Records of Condo Common Fees Receipt Missing; Late Fees Ensue!

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T.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have a new Board of Directors. The old board did not turn in all the accounting records (according to them) so they are building the records of the payments. During this whole reconstruction of records, they are taking the date that my checks were deposited and not the actual date of my turning in of the checks. When they gave me the one-year statement showing late fees and non pay maintenances I was livid, since I was very much aware that I did not owe the association. I requested the seven-year history of my payments. That was even a worse idea because it wasn’t only $1000 I owed but now it was $2700! I sent the condo lawyer all the pertinent documents showing my checks with the correct dates, a letter from the previous president explaining how the payments where mailed after received to another city, etc. but they still refuse to honor the previous president’s explanation. I am desperate because they filed a lien against my unit. I contested the lien, but it is an ongoing thing. I am at the end of the rope because I am on disability and I do not have that amount and even if I did it is unfair to have to pay something I do not owe. Our family owns four apartments and we always pay at the same time and include the checks in the same envelope. Even some of my payments were made by my mother and I can show her checks and they were cashed at the same time but I am afraid to use this card because they can go against my mother who is 81… Please can you give me some clarity? Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

T.P., in a nutshell, your current Board is making some really bad decisions that are likely going to come back to haunt them and may even end up in a lawsuit from you and other unit owners who are going to claim that they are being unfairly harassed and charged for fees they shouldn’t have to pay. I assume you are not alone in this fee dispute and that most of the other unit owners are just as upset as you are. If they have accurate records (not likely, from what you say) demonstrating late payment s for you and all of the other homeowners, they may be able to stick to their decision to collect the late fees. Since it is more likely that they cannot prove when the checks were received (due to poor recordkeeping), they should err on the side of clemency for previously made payments. If enough homeowners are effected and angered by their behavior, they may face removal from office the next time elections come up or the homeowners may move for a recall to get them out of office early. Either way, they are not looking out for the best interests of the homeowners and they are opening themselves up to some trouble.

If, on the other hand, you are the only homeowner facing these charges, there may be something else going on here. In this case, it would be a “you said, they said” scenario with the evidence weighing in the Board’s favor. If none of the other homeowners in your association have faced this problem, you may not have much of a case for challenging the Board. Unless you can prove when you delivered the check to the association (certified mail, for instance) you have no more proof to offer than does the Board, who is likely to refute your unsubstantiated claim. That would be most unfortunate and a scenario where I would advise you to speak with an attorney to see what other legal avenues you may be able to pursue.

I am assuming that you were not the only one effected by the Board’s decision to collect late fees based on dates of deposit. If that is the case and the Board doesn’t change their ways, my advice is for you (and others effected) to seek counsel and sue the Board. Be sure to include your legal expenses of hiring an attorney when you sue them. You shouldn’t have to bear the extra expense of hiring an attorney to protect your rights against their shameful behavior. Keep me posted and good luck.

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