How Too Many Non-Resident Unit Owners in a Condo Association Changes Everything

E.C. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The same people who established the condominium in which I live still control it. Though units were first sold in 1990, one of the developers maintains 15 of the 130 units. This block of condo units represents 15 votes, which when added to condo units controlled by their friends on the board, leads to a lot of apparent financial shenanigans and bullying of owners who simply want a little transparency. About 70% of the owners currently rent out their units, mainly because they hate the way this place is run. Those of us who are left living here cannot seem to oust the trouble-making board, nor win the support of the non-resident owners who are generally apathetic, now that they’re gone and have a paying tenant to cover their costs. Many resident owners, however, are either angry, stressed, depressed, chronically ill, demoralized, etc. as a direct result of feeling powerless to do anything about their maltreatment by the current board, which has both directly and indirectly ruled the roost since the beginning. This is one miserable place. We have turned to lawyers and they say get a petition together to call a special meeting and vote the board out. This is not possible, given the apathy of so many non-resident owners — many of whom also fear retaliation by certain board members and their property management company, which has been with them from the very start. The resident owners who really care about reform — and who have been suffering physical and emotional harm — have already been burned by one attorney who proved incompetent, so we are wondering if a class action lawsuit might be a viable avenue for us. We would let the attorney have all the winnings. We just want to see some justice done after all these years.

Mister Condo replies:

E.C., I am sorry for your situation. Associations that are largely under developer control even after the developer transition period is over can be tricky. Associations with large percentages of rental units come with their own problems. You have a double whammy at your association. Your best bet is increasing the numbers of resident owners who are willing to volunteer and serve on the Board if elected. As long as the resident owners are the minority, nothing will change, in my opinion. At their core, condo associations are democracies. The people with the most votes are the ones who govern the association. As long as those people are not resident owners, I don’t see much motivation for them to change how they govern. You indicate that this behavior has been going on for years. If it were me, I would have sold my unit by now. Unless you see the pendulum swinging towards more resident owners, I would encourage you and anyone else who is unhappy there to consider moving out. You can contact an attorney to see if you have a case but I haven’t heard of anything you’ve mentioned as being a valid reason for a lawsuit. Please keep in mind that I am not an attorney so my advice is strictly friendly. For a legal opinion, you will need to seek out the services of an attorney who could better guide you legally. Good luck!

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