S.R. from Fairfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Our Executive Board has imposed an assessment on the unit owners without calling for an open meeting to discuss the reasons for the assessment. Cited is the CT statute that allows the board to impose the assessment without an owner’s meeting if the assessment is less than 15% of the annual budget. However, the state statute, in its language, gives precedence to the declaration and by-laws of the association and makes no mention of the 15% rule but requires an open owner’s meeting and a vote to approve the assessment. Does the declaration and by-laws have precedence in this matter?
Mister Condo replies:
S.R., it sounded to me like there may have been a misinterpretation of the statute by the Board if the declaration requires an open owner’s meeting. But since I am not an attorney, I checked with one of my friends who specializes in community association law in our state. Here is what the attorney had to offer:
“Section 47-261e(b) of the Common Interest Ownership Act says that the executive board may propose a special assessment by giving a summary of it to all unit owners within 30 days after the board adopts it. The statute says that, “unless the declaration or bylaws otherwise provide,” the special assessment is deemed automatically approved if it does not exceed 15% of the association’s last approved budget for that calendar year when combined with all other special and emergency assessments for the same calendar year. Only if those amounts would exceed the 15% trigger does the statute require that a meeting of the unit owners be called (and even then, it still passes automatically unless a majority of all of the units vote to reject it). So, this is a “default” statute that explains how to adopt a special assessment when the declaration and bylaws do not say otherwise. A community’s declaration or bylaws might raise or lower the 15% trigger, or require some other vote threshold for owner approval, or impose a different procedure entirely. Many community documents do not mention the procedure for approving special assessments (as opposed to annual budgets), and when they are silent, the statutory procedure will control. But if your community’s declaration or bylaws do say something different from the statute, such as by requiring unit owner approval even for smaller special assessments, then yes, those documents will supersede the statute on this issue.”
Based on what you have told me here, S.R., I am inclined to think that the Board may have made an error in their methodology. Of course, the bottom line is how much this money was needed and what it is being used for. If you feel strongly that the special assessment was unfair, you may have grounds to challenge it or it may be as simple as bringing this article to the attention of the Board so they don’t make the same mistake in the future. Either way, I wish you all the best!