Condo President Employing Unit Owner for Questionable Common Area Work

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Anonymous from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi, Mr. Condo! We have an owner who feels he knows what is best for all the units, and has gone forward on several projects in the common areas without any majority approval. My main complaint is that the work he does is biased in his favor, and is usually not of professional caliber. In many cases, he has gotten the association president to rubber-stamp his request for reimbursement of materials and tools. In one case, he is fighting tooth and nail to limit one owner with one vehicle, to only 1 parking space, when each condo unit is entitled to two parking spaces. He is enraged that this owner straddles the line between two spaces, in order to offer resistance, and defend his right to two spaces. Meanwhile, the ‘culprit’ has 3 vehicles, and sees nothing wrong with that. This has lead to another unit taking up 4 spaces, one of which is a boat, and prohibited in the bylaws, so that two spaces for visitors, or workman are now, for all intents and purposes, relegated to long term vehicle storage. What can we do? The owner most impacted is ‘presumably’ intimidated by this behavior & feels he is not in a position to sue, since he feels even if he wins, the courts are not guaranteeing reimbursement of lawyer, and court costs, which I empathize with him. I feel I have to take action to prevent him from further unauthorized abuses, or, doing work, not desired, &/or approved, and usually not up to a professionally done caliber of quality. What can you advise me? Thanks!

Mister Condo replies:

Anonymous, you have a few problems going on in your community right now and they each have different answers…

Let’s start with the unit owner who is performing work on association common grounds and getting reimbursed from the association for parts and tools. The common areas are under the control of the association and the Board as they are the elected directors to govern the association. The association President does not have the power to “rubber-stamp” projects on his/her own. The entire Board should vote at regularly scheduled meetings for any such changes to the common areas. As a general rule, a licensed and insured contractor should perform any work done on association grounds. This is to protect the interests of the association and prevent liability in the event the contractor is injured performing this work. If the work being done is merely gardening or such, this may not be a problem. But if this unit owner is working with power equipment and industrial tools, the association may be open to liability if any injuries occur as a result of this work. It is a best practice for associations to hire only licensed and insured professionals to perform work on the common areas within their association. I am sure this Board President is lured by the short-term sweetness of free labor for these projects but is likely not considering the long-term consequences if something goes wrong.

Now, let’s discuss the problem parking situation. If the parking for each unit owner is part of the deed to the unit, which I am inferring from your statement “each condo unit is entitled to two parking spaces”, then the Board may not have the authority to reassign spaces. However, if the association owns the parking lot, the Board does have the power to reassign parking spaces as it sees fit as long as it isn’t violating any rules or by-laws to do so. The real question here is who owns the parking spaces.

As for folks that park on the lines or park too many vehicles and boats in association-owned parking spaces, the Board is the governing body that enforces the rules. If your Board isn’t enforcing those rules and no unit owner wishes to sue the Board for failure to enforce the rules, then it is time for a new Board. Vote them out at your next annual meeting and replace them with volunteer leaders who will fulfill the duties they agreed to fulfill when they sought election. It isn’t rocket science. They simply need to enforce the rules of the association and/or adopt new rules if the current rules don’t suffice. All the best!

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