Category Archives: Volunteer

Condo Developer Transition Turmoil

S.C. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our Board does nothing. No communication, they don’t respond to our questions very well, they are not transparent when they communicate among each other (which is not too often) and my biggest beef, they refuse to fix our crumbling infrastructure (roads, outside siding, fascia boards, etc.). It’s one delay, one excuse after another and this has been going on for almost 3 years. Money is tight, they do not properly fund our community yet they are raising the dues and still operating with a negative balance. No one on the board lives here full-time and the president and one other member work for the developer. Clearly, their priorities are not in sync with the homeowners. Most residents will not say a word for fear of being the bad one or simply a case of extreme apathy. I want to round up the troops and have all the board members (well, 3 out of 4) removed. Having been the president of the association and property manager, I have plenty of experience.  I do not know what kind of reaction I will get but I do know there will be some support. Any response from you would be great and I look forward to it. Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

S.C., I am sorry that your condo Board is not performing to your expectations. However, from what you have told me, the association is still under developer control so the Board truly has limited power during this time period. Once control is handed over to the association, things will change because no one will be beholden to the developer. The association governs itself and many of the items you discuss can be addressed through democratic elections of interested and able volunteers. Now, if the developer has broken covenants with the owners and you think a lawsuit is in order, you might want to discuss your situation with an attorney. However, new owners like you describe may not go along with spending money to sue the developer so you may just need to wait until the developer transition period is complete. If I have misread your letter and the developer transition is already complete, you simply need to elect new leaders for your community. You will need volunteers ready, able, and willing to serve. They will need training and support. You should also consider hiring a community association attorney verse in developer transition, and accountant, and a property manager if needed. The developer’s team was there to support the developer, not the community association. Getting the right folks in place is vitally important to your association’s success. Your local CAI Chapter can help you find the resources you need. Visit http://caict.org to learn more. Good luck!

Complacent Condo Owners Liable for Board’s Poor Performance

F.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I joined the board a year ago. The other board members are there for decades, not by vote but because we never reached the minimum quorum to carry out an election. After investigation, I found several flubs in the past decisions that led us to severe loss to our condominium. One of them, amounts to almost $300,000 in losses with the cost of irrigation water. The association has been paying the local utility company by the highest water rate when it should be 70% lower if they had applied with the utility company for a lower rate based on the size of our property. The lower rate was available since 2008 and it was very easy to learn about. Another issue is the roofs of our buildings. The wooden shakes were replaced in 2004 after damages caused by a hurricane. However, as I learned, the wooden shakes replacement was not done by Standard Building Code. The association did not hire an architect or engineer to guide them in the reconstruction process. As a consequence, the roofs were replaced by local contractors and are now in very bad shape, will not last much longer and the overall aspect is detrimental to our property values. Another issue is the most recent, and involves the resurfacing of our tennis court that had been in bad shape and useless for years. The association knew that the ground soil was sinking and that the soil needed to be addressed beforehand. Instead, they approved a cheap painting for $7,000. The tennis court is visibly off level. Considering the way decisions are made by the board, I am afraid that our condominium will suffer further downgrades if action is not taken to remove and replace the board members. Because of the last recession, more than 50% of our units are now rental units. It will not be an easy task to obtain signatures of 75% of all property owners to remove the board members. My question is whether a legal action to compel them to leave is a valid option.

Mister Condo replies:

F.M., I am sorry for the situation you find yourself in. I am not an attorney so I cannot offer you legal advice as to whether a legal action to compel the Board to vacate their office is a valid option. However, I will tell you that, in my opinion, it is not a valid option for the following reasons. Your association is a privately held, not for profit, corporation. The corporation was founded to govern the association and unless you can cite an explicitly illegal activity, the Board has done nothing legally incorrect. In fact, for decades, the unit owners of your association have returned them to office at Annual Meetings, where democratic elections have been held. Lack of quorum only shows that unit owners didn’t care enough to participate in the governance of their association. Shame on them for doing so as all unit owners have paid the price over and over again for their lack of attendance. If it were me, I would sell my unit and get out before any further financial damage occurred. That is an option available to you. If you wish to remain and try to effect change, you will need to seek other like-minded unit owners to run for election to the Board and get enough votes to win. If you think you have the votes/signatures to force a recall election prior to the Annual Meeting, you can certainly follow the steps on your governing documents to do so. However, with so many absentee owners, I agree with you that would be unlikely. Annual Meetings are typically your best bet for a changing of the guard. You will need to campaign for new Board Members and be sure they are ready to serve. You should reach out to resident unit owners ahead of time and write to absentee unit owners to encourage them to support these new candidates with a proxy vote. Change to association governance comes from within the association. Simply doing an inadequate job of managing the association resources isn’t enough to have Board members removed. It takes a fresh batch of candidates to unseat incumbent Board Members. And guess what? If your fellow unit owners don’t support that change, it isn’t going to happen. Good Luck!

If the Condo Keeps Doing What It Has Always Done…

K.G. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are fairly new to our three-unit condo community. Two of the units, the ones where the Secretary and the Treasurer reside, are reasonable and interested in a positive and well-governed board with productive meetings. The other unit, in which the long time President resides, there is dysfunction and a constant need to have its residents (not board members) take over the meetings and highjack the agenda so that nothing is ever accomplished. It appears we need help. I have two questions that I am hoping you can assist me with. The first, is where can one enlist a mediator or someone to monitor these meetings more effectively? You have suggested to us before that the President should be voted out. It won’t happen as no one else is willing to take over. We could hire an attorney but it seems quite costly. Do mediators exist in Connecticut that could only act as moderators and run the meetings and keep them on task? My second question is that I have scanned the webinars on the CAI website for the Connecticut chapter and there are several that look like they might help. Can you suggest one that would be beneficial to a new board member who does not have any legal experience or real experience on a board? I saw several for resolving conflict and behaviors. Also, would my husband and I benefit from becoming members? We are a small condo Association with only five people residing here. We would appreciate any guidance as we would like to move forward in a more positive manner.

Mister Condo replies:

K.G., thank you for writing back. Many attorneys that specialize in community association law can also serve as mediators. However, mediation is only an option when there are two parties looking to reach a settlement. From what you have described to me here, that really isn’t the case. Let me quote your question here: “You have suggested to us before that the President should be voted out. It won’t happen as no one else is willing to take over.” Really? No one else is willing to volunteer their time to fix this problem? Then, guess what? The problem is likely to persist. If no one is willing to volunteer their time to serve then the association is getting what it deserves. I know that sounds harsh but let’s face reality here. People are willing to invest a hundred thousand dollars and much more in their unit but then aren’t willing to step up and serve? That is short-sighted and a formula for many long-term problems. My original response is here: http://askmistercondo.com/grumpy-old-condo-president-needs-to-go/

The local chapter of the CAI offers several excellent and local training programs. Among the very best is a program called “Condo, Inc. 1”. The next session is right around the corner on September 16th. You can learn more and/or register here – http://www.caict.org/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=862691&group I cannot recommend this program strongly enough for an association like yours. I think you (and other interested unit owners and Board Members) need to hear from local experts on how best to run your association. This program fits the bill perfectly. I hope you attend. All the best!

Can Non-Resident Unit Owner Serve on Condo Board?

L.M. from Pennsylvania writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our development has been condos since 1985 and this issue has never arisen before. Can a non-resident owner be on the Executive Board, and now that the issue has arisen, can the board discuss and adopt and vote on a resolution to clarify that a non-resident (investor; never resided in development) cannot be a board member as such positions are open to residents only?

Mister Condo replies:

L.M., I am not surprised to learn that this question has not come up before. Without reviewing your condo documents, I wouldn’t have any way of giving you a definitive answer. I will say that the first place you should look is your Declaration and By-laws. Typically, there is a section on governance and who is and isn’t eligible to hold a director or Board Member position. If your documents are silent on the subject, you would then turn to your state laws for common interest communities and/or corporations as those apply to your condominium. It is not uncommon to have an ownership requirement for a director to serve. A requirement to reside in the association is far less common and truly unfair as there are many times when an owner is not a resident. All owners, regardless of whether they reside in the condo or not, have a vested interest in the well-being of the community. If the Board passed a rule requiring residency that violated any non-resident unit owner’s rights, don’t be surprised if the association gets sued. I would advise speaking with the association’s attorney before taking any such action. Good luck!

Former Condo Board Member Maligned by Fellow Board Member

T.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I was on a condominium board for several years, sometimes having to do two positions. At one point, I was the President and Treasurer. My question is that I wasn’t very good at keeping receipts. I would occasionally give them to the manager. but when a check was written I put a memo where that check went and to whom.
Now I have an ex-board member that thinks I took money. How can I defend myself if I do not have the receipts to prove all of the transactions? He said he has the bank statement. What can that prove?

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., thank you for your service to your community. Seems that no good deed goes unpunished here. If you are being accused of a crime, you should speak with an attorney in order to defend yourself. If you are being slandered by an ex-board member, you might want to speak to an attorney about what rights you have to stop this slandering. Bank statements are nothing more than a record of checks, deposits, and transfers. If you didn’t write any checks to yourself or transfer any money into your private account, you likely have nothing to worry about. Someone “thinking” you took money is far different from someone claiming you took money and filing a criminal report against you. If you have nothing to hide, you can confront this person and ask them to either prove their allegations or stop slandering you or you will sue them. That will usually quiet a contentious accuser who cannot prove his/her case. Remember that in this country you are innocent until proven guilty. From what you have shared with me, you did nothing wrong and there is no proof that you did. That really is the end of the story. Good luck!

Mishandled Condo Elevator Maintenance Contracts Causes Special Assessment

M.C. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in Florida, so I will take your advice in good faith, but: we are being charged a special assessment of almost $2000 to repair the elevators of the condo complex. Normally I would have no complaint, but the reason the Special Assessment has become necessary is because of poor management of the repair contracts of the original repair work that was in budget.

Basically, the elevators were to be fixed and brought up to Florida building code nearly a year ago. However, the Board did not sign any labor contract and paid for the work up front. At some point, the work was abandoned and the elevators have stayed in disrepair and out of inspection compliance (which they were fined for) until a few weeks ago. The Special Assessment of almost $2000 per unit owner has arisen as a result of not signing those original labor contracts and the abandoned work being paid for with maintenance budget funds.

Bottom line, I want the elevators fixed, so I will pay the assessment. But, do we have any legal recourse against the board to recover those funds as a “breach of fiduciary responsibility”?

Mister Condo replies:

M.C., in my non-legal opinion, you do not have recourse against the Board. From what you have described there was no premeditated malfeasance or crime, just some poor business decisions that caused an increase in the overall expense of the association-owned asset. It may have managed less than ideally but I don’t see any breach of duty here. Hopefully, there has been a lesson learned and there will be better stewardship of the elevator maintenance program moving forward. Of course, Board Members are democratically elected volunteers from within your association and they do need to run for reelection at some point. If you feel there are better candidates for the position, you and your fellow unit owners will have opportunity to replace them with different volunteers at some point. All the best!

Who Replaces the Resigned Condo Board President?

R.L. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When the association President resigns, does the VP take over, at least until another board member is selected? are there any formal steps that have to be taken to replace the board member? I know that the final vote is determined by the remaining board members.

Mister Condo replies:

R.L., unless your by-laws state otherwise, that is exactly what happens. Although there is often a flurry of activity if the VP isn’t interested in serving and I have seen Boards hold special meetings where they then select from amongst themselves who will fill the various officer positions. The reality is that while the President of the Board does have some extra duties and powers as President, the primary role is to preside over Board meetings. Some volunteer Board members are simply uncomfortable in that role so if the VP isn’t up for the challenge, the community would be better served having the Board reelect the officers so that no role goes unfulfilled. Many association by-laws do not address what happens within the officer positions, only that the vote is held amongst the Board members following the Annual Meeting or such other time as the by-laws designate. If your Board is functioning well in between those assigned times, I suggest it is best to leave well enough alone. All the best!

Little Pink Condos for You and Me!

S.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I bought my condo about five years ago and since then they’ve decided to renovate it. I didn’t find out about the plans until the last annual meeting when the paint colors and all the details were rolled out. The condo board member who’s in charge of the redecoration had a meeting with other unit owners to decide on the decoration details and didn’t include me. Each floor of the building is going to be a different color and the color chosen for mine is bright pink. I objected to the color at the last meeting and asked if I could change it. I was told no. The decision had been made. I decided to just stick with it but, honestly, it’s bugged me since then. Is there anything I can do?

Mister Condo replies:

S.B., John Cougar Mellencamp sang about “Pink Houses” but he never mentioned who chose the color! I think your association needs to get their act together about proper notice when they hold meetings. There should never be a meeting of the association that “didn’t include you”. Proper notice needs to be mailed (or emailed if you agree and your bylaws allow it) so that you never miss a meeting because you didn’t know about it. If you decide not to attend, that is your business. If you are not properly noticed, you can contest any decisions that are made in the meeting and even sue the association for not serving proper notice of their meetings. While it is unlikely that your attendance at this meeting would have changed anything, you did have the right to be there, to speak in opposition to the painting choice and even vote on the measure if that is what was done. Your question is about what can you do now. That really depends on how much it is bugging you and how much you are willing to do about it. If the color is something you can live with, I would likely do nothing. If you were truly incensed or this is part of a larger problem, you might wish to consult with an attorney to review your rights under your state’s laws and your governing documents. You might want to run for the Board to volunteer your time to help make decisions that are in the best interest of the community. After all, your Board is comprised of volunteers from your association who have done just that. Sometimes, it is better to join them than to fight them. Other than that, I might suggest putting on some John Cougar Mellencamp music and smiling about the Pink House? Your only other option may be to “fight authority” but as John Cougar will tell you, “Authority always wins”… Good luck!

Change Needed in Condo Leadership

C.C. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do you know of any condominium law in the state of NJ that would limit a single person holding the same position on the board as president for many, many years? The power is being monopolized and we need a change!!

Mister Condo replies:

C.C., the power to change the Board is in your hands! Board members, including the President, are elected by the unit owners. You simply need to vote new people in to office and the old ones go away. What happens far too many times is that the association is unable to produce new volunteers to serve on the Board. Guess what happens then? The folks who have been serving continue to serve, regardless of whether they do a great job or a terrible job! If you want to see a change in leadership, you need to take action. You may need to volunteer your own time to serve on the Board. You will certainly need to convince your fellow unit owners to also serve and to support new candidates in elections. Otherwise, you will keep getting what you’ve been getting. Good luck!

New Jersey Condo Board Not Holding Elections

J.B. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

  1. Our Condo Board meets in a conference room in local town hall. The meeting is open to all condo owners. Is it possible to have the Board Meeting in Skype or conference call instead of meeting in person? Will it meet the NJ Condominium Act requirement of “All meetings at which a board takes a binding vote are required by law to be open to all owners and advance written notice of such meetings must be given as provided by law.”
  2. Some of our Condo Association Board Members have continued without any election for years. Is that legally allowed? No election notices were sent out, they just continued on for years. Can other members who got elected request for an election? If yes, how do we do it?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., “without any election for years”!!! I have never heard of that in a functioning condominium. Surely, your governance documents call for an Annual Meeting and a proper election process for Board members. Adding Skype to your Board meetings is the least of your worries right now!

I am not an attorney nor am I an expert in New Jersey Community Association Law, J.B., so please accept my advice as friendly. If you require a legal opinion, you will need to seek out a local attorney. That being said, let’s start with your governance documents with regards to election of officers. Typically, the condo docs require a minimum of one Annual Meeting per year. This is also done to satisfy most states’ Corporation laws that require an Annual Meeting of Shareholders be held to conduct corporation business. Your condo is a corporation, albeit a non-profit one, but a corporation nonetheless. At the Annual Meeting, a few pieces of business must happen. Perhaps the single most important is the adoption of the Annual Budget for the upcoming year. The second is to hold the election for officers. Now if there are no new candidates to select from, it is quite possible that a single vote is cast returning the Board members up for reelection to another term. Terms can vary but are typically one, two, or three years. The Board also has the ability to appoint Board members in the case of vacancy. However, it is done, there needs to be Minutes of the meeting to reflect the action. As a unit owner, you have the right to inspect Minutes once they are approved by the Board. In other words, you can go back and look at the election records for your association. If you can’t find any, you have a problem. My guess is that these folks have run unopposed for many election cycles and have simply continued to serve. If that is not the case, you would be wise to insist that elections are held at the next Annual Meeting or sooner if the situation merits it.

Whether a meeting is held in person or via conference call or Skype, the same rules apply as if the meeting were held in the real world. I know of many associations that have adopted technology advances like Skype to their meetings. However, just like any meeting of the Board, there must be minutes and the meeting must be made available to all unit owners, even if they are required to be muted during the meeting, they have the right to observe. The use of technology does not dissolve the burden of advance notice and all unit owners should be given notice of upcoming meetings in accordance with law.

Hope that helps. All the best!