Tag Archives: Attorney

Mentally Challenged Condo Owner Challenging Entire Community

A.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

About 1.5 years ago, a husband and wife moved into our 16-unit condominium. It was clear from the outset that there was something off with the husband. He looked disheveled, didn’t acknowledge people and walked around in a daze. Roughly 1 year ago, the wife moved out and left him alone in the unit. After he was taken away by ambulance several times, he began receiving daily visits from a visiting nurse. One time the nurse called police and he was taken away again and stayed away for over a month. At that time, a neighbor overheard the nurse outside telling police that she was concerned for her safety and did not want to go back inside. No one has seen her since. Now he has been yelling in the hall, slamming his door over and over and pounding on the door of another resident. As a trustee, I have reached out to the wife, who is still an owner and pays the condo fee. My question is, what recourse do we have other than repeatedly calling the police when he acts out? Can we somehow force them to sell their unit?

Mister Condo replies:

A.P., I am sorry for the commotion and disturbance of peace that your association is experiencing as a result of having this unit owner as a resident. There is very little that can be done on behalf of the association. The Board can enforce complaints when rules are violated. Your documents outline typical offenses (loud noises at off hours, and so on). Action can be taken that include warnings and fines. Other than that, disturbances that rise to the involvement of a crime are being handled correctly by calling the police. The Board is not the law and when laws are broken, the police are the right call. Unless your documents provide for a type of eviction (doubtful) there isn’t too much you can do about a resident dealing with mental health issues. If the common fees are not paid on time, you may have collection efforts that could lead to foreclosure and eviction but that isn’t the case here. The fees are paid on time. If you have an association attorney, this would be a great example of asking what else can be done in your state. From what you have told me here, I see no further action that the association can take at this time. All the best!

HOA Seeking Additional Assessment from Former Owner

P.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can an HOA increase assessment amount 8 months after I sold condo and deed changed hands? The management co. made an error in what they call the “estimate” of their closing figures which were baked into the sale amount (buyer paid the assessment and price was lowered accordingly). Now they say I (previous owner) have to pay more even though the sale cleared title and resale cert was all normal. The letter tells me I owe more than what they thought I owed when they gave the figures at closing time.

Mister Condo replies:

P.J., this is clearly a legal question for a qualified attorney in your state. Different states handle these transactions differently so I cannot give you a definitive answer for your scenario. I will offer this advice. Once the sale is made and the closing is over and the title has changed hands, the seller is typically relieved of any further claims against the unit. In other words, if the HOA makes a Special Assessment after your name is off the title, that assessment is on the new unit owner. There are exceptions though and you really need to speak with an attorney from your state who can give you a proper legal answer for your situation. The way you have described it sounds fishy to me but I am not an attorney and cannot offer you any legal opinion here. I know I would be reviewing the details with a qualified attorney to make sure I was being dealt with fairly and within the scopes of local law. All the best!

Amended Condo Deed Trumps Board’s Forgetfulness

K.F. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’m a New Jersey Real Estate salesperson representing a seller of a Penthouse unit in a 5 story walk up in a 6-unit Condo. When my client purchased her unit in 2009 she was also given an amended deed that included the exclusive right to build an approved deck on the roof. The board met last week and in their Minutes decided to retain the roof rights (now that my client wants to sell). They don’t seem to be aware/remember that the roof rights were gifted and deeded and has been filed with the city/county. What rights do they have to take back roof rights if any at all?

Mister Condo replies:

K.F., Boards have no more rights than you or I when it comes to taking back anything that has been filed on a deed. In fact, this is a classic example of where an attorney can likely solve this for you with a few letters or phone calls showing the deed. The Board’s “memory” of the event is irrelevant, regardless of what they have put in their Minutes. If they take action against your client, the attorney will simply counter with the Deed. One caveat: is there any stipulation on the deed that would indicate that the approved deck had to be installed by a certain date? If that date has come and gone then your client is out of luck. Other than that, this sounds like a fairly simple case to me but I am not an attorney. Have your client speak with an attorney who specializes in real estate, get a legal opinion, and good luck selling this Penthouse condo unit. It sounds gorgeous!

Former Condo Board Member Maligned by Fellow Board Member

T.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I was on a condominium board for several years, sometimes having to do two positions. At one point, I was the President and Treasurer. My question is that I wasn’t very good at keeping receipts. I would occasionally give them to the manager. but when a check was written I put a memo where that check went and to whom.
Now I have an ex-board member that thinks I took money. How can I defend myself if I do not have the receipts to prove all of the transactions? He said he has the bank statement. What can that prove?

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., thank you for your service to your community. Seems that no good deed goes unpunished here. If you are being accused of a crime, you should speak with an attorney in order to defend yourself. If you are being slandered by an ex-board member, you might want to speak to an attorney about what rights you have to stop this slandering. Bank statements are nothing more than a record of checks, deposits, and transfers. If you didn’t write any checks to yourself or transfer any money into your private account, you likely have nothing to worry about. Someone “thinking” you took money is far different from someone claiming you took money and filing a criminal report against you. If you have nothing to hide, you can confront this person and ask them to either prove their allegations or stop slandering you or you will sue them. That will usually quiet a contentious accuser who cannot prove his/her case. Remember that in this country you are innocent until proven guilty. From what you have shared with me, you did nothing wrong and there is no proof that you did. That really is the end of the story. Good luck!

Condo Management Company Influencing Board and Unit Owners

L.B. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a management company interfere with the board? Specifically, by asking to have a member resign or complain to only a few of the 5-member board about another member? And allow statements to be used and passed to unit owners in an effort to get the required signatures for special meeting to remove said board member?

Mister Condo replies:

L.B., the function of the management company is to assist the Board as outlined in the management company contract. This is typically handling all things financial and accounting such as collection of dues and assessments, payment of vendors, and collection efforts, budget preparation and so on. Governance of the association is strictly the duty of the Board. However, due to the nature of Boards being served by volunteers, it is not uncommon for a Board to rely upon the knowledge and expertise of a management company to help them make good decisions and keep the community association and Board on track. That being said, you have described a campaign to remove a Board member led by the management company. This is not a common practice although I am not sure it is illegal. You would need to review the laws for your state to see if that is the case. Other than that, the management company can only suggest things to the Board that the Board can either ignore or take action upon. In this case, it would appear that the Board is in agreement with the management company. The Board can always select another management company if the existing management company isn’t serving their best interests. If the Board is pleased with the performance, that isn’t likely to happen. Regardless of the source of information, if a Board member is recalled by the unit owners, there isn’t too much the Board Member can do. After all, this is an elected, volunteer position. It is not like they are being fired from a paying job. It is politics and being voted out is always a possibility. Good luck!

Little Pink Condos for You and Me!

S.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I bought my condo about five years ago and since then they’ve decided to renovate it. I didn’t find out about the plans until the last annual meeting when the paint colors and all the details were rolled out. The condo board member who’s in charge of the redecoration had a meeting with other unit owners to decide on the decoration details and didn’t include me. Each floor of the building is going to be a different color and the color chosen for mine is bright pink. I objected to the color at the last meeting and asked if I could change it. I was told no. The decision had been made. I decided to just stick with it but, honestly, it’s bugged me since then. Is there anything I can do?

Mister Condo replies:

S.B., John Cougar Mellencamp sang about “Pink Houses” but he never mentioned who chose the color! I think your association needs to get their act together about proper notice when they hold meetings. There should never be a meeting of the association that “didn’t include you”. Proper notice needs to be mailed (or emailed if you agree and your bylaws allow it) so that you never miss a meeting because you didn’t know about it. If you decide not to attend, that is your business. If you are not properly noticed, you can contest any decisions that are made in the meeting and even sue the association for not serving proper notice of their meetings. While it is unlikely that your attendance at this meeting would have changed anything, you did have the right to be there, to speak in opposition to the painting choice and even vote on the measure if that is what was done. Your question is about what can you do now. That really depends on how much it is bugging you and how much you are willing to do about it. If the color is something you can live with, I would likely do nothing. If you were truly incensed or this is part of a larger problem, you might wish to consult with an attorney to review your rights under your state’s laws and your governing documents. You might want to run for the Board to volunteer your time to help make decisions that are in the best interest of the community. After all, your Board is comprised of volunteers from your association who have done just that. Sometimes, it is better to join them than to fight them. Other than that, I might suggest putting on some John Cougar Mellencamp music and smiling about the Pink House? Your only other option may be to “fight authority” but as John Cougar will tell you, “Authority always wins”… Good luck!

Deeded Condo Parking Swap Sought

M.C. from San Diego, CA writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How do we change our parking deed with our neighbor? We live in a high-rise condo complex in San Diego, CA with assigned underground parking. Thank You.

Mister Condo replies:

M.C., deeded parking, as its name implies, is linked directly to the deed for your unit. While you can simply verbally agree to park in each other’s spaces, the change to the deed will require a bit of work and likely the assistance of an attorney. Depending on mortgages or other third-party interests to the deed, it may require a lot of finagling and be far more trouble than it is worth. Unless your Board is keeping a watchful eye on who parks where, you might be able to work this out with your neighbor as a gentleman’s agreement. That agreement wouldn’t be legally enforceable in my opinion but it might be the simplest solution to your quandary. Good luck!

Condo Has to Purchase its Own Clubhouse!

L.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When many of the first purchasers bought from the condo developer they were told that one condo unit on the first floor would be the owners’ clubhouse/fitness center. At some point (I’m unsure of when since I’m a new owner) the documents given to purchasers said that the clubhouse condo was owned by the developer and could, at some future time be sold. Now the building is nearly sold out and being turned over to the owners. The board is asking the current condo owners as to our interest in purchasing the “clubhouse” condo to ensure that the building continues to have this amenity. All of this is very early; we have an attorney who would negotiate the best price for us. However, I’m wondering what questions the owners should ask the board before they go further. Obviously, the price, how we would be assessed and for how long are questions but are there other considerations?

Mister Condo replies:

L.P., while it is unfortunate that the clubhouse/fitness center was not included as part and parcel of the development, I cannot say this is an uncommon practice. It sounds like the developer used a “bait” tactic of enticing early owners into thinking that there would be an amenity of a clubhouse/fitness center as part of their purchase but I am guessing no one has anything like that in writing. Again, this is not uncommon from stories I have been told from around the country. The unit owners will likely have to vote to add this common amenity to the association. Since it is almost certain that the unit owners will want this amenity, it is wise to work with the attorney to handle the negotiation. Aside from the purchase itself, you might want to ask about staffing requirements (if any) and insurance repercussions to the association from adding the amenity. There is also the issue of purchase and maintenance of fitness equipment, hours of operation, open to the public or just unit owners (or guests). Will it be rented out and to whom? The Reserve Study should be updated to reflect the new building and all costs should be considered. Like I said, it is likely to go through any way but I think it would be helpful for unit owners to know exactly what they are buying and what the real costs of owning it are going to be. Enjoy your new clubhouse!

Small Condo Governance Issues

R.G. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We live in a three-unit condo. One unit is held in a Trust and the President resides in this unit along with his adult son. Our governing documents dictate that one person from each unit is the “director” and is allowed one vote. My spouse is the secretary and we are told by the President that, therefore, I am not allowed to vote, only my spouse is. My first question is does this right to vote change from meeting to meeting? Or does the same person always vote? The son, who is a resident only, conducts the meetings, directs the contractors, is rude at meetings and also makes impromptu decisions that everyone is afraid to challenge. My second question is what rights does he have as a resident? Can he speak up at meetings? Can he tell other unit owners what to do? How would one go about this situation without hiring an attorney? Our personal situation does not allow us to move, although it is an obvious solution.

Mister Condo replies:

R.G., smaller associations like yours have all of the same rules and regulations found inside their governing documents as larger associations have. Without hiring an attorney, you should give a good read to your documents and pay particular attention to rules on voting and representation at meetings. One vote per unit is common but many times any owner of a unit can speak, just not vote. If your wife is acting as Secretary and therefore a voting Board member, you may be limited to attendance only at these meetings as she is the voting party for your unit. Whatever the documents dictate is what should be followed. It shouldn’t change meeting to meeting although there may be times when a souse cannot attend so the other spouse would have the duty and ability to vote. The same is true for your directors. Do the governing documents dictate who can serve on the Board? Unit owners only? If so, the son cannot run the meetings or serve as President. If not, no harm, no foul. If you don’t challenge any of his decisions, guess what? He will keep making those decisions. Rudeness says more about him than you but that can be pretty annoying. If his momma didn’t teach him to be polite, there isn’t too much you or I can do to help him. I realize that hiring an attorney may seem too expensive and I don’t think that you will need to if you study your documents and arm yourself with information. Sometimes the threat of a lawsuit is as powerful as a lawsuit. If he does anything too outrageous, let him know you are consulting with an attorney to question his decisions. If that doesn’t get his attention, then it may be time to actually hire the attorney. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Good luck!

How To Enforce Condo Building Renovation Requirements

S.O. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When a new owner renovates – without any discussion with the board/management and does things that should not have been done – what can board do? Can they make them halt, and make them put it back to the way it was, and if so how?

Mister Condo replies:

S.O., the short answer to your question is “yes” but it depends on the condo’s governing documents. Typically, interior renovations are subject to less scrutiny than exterior renovations but there are still rules that need to be observed. Common problems include replacing carpeted floors with hardwood or laminate flooring, creating an undue noise burden to unit owners above, below, or on either side of the unit. Regardless of the type of violation, the Board needs to issue a letter to the unit owner and explain which rules they are violating. If the unit owner complies, there is no problem. When they don’t comply, it is usually lawsuit time so get the association attorney involved. If/When the association prevails on court, a court order to return the unit to its previous condition is issued. If the homeowner still refuses to comply, the association attorney can then take further action to enforce the court order. It can be a quite a bit of ugliness but that is the nature of enforcing the rules at a condo. You can’t have unit owners deciding on building modification for their personal unit that effects the uniformity of the community and the enjoyment of neighboring units by their owners. Good luck!