Problems Galore for this Condo Owner

M.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Where I live has had nothing but issues for years with the Home Owner’s Association and the Management Companies they’ve hired! We now have a new Management Company that is well-known and established, but it appears many things are still not being conducted financially correct for our Association! The last team we had was caught embezzling, that’s right both Home Owner’s Association Board Member and Management Company. They settled! But that didn’t help the problems of twenty years of disrepair! One said person that was on the “Home Owner’s is actually still on the board, and is a Broker! How he kept his license I’ll never know, but what gets me the most, do the homeowners think this person has changed his stripes? We also have a “Security Guard” that’s been here for over twenty-five years! Yes, the very same one! He doesn’t follow the by-laws, he knew all about the embezzlement, doesn’t do a thing to protect this property, but the residents that have lived here the longest feel a kinship to him!?#/! You want someone that’s trustable, dependable, reliable, most definitely follows the by-laws of the Association!  Our pools are to close at 11pm, open at 7am, that’s never happened in the 17 years that I’ve been here! If the Security even locks up at night, it’s somewhere after between 11:30 forward, and opens the gates anywhere after 2:00am through 3:30am! Depends on his last drive by. This Security Guard actually went almost a year without locking our pool’s!  I guess he wanted to see how long he could get away without doing anything! He’s still here! Don’t most Association change Security Company’s every, at least five years? We have 400 units… (Editor’s note, this question has been shortened) What can we do?

Mister Condo replies:

M.S., I am sorry that living in this community association has given rise to so many problems for you. I had to truncate your letter because it got far too specific with details and complaints that I couldn’t possibly address them all. Let me say this to try and give you some closure on what you have seen transpire and how you might better enjoy the experience moving forward. Volunteer leaders are democratically elected from within your very community to serve on the Board and conduct the business of the association as outlined in your community governance documents. They don’t always behave as you would like and you have the power to vote them out of office every year at your Annual Meeting. Wrongdoing, such as stealing or embezzlement is a special situation and it sounds like the association took proper action against the offenders. Agreeing to settle was their prerogative. Hiring a security company and maintaining the contract for many years is also their decision. Almost every complaint you had against the association came from you not agreeing with how they run the association. Unless other unit owners agree with you and elect different leaders, nothing will change. The management company works for the Board. Changing companies will not change the results. All communities are different by the nature of who lives there and who makes up the Board. If the Board where you live is lack in their duties and the association continues to return them to office, then it is fair to say that they are doing the business of the community as the community would like it. Have you ever run for the Board? Have you ever discussed the shortcomings of the Board to other unit owners to see if they share your concerns? That would be the only way to effect any change at your association. Short of that, your only other real option would be to sell and move into an association that has a reputation for stricter enforcement of its covenants. I think that would make you the happiest. Good luck!

Tricking the Condo Board on the Number of Pets Per Unit

M.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo that has a one pet rule, I have a dog. Recently my girlfriend moved in and she also has a dog. I received a letter from the Corporation citing the one pet rule and was asked to remove one of the dogs. A neighbor that I have become friendly with has offered to register one of the dogs as his thereby allowing me to tell Corporation that one of the dogs has been removed although the dog remains with me. Can this be done? Can the Corporation come back to me as having two pets?

Mister Condo replies:

M.L., kindly put yourself in the position of a Board Member being asked to enforce the rules of the community. They know nothing of your personal situation. All they know is that your unit now houses two dogs, which, as you have acknowledged and obviously know, is against the rules of the association. You have found a creative “loophole” around the rule which may or may not work for you. I am certainly not going to endorse this fraudulent behavior but if you are not “caught” breaking the rules, there may be no penalty for you. However, if push comes to shove, the association is completely within their rights to enforce the rules you agreed to live by when you moved in. I hope it works out for you. Good Luck!

Condo Owners Question Ejection Pump Ownership

K.M. from Chicago writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We live in a 4-flat in Chicago. Inside the garden unit is an ejector pump with a battery backup. It is located behind a panel, in a closet. The pump is quite old & needs replacing as do the batteries. The question is, who pays for these items? Are they considered “limited common areas”? Many thanks!

Mister Condo replies:

K.M., since the ejector pump was likely a part of the original condo or conversion, it is likely addressed in the condo governing docs. If not, it is open to interpretation but I think it is fair to assume all 4 units benefit from the proper functioning of the ejector pump so it would be best to treat it as a common element, limited or otherwise. The unit owner of the unit that houses access to the panel would need to provide access to the association as needed. In most small condos like yours, the unit owner himself would simply replace the batteries as needed, provide a receipt for the batteries and seek reimbursement from the association. If the unit needs to be replaced, the association would likely hire a contractor to perform the work and the unit owner would simply provide the access. Hope that helps.

Can I Use My Condo Parking Space As I See Fit?

M.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi I have a deeded parking spot that has its own tax bill. My son moved back home and has equipment to start a business in my parking spot. I park on the street. Someone complained as usual here and now they sent out an email that says the condo association 3-4 people decided nothing can be stored in a parking spot. Remove in a month or pay a fine. Isn’t this the same as my unit and I can keep items there?

Mister Condo replies:

M.S., the short answer is “no”, your parking space is not the same as your unit with regards to you using it as you see fit. The Board took the actions necessary to prevent other unit owners from following your example and using the parking lot for anything other than what it was intended for, namely, the parking of cars. Imagine living in a community where unit owners decided to store trash in their parking space or house livestock, etc.. It would quickly become chaotic, unsightly, and even dangerous. Your Board is in the right here, you should comply with the new rule. All the best to you and your son’s new business!

Previous Condo Owner May Have Failed to Disclose Upcoming Special Assessment

C.P. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My daughter bought a condo where her association fees are $450.00 per month. Due to future major roof improvement job her payment will increase by $300.00. We feel the seller had to know about this upcoming project and didn’t reveal this very crucial information. The other choice to pay would be a one-time payment for $22,000.00 per unit. There are 40 units. Something doesn’t seem legal here. Your thoughts.

Mister Condo replies:

C.P., I am sorry for your daughter’s predicament. It is quite possible that the previous owner was aware that there was a possibility of a Special Assessment but unless the Special Assessment had already been passed and levied against the unit owners of record, it is unlikely that they did anything illegal. In fact, the knowledge that this Special Assessment was looming may have been a very important factor in his/her decision to sell. You can and should speak to an attorney to make sure the seller had already been informed of the assessment and failed to provide that information. If they signed a disclosure statement where they lied about the Special Assessment, you may very well have a case. All the best!

Laws About Condo Flooring Materials in High-Rises

J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am on the lower level of a condominium and the owner above me removed area rugs, and walking on hard wood floors above me sounds like horses walking around!! Are there any laws or standards regarding wood floors in condos?

Mister Condo replies:

J., there are no laws about floor types or covering in condos that I am aware of. However, many associations, especially those with upstairs/downstairs unit owners have their own rules about materials that may or may not be used by owners. Many apartment style condos require wall-to-wall carpeting to help prevent noise from travelling downward. Check your condo docs and see what they say about floor types and coverings. It is quite possible that your upstairs neighbor has violated the building’s policy by having hard wood floors, regardless of area rugs. At the very least, you might ask the Board to intervene as the noise is disturbing your peaceful use of your own unit. Good luck!

No Board at this Iowa Condo!

M.T. from Iowa writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own a condo in a small HOA with about 18 units. We currently have a non-existent property manager/bookkeeper that has been in charge of running things since the board disbanded prior to my ownership. This manager has not done any repairs other than basic yard work and snow removal. My roof started leaking and all my requests for repairs have gone unanswered. My front deck is also dilapidated and in need of replacement and she just hired a handy man to come put more screws into the rotting wood. She is not an owner and, in fact, lives about a half hour away in another state. Majority of the owners agree she has been neglecting her responsibilities as a property manager and needs to go. How do we go about that if a board doesn’t exist? Many owners have asked to see the financial state of the association but she refuses and ignores our requests. Some owners are unable to sell due to the fact that they cannot prove that the association is in the black financially. How do we get rid of her put the association back into the hands of the owners? FYI, these condos were built in the mid-80s and most of our roofs and decks are in need of replacing.

Mister Condo replies:

M.T., I am sorry for your situation. Let me get this straight. You and the owners of the other 17 units have been living in a condo association for several years with no one realizing that there needs to be a Board to govern the association?!? You have a right to be upset with the Property Manager but what is she supposed to do? Technically, she has no supervision or guidance from the association. Unlike you and the other owners, she has no ownership interest in your association. I assume she is paying herself for her work out of the association’s common funds, collected by her, and used to pay for the scant services that are being provided. I would say you are fortunate to have her stick around without any direction or supervision from the non-existent Board. I hope she is honest and hasn’t robbed the place blind. The Board is the check and balance system to keep an eye on the association-owned assets (in this case, the money!). You and the other owners need to read your condo documents and determine who will volunteer to serve on the Board as soon as possible. Then, and only then, will you have an opportunity to address your immediate problems but also the myriad of problems created by not having a Board in place. Good luck!

Condo Association Evicts Dog Owner After 5 Years!

K.V. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’ve been living in my condo for over 5 years. The association has never ever enforced the no dog over 20-pounds rule the entire time. Now I have an eviction notice on my door. Are they able to do that? Can they now kick me out for my dog? I’ve had her there for 5 years. I would have never moved in if I knew this would happen. 5 years!!!! Not one word about it being against the rules.

Mister Condo replies:

K.V., I am truly sorry for your problems. Just because the association chose not to enforce a rule doesn’t mean they can’t enforce a rule. What they do have to do is enforce the rule evenly (not just against you) and they have to follow the rules for notifying you of the violation, giving you an opportunity to contest the violation, make sure your dog is not an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), etc.. If they have done all of those things and your by-laws allow then to evict you and/or your dog, then they may be well within their rights. If you have not already done so, you should most certainly hire an attorney to protect your rights. Eviction is usually an extreme measure and a very legal procedure. It should not begin with a notice on your door. There are many more steps than that in the process. You can and should fight back. Whether or not you will prevail depends on the association’s governance documents and your local laws. All the best!

Replaced Property Management Company Refuses to Surrender HOA Records to the Board

W.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The replaced property management refuses to surrender HOA records to the HOA board. Is that legal?

Mister Condo replies:

W.D., nobody likes to lose their job, including property management companies. While it is bad form to delay the turnover of association records to either the Board or the new property management company I have to say that I hear it happens all the time. Take a look at the former property management company’s contract. Does it say exactly what happens upon termination? Many contracts say the records have to be returned but they fail to say how soon. I have seen phrases such as “within a reasonable amount of time” and “at their earliest convenience”, which indicates it should happen shortly after termination but has no teeth when it comes to setting exact dates. It is not uncommon for an association to hire an attorney in this situation to pursue the management company. Usually, the threat of a lawsuit is enough to speed up the process. Other than that, you are at the mercy of the former property management company. Hope that help. Good luck!

Condo’s Casual Way of Doing Business May Deny Unit Owner’s Rights  

K.K. from Wisconsin writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are a 4-unit condo in Wisconsin. I am the treasurer. We don’t have a board of directors, we have always been able to figure things out between us. There is a shared driveway and we pay 1 company to plow the snow and do the landscaping. 3 out of 4 owners want to keep the company for now and reevaluate next year. The one owner is saying she is going to hire someone else to do her part of the driveway and expects me to calculate monthly how much her share was and reimburse her from the $80/mo. maintenance fee we pay for landscape/snow removal, general condo insurance and the company that takes care of weed control and fertilizing. I have never in my life heard of someone doing this! I am going to consult a real estate attorney if need be because this person has had many unreasonable demands and is truly ignorant on how condo associations work. Just wondering what your thoughts are?

Mister Condo replies:

K.K., there is nothing wrong with small condo living… until there is! You have provided an example of what can transpire when one of the owners doesn’t have an understanding of exactly what they have purchased and what decisions they do or don’t have a say in. On the flip side, I am fairly certain that your governing documents do call for a Board of Directors (or other name for the governing authority of the association). The fact that you haven’t held formal meetings may or may not hinder your future operation of the association. Even though this recalcitrant unit owner wants to deviate from the norm, she most likely has the right to attend Board meetings and vote on which vendors are used, association rules, and so on. You may need to change how you do business as a Board if you are to maintain the Board’s authority to make such decisions. You wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if you have denied this unit owner her right to vote and participate in the decision-making process as outlined in your governance documents. Take a look at the docs and see that you are not denying her any rights. Other than that, you should be fine. Good luck!