vote regarding this? Certainly, I would think that this certification has a reflection on our unit value. Thanks.

Mister Condo replies:

C.W., I am certainly sorry that you have lost a few buyers for your unit while this debacle unfolds. I should point out that I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. You should speak with qualified counsel to see if you have any type of legal remedy worth pursuing. You are correct to point out that there are differences between FHA and VA certification. Generally speaking, FHA certification is required for the condominium association for any mortgages that are FHA insured (most are these days). VA certification is specific to the VA-backed loan program and has a different set of requirements. If your complex had VA certification at one time, I am not sure how they lost it. FHA certification is a renewable program so it does have to be sought and reapplied for from time to time as required by the FHA. To optimize mortgage opportunities, many condominium associations opt for FHA certification. Not all bother with VA certification as it is a much narrower pool of buyers who require such certification. Neither are required to be carried by the association, which is why I question your ability to claim an association-caused loss because of the lack of the certification. Your pool of potential buyers is certainly smaller without the FHA certification but you are still unencumbered by the association when you do sell. The Board should take the best interests of all unit owners into consideration when deciding to renew or let lapse FHA certification. Ultimately, if the unit owners want it and the Board refuses to get it, it is time for a new Board. All the best!

Lack of Certificate Prevents Condo From Closing

J.V. from Manhattan, NY writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo is in contract small 4-unit Brownstone in Manhattan. We are all on the Board, one man is the president that we all elected solely based on gender. Had I known that he was a very difficult person I never would have agreed. My issue is our management company whom has since been terminated never renewed our temporary c/o (that’s another horror story). I cannot close without it. The “president ” is not allowing me to move forward with an architect or an expediter (I’ll even pay for that first payment) to get the process started. It has been over a month. He wants proposals and very worried about money. We do not have very this important certificate which is dangerous. But I particularly need it to close. He may cost me my sale which gives me much stress and sleepless nights.

I’ve tried everything, talking, meetings. Now he’s in Italy for 2 months. What can I do as a Board Member with a pending sale to move forward so I can close? I don’t know where to turn. He is a blocker. Does he have this power to make me potentially lose my buyers? Also, my buyers are giving us 120 days (now less) to get the Temporary CO. They want my unit and I want to move!!!!

Can you advise or direct me to someone who can help?

Mister Condo replies:

J.V.,

Hello! Please understand that I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. From what you have shared with me, you will likely need an attorney to help sort these matters out. I am sorry to learn that your previous management company did not file the proper paperwork with the city to keep the building’s Certificate of Occupancy (c/o) up to date. You may have legal action against the association for allowing that to expire. That being said, unless you are able to file the appropriate paperwork to get your Certificate back in good standing, you are very much at the mercy of the Board President, who appears to be a difficult person and indisposed for two months. Typically, unless your governing documents specifically call for the President to take action, a duty such as filing for the Certificate could fall on any officer. Since there are only four of you on the Board, you may be as qualified as any other Board Member to handle the transaction. You should check out this web page for some insight: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/buildings/homeowner/certificate-of-occupancy.page

While your President is following a Good Business Judgment rule by getting bids for the architect or expediter needed to satisfy the CO requirements, if you are financially harmed by the lack of the CO, you may also have a case to sue your association. Again, speak with a qualified attorney before taking any action.

I am afraid I don’t have better news for you. The failure to have an active CO on file for your association is a most unfortunate event, caused by a series of other unfortunate events. If you do end up suing your association, it should serve as a wake-up call for them to not let the CO slide again. As you have said, it is a very important certificate in NYC. It should be treated so nonchalantly by the Board. Good luck!

HOA Seeking Additional Assessment from Former Owner

P.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can an HOA increase assessment amount 8 months after I sold condo and deed changed hands? The management co. made an error in what they call the “estimate” of their closing figures which were baked into the sale amount (buyer paid the assessment and price was lowered accordingly). Now they say I (previous owner) have to pay more even though the sale cleared title and resale cert was all normal. The letter tells me I owe more than what they thought I owed when they gave the figures at closing time.

Mister Condo replies:

P.J., this is clearly a legal question for a qualified attorney in your state. Different states handle these transactions differently so I cannot give you a definitive answer for your scenario. I will offer this advice. Once the sale is made and the closing is over and the title has changed hands, the seller is typically relieved of any further claims against the unit. In other words, if the HOA makes a Special Assessment after your name is off the title, that assessment is on the new unit owner. There are exceptions though and you really need to speak with an attorney from your state who can give you a proper legal answer for your situation. The way you have described it sounds fishy to me but I am not an attorney and cannot offer you any legal opinion here. I know I would be reviewing the details with a qualified attorney to make sure I was being dealt with fairly and within the scopes of local law. All the best!

Condo Price Rebound After Settled Lawsuit

J.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo dropped significantly in value just like every other condo community around us when the economy collapsed in 2008. In the meantime, our HOA began a litigation against the builder. This meant that when prices of other communities began to rebound a few years ago, ours remained low because mortgages were generally unavailable to purchasers and it has been all cash sales. All other condo communities surrounding us have now rebounded to pre-recession value, but our community has remained low in price due to the litigation. We just received notice that all parties have settled and the court ruling will be within the next couple weeks. We would like to sell our condo and are wondering how long it will take to see our condo value rebound now that the litigation has ended. Can we start using other similar communities as real estate “comps”? Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., I am sorry your condo association was forced into litigation against a developer. Lawsuits can have long-lasting repercussions against associations including the financial burden of funding the suit when monies could be used elsewhere or put in Reserve, creating a strong financial position for the condo, which is desirable to an educated purchaser. That being said, if your condos look as nice as others in your market, there is no reason to think the units shouldn’t rebound now that mortgages are available. Price is driven by market demand. An encumbrance like a lawsuit can hinder demand but with the suit out of the way, I can’t think of any reason the prices shouldn’t rebound quickly. Make sure the unit is in good shape and that the association is doing all it can to keep the curb appeal in good order. The right realtor will market the unit properly and the market will dictate the price. Good luck!

Amended Condo Deed Trumps Board’s Forgetfulness

K.F. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’m a New Jersey Real Estate salesperson representing a seller of a Penthouse unit in a 5 story walk up in a 6-unit Condo. When my client purchased her unit in 2009 she was also given an amended deed that included the exclusive right to build an approved deck on the roof. The board met last week and in their Minutes decided to retain the roof rights (now that my client wants to sell). They don’t seem to be aware/remember that the roof rights were gifted and deeded and has been filed with the city/county. What rights do they have to take back roof rights if any at all?

Mister Condo replies:

K.F., Boards have no more rights than you or I when it comes to taking back anything that has been filed on a deed. In fact, this is a classic example of where an attorney can likely solve this for you with a few letters or phone calls showing the deed. The Board’s “memory” of the event is irrelevant, regardless of what they have put in their Minutes. If they take action against your client, the attorney will simply counter with the Deed. One caveat: is there any stipulation on the deed that would indicate that the approved deck had to be installed by a certain date? If that date has come and gone then your client is out of luck. Other than that, this sounds like a fairly simple case to me but I am not an attorney. Have your client speak with an attorney who specializes in real estate, get a legal opinion, and good luck selling this Penthouse condo unit. It sounds gorgeous!

Condo Sale Hampered by Board President

J.R. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I recently entered a contract to sell my condo. After a week of being under contract, the president of the board has mentioned something about blocking my sale due to my partially finished basement. The basement was finished much like others in my building, but I don’t have a second form of egress. I spoke to the town building inspector about this when I did the work and he mentioned that as long as I did not deem this livable space, or make it a bedroom, or damage the structural integrity of the building, it was not an issue. The president mentioned to my real estate agent that I may be forced to tear it out. Can the association legally block a sale due to this or make me demo the work I did?

Mister Condo replies:

J.R., it doesn’t sound to me that the Board has actually blocked the sale as much as cast a doubt as to whether or not the sale should proceed by giving the realtor a heads up about a potential problem. What the realtor does with that information is out of the control of the Board. You mentioned speaking to a town Building Inspector at the time you made the installation. I don’t suppose you got something in writing from him, did you? That would make this “problem” magically go away. Without a certificate of some sort, it would appear there is a grey area surrounding your basement make over. If a different building inspector came out and inspected your property, what would the outcome be? Can you be certain that the lack of egress wouldn’t halt a sale? I agree with you that the Board may be overstepping by alerting the realtor to the potential problem. However, once the sale is complete and you are out of the picture, the new homeowner may have a problem. Problems for owners often become problems for the Board. I don’t agree with the tactic but I understand the sentiment. You may be able to solve this issue by asking the Building Inspector to come to your unit now and issue a letter that states that your basement makeover is, in fact, acceptable as is. That will give you and your realtor the confidence to sell your unit knowing the new owner (and the Board) will not have a problem. Good luck!

Condo “Marketing Fee” Forces Unit Owners to Use Condo’s Designated Realtor

S.Y. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo board discriminates against unit owners who want to list their unit for sale outside the condo realtor. If you list with the condo’s realtor, the realtors commission of 6% is paid from the condo’s 10% “marketing fee” levied when a unit sells. If you use your own realtor, you pay the 10% condo “marketing fee” plus 6% to the realtor.

Many of us want to use our own realtors because the condo’s realtor shows preference to Board members and their friends. If you’ve ever been in a disagreement with the Board, look out, your unit will never sell.

We have considered legal action but this will damage sales prospects for our units.

 

Mister Condo replies:

S.Y., damaged sales prospects aside, I don’t see any other way to remove this obstacle to using a realtor other than the “selected” condo realtor. That being said, I am not sure there is a true legal issue here. The 10% “marketing fee” is a condition for anyone who sells. While I think that 10% is an exorbitant amount to pay for “marketing fees”, from what you have told me it is a rule that has always been in place. Perhaps the Declarant wanted to monopolize all initial sales and resales so the clause was added? Whatever the reason, the 10% is currently the law of the land for your association. How do you and your fellow unit owners feel about this? If there is enough dissent, why not simply vote to have the rule removed? The fee paid by a seller to a realtor is typically negotiated by the seller. Here, the association has already negotiated a permanent seller’s fee of 6% to the realtor, which the association is essentially rebating back to the seller because it is coming out of a 10% “marketing fee” the seller agreed to abide by when he or she originally purchased in to your association. While I will agree that it is a bit questionable, I am not certain it is anything that can be undone by bringing a suit against the association. You have the power to correct the situation by simply eliminating the “marketing fee” or making it 4% (10% – 6%). Either method would leave the unit owner free to select their own selling agent at whatever fee they negotiated. 6% is common but I know of many markets across the country where listing fees are far less. Many times, the real estate market dictates what is a reasonable fee versus a “set in stone” flat rate. Good luck!

Condo Lawsuit Revelation Shouldn’t Cause Issue for Selling Owner

J.P. from New York writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am planning to sell my condo soon. One of my fellow owners is deeply behind on HOA fees. There’s a law suit pending. I’m told this could hold up my selling. I’m in Brooklyn. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Mister Condo replies:

J.P., I am sorry that your association is dealing with a delinquent unit owner. While lawsuits against the association might cause a potential buyer for your unit to shy away from the deal, a lawsuit initiated by the association against a delinquent unit owner should not. The association’s only risk here is that the unit owner doesn’t pay in timely fashion. The association’s risk is relatively low, seeing as they have a lien against the unit owner in arrears. It is a requirement that lawsuits that the association is involved in must be disclosed to a potential buyer, I don’t see where this suit should make them change their mind about purchasing your unit. This type of lawsuit is quite common and almost always won by the association. Good luck!

Timing of Special Assessment Hampers Condo Unit Sale

W.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo is under contract and set to close very soon. I just received a notice about a week ago of a meeting of the owners to approve/disapprove an assessment of $750,000 ($7,500/unit). I immediately notified the buyer’s agent and invited the buyer to attend the meeting. The assessment was approved last night (the buyer was out of town… supposedly). Is the buyer obligated to close? Note: I am willing to finance the $7,500 amortized over 3 years. Note 2: Closing attorney says buyer is obligated to close because he will ‘enjoy’ all the benefits of the expenditure.

Mister Condo replies:

W.L., congratulations on selling your unit. Special Assessments are ugly for so many reasons. The timing of this one as you are selling your unit is almost calamitous. The liability for the assessment is with the unit owner of record when the assessment was levied. So, depending on when the closing date and time and transfer of deed for your unit occurred, the assessment is on the unit owner of record at that time. The purchase and sale agreement you have with the new owner is a separate entity and your attorney can best advise you on what legal options you have if the buyer breaks that agreement, for whatever reason. So, in the simplest of terms, look at the date and time the assessment was levied. Look at who owned the unit at the date and time of the assessment. That is who owns the assessment. As for offering to finance the assessment for the new buyer, that is a decision you need to make. Personally, I would not offer that option as it isn’t your problem, but very well could be if the unit owner defaults on the repayment. Then you will need your attorney for a whole other reason. Good luck!

Forcing a Unit Owner to Sell to Make Association Fannie Mae Compliant

M.B. from Southern California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

There are 51 units in my building in Southern California. I am aware of a Fannie Mae Guideline that states that no one owner can own more than 10% of the units. In my building, there is an owner who owns 13 units which is 25%+. Because of this, several sales (5 in the last 3 months) have fallen out because the buyers cannot get financing. Question is: is there a legal way for the HOA to sue that unit owner to get him to sell his units until he owns only 5 since he is preventing the sales of any units in the building which, in turn, is also preventing the prices of our units from going up (depressing the building)? Do the other unit owners have any recourse?

Mister Condo replies:

M.B., as you know, I am not an attorney nor am I an expert is California state law so please accept my advice as friendly and not legal. For a legal opinion, you need to consult with a local attorney who is verse in your state’s laws regarding HOA and condo association law. My first blush answer to you is that this owner has not done anything wrong. Unless your by-laws state that no one person may own more than 10% of the units, you likely don’t have a leg to stand on. The unit owner didn’t cause Fannie Mae to set its guidelines. In fact, Fannie Mae could change its rules tomorrow to 5% and then other owners would be effected. Unless you could prove that this unit owner was maliciously trying to prevent sales of other units within the HOA, I don’t think there is too much you can do. Non Fannie Mae mortgages do exist. They aren’t as easy to find and they don’t always have as favorable a rate but that really isn’t the concern of the unit owner who simply purchased units as he saw fit. I am sorry I don’t have more positive advice for you but I don’t think there is too much to be done here. Good luck!