Tag Archives: Assessments

Underfunded Condo Association Leaves Common Area Repair to New Owner

S.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

One year ago, an owner financed the sale of condo. Now the new owner says there is a serious drainage problem outside back sliding doors. He asked the HOA to fix the problem but there is no money available to do so. The HOA gave the new owner permission to do the job. Then the new owner got city inspectors involved who do concur that there is a major problem. Could the property potentially be condemned? New owner is telling us to either renegotiate our deal, thereby sharing cost of the job, or he will renege on the deal, putting all of the expense back on us. What can be done?

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., HOAs with insufficient funds often make bad decisions. In this case, a really bad decision is coming back to haunt the association. Exterior drainage problems are the problem of the association and should have been repaired by the association, not the unit owner. Further, the correct way to raise money for such a repair is to raise common fees, levy a special assessment, and build a Reserve Fund for future repairs and improvements. The phrase “no money available” indicates to me that there is also no Reserve Study in place and that the common fees have probably been way too low for way too long. The immediate problem facing the association is the possibility of a city inspector condemning the property. While that is an extreme measure, it is possible of the unit is in such disrepair as to cause the inspector to make such a call. Typically, even if a citation is given, the association has enough time to make the repair and avoid condemnation (unless human life is at stake, i.e. a collapsing roof or broken foundation). Assuming the repairs can be made by the association, get an estimate on the job, levy a special assessment or take an HOA loan (if eligible) and handle the repair. Then, sit down and take a good look at the budget for the association. Chances are common fees should be raised this year and for several years to come until the association gets back on sound financial footing. This may prove unpopular with unit owners but it is necessary for the association’s long-term fiscal health and to make sure the Board doesn’t need to make future bad decisions on needed repairs. All the best!

Validity of Condo Percentage of Unit Ownership Questioned

C.B. from Illinois writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi, I live in a 48-unit building consisting of 24 2-bedrooms and 24 1-bedroom units. I understand that the 2-bedroom units owns a larger percentage than the one bedroom units and, of course, the assessment fees are more. We just had a new elevator upgrade which cost the 2-bedroom unit owners a percentage more, now we are able to have another special assessment to re-pave our parking lot, then next year will be our balconies. While I understand somewhat WHY a 2-bedroom unit owner would have to be pay more in assessments, I’m still baffled as to why they would be required to pay more toward some common areas that is equally used by everyone in the building. In this case, the elevator upgrade, the parking lot repavement. Building has 47 parking spaces that, in my opinion, are equally being used by each unit owner. Can you give me a simple straightforward answer as to WHY this is the case and, if this could be changed? Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

C.B., the percentage of unit ownership formula is commonly used by HOAs and is the de facto standard for determining who owes what when it comes to common fees and special assessments. It is tried and proven and almost impossible to change. It certainly makes sense when thinking about the ownership ratio of the association. These owners physically own more space of their own and, in theory, use more of the common elements. A second bedroom is indicative of either more permanent residents or overnight guests. More occupants means more wear and tear on the common elements. What other formula is simple enough to take that into account when deciding when dealing with the financial responsibilities of the association. These units simply consume more of the association’s resources. While your analogy of the parking space is spot on, it is one of the few times that argument would hold water. Also, since the percentage of unit ownership was in place at the time the unit owners purchased their units, it is not a surprise or unfair to the unit owner when these assessments come due. It is quite simply the law of the land in the HOA world, has been since the beginning of common interest communities, and is likely to outlive us all. All the best!

Fairness of Condo Common Fees Questioned

A.L. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Mr. Condo, how should HOA fees be calculated in a condo association in the State of Connecticut? Is it fair that everyone pay the same fee every month even if all the units are not the same size?

Mister Condo replies:

A.L., common fees are typically defined in the condo governing documents and usually are derived using the percentage of unit ownership formula which does take square footage into consideration. However, neither the state nor the governing documents require the use of this formula and there are many other perfectly legitimate methods of determining common fees. The only universal rule is that the governing documents dictate the formula and that formula can only be changed by very strict rules for doing so. It is extremely uncommon for the formula to be changed and typically requires a full consent vote of the unit owners and, many times, even the mortgage holders of the units. Some of the other factors that I have seen that determine common fee allotment include: water-view versus non-water-view, top floors versus middle and bottom floor units in a high-rise, and end units versus middle units. Some associations like yours use a simple “everyone pays the same” common fee, which may not be fair, but is certainly not illegal and is well known before anyone purchases into the association. There isn’t too much you can do about it, A.L., as changing the common fee schedule is a major legislative ordeal. You can talk to your Board but I doubt you will see things change. Good luck!

Rules for Condo Special Assessment

R.F. from Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

In Connecticut, can a special assessment be levied, with a vote by homeowners to paint buildings, repair buildings, labor and material? Can the Board of directors create a special assessment, by vote from homeowners for capital improvements which is patently a capital expense?

Mister Condo replies:

R.F., the rules for levying special assessments are determined by a few things, including the association’s own rules and state law. If the homeowners were allowed to vote, then, typically, the assessment would be deemed valid. Of course, all of the rules for giving proper notice of the vote would have to have been followed and all of the rules for conducting the vote would have to have also been followed. It sounds to me like that is what happened. The underlying issue is why was there a need for a special assessment for a capital expense that has likely been known about for years. You might want to suggest the Board conduct a Reserve Study and then present a plan for funding the Reserve fund so future capital expenses can be paid for out of Reserves and not via special assessment. All the best!

Condo Board Leaves Leaky Roof in Place for 8 Years!

K.P. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live on the fourth floor of a 4-unit condo. The roof is damaged to the point that when it rains it pours inside my apartment. It has been more than eight years and the condo association will not fix the roof. I stopped paying condo fees and informed the condo association that I was going to save the money to pay for the roof. I have not paid the condo fees for four years. The condo does not call for regular meetings. Two of the other owners had some funds on the condo and they spent it on things that they needed to fix without a voting from the condo association. Now they have a lien on my condo. I have damages in my apartment. Is it legal to not pay for the condo fees and save it for the roof repairs as the condo association has not fixed the roof after eight years of discussion? Can I request that the condo association pay for the damages in my condo?

Mister Condo replies:

K.P., I am sorry for your problems. If you read my column with any regularity, you will see that I never advise any condo owner to withhold common fees for any reason. As you are seeing first-hand, the Board will sue you for those fees and they will win. If you can’t make good on your arrears, you could have your unit foreclosed upon by the association. I hope it doesn’t come to that for you. Assuming you don’t lose your home in this debacle, let’s discuss what you can do to get your unit repaired. First off, hire an attorney. After 8 years, let’s face it, it is long past time to sue the association for dereliction of duty in maintaining the roof. There will undoubtedly be a Special Assessment to make the repair but a lawsuit and judgment against the association will force the issue. Keep in mind that this will cost you as well as the other unit owners a financial hardship but you really have no choice. Hopefully, the threat of the lawsuit will be enough to motivate the association to make the repair to the roof. If not, a lengthy and expensive legal battle will likely ensue. This is a “lose/lose” situation for you and the other unit owners but their ridiculous mismanagement of the roof has lead you all here. Once the repairs are made, I would strongly consider selling and getting out of this potential money pit. If they let the roof go for 8 years, I can only imagine what other nightmares await. There are better places to live. Good luck!

Previous Condo Trustee Allowed Unit Owner Delinquency to Go Unchecked!

M.C. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our trustee just sold her unit making me the new trustee. After she left, I found out one of the Unit owners wasn’t paying their HOA fees and that the former trustee had used funds I put in the Reserve Fund for my share of assessments to front for them. We were about to hold off on a planned assessment because of this when the city slapped us with a fine so now we have to move forward or rack up more fines! I asked a lawyer for a consultation hoping he could give us some advice on how to proceed and he practically laughed me off the phone saying the situation wasn’t worth a lawyer. But the unit owners still aren’t paying and the city is expecting us to move forward with the assessment! What do we do?

Mister Condo replies:

M.C., for starters, you get a new lawyer! I don’t know of any lawyer committed to community association law that would “laugh you off the phone” for such a potentially serious and clearly legal matter. You have three very separate matters to attend to here. The city slapping you with a fine is likely your biggest fish to fry. Get your association in compliance with the city so no further fines result. The city likely has powers to make your life quite uncomfortable depending on the nature of the offense. If they find your buildings are uninhabitable due to a safety issue, they could actually forbid people from living in your units. You certainly don’t want that and I am hoping that the fine is for something easily remedied. If a Special Assessment is needed to bring the association into compliance with the city’s requirements, it may be time to levy that assessment. Be sure you do so in accordance with your association’s governance documents and state law. Second, you need to take legal action against the unit owner in arrears as allowed by your governing documents. Typically, this is the work of an attorney or collection agency. Do not take matters into your own hands. Collections is a delicate and legal process best handled by professionals. Collection efforts may even lead to a foreclosure action by the association against the unit owner in arrears. This is not a matter to be taken lightly. Finally, the previous Trustee has acted inappropriately and, perhaps, even illegally. The decision to let another unit owner to forego paying assessments was very likely outside the scope of their authority. At the very least, it was a dereliction of duty. An attorney can best advise you if it is worth seeking criminal or civil charges against the previous trustee in an attempt to collect the delinquent common fees. Once you get all of these problems behind you, M.C., you can focus on running the association like a business, as it was intended to be. Good luck!

Condo Association Not Paying Bills!

H.F. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Help! My condo association is not paying its bills! What can be done?

Mister Condo replies:

H.F., that is shocking! If your condo association is unable to pay its bills, it is likely a sign of a very large problem. The annual budget should take into account all of the likely expenses for the year and offset that expense with common fees and assessments if needed. If many unit owners default on their common fee or assessment payments, the association could find itself out of money when the bills come due. That can lead to many problems for the association, especially if a vendor sues the association. A court of law could order the association into receivership, where a court-appointed receiver (usually an attorney) takes over the finances of the association and will issue assessments and take other actions to get the association back on solid financial footing. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Ask to see the books of the association and see if you can figure out what has gone wrong. Encourage the Board to raise the funds they need to pay their bills. The alternatives are dire. Good luck!

Must I Reveal Possible Special Assessment to a Condo Buyer?

R.R. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I recently was advised that our Board has started to address and extremely large repair required by the state. It has been mentioned in the Condo Minutes but no formal acknowledgment or assessment has been determined. I would like to run for the hills without telling the buyer and sell my unit before the news if official. Can I do that?

Mister Condo replies:

R.R., special assessments are very official and legal levies placed against the unit owner of record once ratified by the Board and the association. Once levied, they are the responsibility of the unit owner of record at the lime the assessment was levied. As a unit owner, you would receive notice and a payment date or payment schedule depending on how the assessment was levied. A “mention” in the Condo Minutes about an upcoming assessment is not the same as a levy of assessment. You would need to reveal (and pay off) an assessment as a term of your sale. You are not bound to reveal the possibility of an assessment. However, if the assessment has been announced and ratified and is not revealed to a potential buyer, you would very likely be sued for the assessment by the new buyer. If you are using an attorney for the sale, you would do well to explain what is going on and make sure you don’t set yourself up for that to happen. Good luck

Pre-Sale Special Assessment Assigned to Current Condo Owner

K.K. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When I purchased my condo in 2014, I was told no upcoming assessments. Surprise! Last August, I was told assessments for work done will cost me $15k or $155/month for 10 years. Now, I am selling my condo, can the remaining monthly 155 be transferred to buyer?

Mister Condo replies:

K.K., I am sorry you got hit with a “surprise” Special Assessment. In my opinion, there are no “surprise” Special Assessments unless the community experienced an unexpected and/or uninsured loss or a lawsuit that requires an unforeseen infusion of cash. If the assessment were for something as common as a replacement of a roof or to repair old decks or sidewalks, it was no surprise. That being said, the assessment is made against the unit owner at the time of the assessment. That was you. The association has an interest in you making the payments, not the new owner. You will very likely have to pay off the assessment before you can sell the property. It seems unfair but that is how it works. I hope your new home has no surprises like this for you. Good luck!

Big Amenities Still Being Added to this Big Apple Condo!

L.L. from New York City writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi, Mr. Condo! We are in a 90-unit newer (2009 built) condo in NYC with doorman, gym, roof/grill facilities. A bike storage was originally promised by the sponsor. However, they have not been cooperative in fulfilling that promise. Currently the board presented a bike storage design that features another grill/kitchen, a still reflecting pool, fire pit and many seemingly excessive designs. Also, there is no budget or cap on this current project. Although we have an adequate Reserve Fund for the building, the board is planning on taking out a loan in addition to using cash to fund this project.

How much would a second grill/kitchen, small reflecting still water pool and fire pit add to the selling price of units in this building? Will the cost and maintenance/liability outweigh the positive? (To be honest I am failing to see any positives on these added features)

Mister Condo replies:

L.L., sounds like you live in a lovely condominium, despite the problems you are now facing with the sponsor fulfilling all of the promised amenities. Despite the potential for increased costs and maintenance liability, it is likely that these additional amenities will make the condo more desirable, which is what drives up market value as well as outside factors like real estate prices for competitive units. I am a bit confused about why the Board needs the loan if the sponsor is still in the picture but these amenities are likely part of the master plan that was approved and need to be either completed or, if possible, removed from the plan by a vote of the unit owners. You may also face pushback from the city as the project approved is the only one that can be built without going through the approval process again with no guarantee changes would be acceptable. In other words, in for a penny, in for a pound and the most likely course is for the original plans to be honored, regardless of the price and regardless of whether or not individual unit value will increase because of the amenities. I’ve never known property values to decrease because of increased amenities and my guess is that it will enhance the value of your existing units. All the best!