Tag Archives: Attorney

Condo Board Enforces Parking Rules After 20 Years!

J.M. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have been living in my community for the last 20 years. Never have I had a problem with parking before. All of our units are single building divided into three town homes with a three-car, three-door, non-divided open garage. My garage section isn’t very big especially being completely open on the inside, it would be impossible to have three vehicles parked inside with the ability to get in and back out. I have things stored in my garage as any normal town home living person does leaving me unable to put a vehicle in the garage. There has been a new resident that moved onto our street in our gated community. Since his arrival he has joined the board for parking reasons and is causing nothing but problems this past year. I live in a two-bedroom unit with my wife and son. We have always parked one vehicle behind the other putting two in our driveway. The Board is trying to tell me that I can’t park two vehicles together anymore, one behind the other or they’re going to tow it. They even went as far as to paint yellow lines for parking limitations only for my building and the adjacent neighbors building. The rest of the entire community has no painted lines. There is a very big parking lot one street over from us that is guest parking for the pool and the clubhouse. They are telling us that we cannot park in guest parking. There is no other overflow owner vehicle parking anywhere else in the community. Even if I clear my garage that only takes care of two vehicles. Having three vehicles they’re trying to tell me there is no place I can park it that is acceptable. It has gotten to the point that me and my family are being severely harassed over this matter. Since I have been here for over 20 years does any kind of grandfathered rules apply? Don’t they have to provide some kind of overflow parking for residents since all the guest parking spots they say are not usable for resident vehicle? I am close friends with my neighbors in our building that are only here 4 months out of the year and they allow us to use their two spaces when they’re not here. They’re coming back very soon and before this turns into a huge legal matter, I want to know what my options are and how to fight back. Thank you so much for any kind of response or information you can provide me with. We are located in St. Petersburg, Florida (the Sunshine State).

Mister Condo replies:

J.M., I feel your pain but I don’t think you’re going to like my reply. Generally speaking, the association owns the parking areas in most condominium associations. That means that they make and enforce the rules dealing with parking. I am painfully aware of the notoriously small parking spaces you speak of. Maybe two cars and a golf cart would fit but three full-sized cars are not likely to fit. That being said, that isn’t the Board’s problem or concern. notoriously small parking spaces you speak of. Maybe two cars and a golf cart would fit but three full-sized cars are not likely to fit. That being said, that isn’t the Board’s problem or concern. You have what you have, no more, no less. The association is under no obligation to provide you with any additional parking and your deed likely doesn’t guarantee it either. Additionally, many associations prohibit the type of open storage of belongings you describe. In other words, carports and garages are for parking only. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Board enacts and enforces a rule prohibiting storage in the garages so be ready. The bottom line is that the Board has many powers given to them by the association’s governance documents and state law. If you feel they have overstepped and can back it with provisions of your governing documents, you should seek legal counsel to see if you can fight back. Other than that, your 20-years of using the parking garage as you saw fit rather than how the by-laws read was a bonus for you. I am not aware of any provision that grandfathers in breaking of the rules because it suits you. You can always seek out a seat on the Board yourself as your neighbor has done and see if you can make the changes you seek from within the Board but understand that service on the Board involves much more than just your personal parking issues. I wish you all the best!

Condo Unit Owner Hit with Legal Fees for Asking Non-Legal Question of Board

M.A. from Georgia writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I received a letter from an attorney hired by the association of the condo I live in. In the letter, the attorney states that per condo law in Georgia, the condo can assess me any legal fees they incur at their whim in regards to anything. For instance, I wrote the association to find out when the monthly meeting is, and I was ignored, but received a letter from the association attorney accusing me of intimidating and threatening behavior plus telling me the association is under no obligation to publish or inform of when the meetings are. Is it legal for them to assess me legal fees of any amount for any reason at their whim, even though they are the ones hiring the attorney and creating expenses that are created by the association expressly to intimidate me and hurt me financially as there is no other reason for their behavior?

Mister Condo replies:

M.A., I am neither an attorney nor an expert in Georgia community association law so please accept my answer as friendly advice. For a true legal opinion, you should contact an attorney from your state, which I would certainly do if this abusive behavior from the Board continues. All associations are bound by their own governance documents as well as state and federal laws. Typically, notice of meeting is required for all associations under both their own governance documents and state laws. After all, these are corporations and as a unit owner, you are a shareholder in the corporation. Proper meeting notice should be mailed (or emailed if allowed) to all unit owners declaring time, place, and agenda. This does not require an attorney to do, just a simple notice. You also have the right to write to your Board. Their decision to use an attorney to reply is unusual but I suspect there may be more to the history between you and the Board then I am hearing about in this letter. Fight fire with fire if you need to. Hire your own attorney and challenge the expense and need of them hiring an attorney. It will cost both you and the Board money but just might make some Georgia attorneys happy. Good luck, M.A.!

Feeling Singled Out For Condo Parking Violation

S.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I received a letter from the management company that told me that I had to park my car centered back to front and side to side and I was not on the line or over the line or the next time I would get fined and I have taken pictures of other parking violations to show the management company. I feel that I was singled out and others park on the line and I was told that unless the trustees tell the management company to send these people a letter there is nothing that can be done. Is this true or should I talk to a condo lawyer? How is it I get a threating letter and others don’t?

Mister Condo replies:

S.B., you may have been singled out or you may have just been the only one who was reported as making a violation. Parking lots are always hot topics at condominiums and HOAs because there is often a shortage of spaces for the number of vehicles parked by residents and guests. How will you prove that you were singled out? Is there a pattern of discrimination or harassment? If you feel you have a legal complaint against your Board, you can pursue a legal solution. Have you spoken with a local attorney? That is who will give you the legal opinion about whether or not you have a case. My friendly advice is that you park as required by your condo’s rules and regulations. Report and document any parking violations you witness and send your complaints to the Board or Management Company. If they take action only against you, you may have a case. Otherwise, it may just be a simple one-time warning that you needn’t worry about too much. Good luck!

Delinquent Owner Causing Big Mess at 3-Unit Condo

S.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 3-unit condo that was converted from a single-family home 2 decades ago. When I closed on my condo, I was required to give the HOA a sum of money to cover my share of an estimated driveway repaving that was planned in a year (I have this in writing in my P&S and the closing papers). Before that could happen, and almost right after I moved in, the roof sprung a leak. Being tapped out on my recent purchase, I told the Trustee they could use half the money I put in for the driveway and I would pay half out of pocket for my share for the roof; when time came for the driveway in the next year, I would pay the difference. As it turned out, my half share of the roof and the whole share of the driveway amounted almost perfectly to what I put in at Closing. Now that it’s time, I’ve been asked to pay the whole amount of my share for the driveway out of pocket. The Trustee is saying she used the rest of my sum to cover a unit that couldn’t pay for the roof (they’re on a payment plan but it’s going to take them 2 years to pay the HOA back!). I asked if I would be reimbursed and was told no. I’m arguing that I was assessed at Closing and paid my share. She’s arguing that once the money went into the HOA reserves it became common funds for her to use as she saw fit. Can she really make me pay twice and not reimburse me given that the offending unit is paying back the funds albeit slowly?

Mister Condo replies:

S.B., ouch! Small condos like yours can have some mighty big problems when unit owners don’t have the money to sustain maintenance and repair items equally and as outlined in the governance documents. You may very well have the right to sue your association to get your money back but the real question is one of value. Would it be worth it? Probably not. As the funds from the delinquent unit owner come in, the association is made whole. In theory, that would be the time for you to pay for your driveway as originally agreed, less the money you already paid for the driveway. Your trustee is wrong in assuming that any money put in the Reserve Fund can be used at the Trustee’s discretion. However, to enforce your rights as a unit owner, you will have to sue. Again, it is a question of value. In a small association like yours there is rarely any tangible amount of money in the coiffeurs to make a lawsuit worthwhile. It is in everyone’s best interest that you get along. Play nice and ask for fairness. If you can’t get the trustee to play nice, consider selling. It would likely be easier in the long run than doling out good money on a lawsuit that may not yield any money to you at the end. It’s your choice. Good luck!

Condo Renters Threaten Lawsuit Over New Parking Arrangements

S.G. from New York writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’m a board member of a 150-unit condo association. The property was built with only 120 parking spaces back then. We just reconstructed additional spaces on the property for the first time in over 50 years. We have unassigned spaces due to near 50/50 owner/renter ratio but have now given Priority parking for Resident Owners only and have designated spaces for renters on the other side of the property – a short walk. Prior to restructuring, renters parked closer to their units which also meant owners having no space at all. Our new lot however, now has about 10-12 unused preferred spaces every day where before restructuring, we never had a single open space.

A few renters have threatened to file a discrimination lawsuit based on 2 things: 1) they used to be able to park closer to the building and have now been assigned to the other side of the property/walking a longer distance, and 2) these 10-12 Preferred spaces which are sitting open every day magnifies the question: why can’t the Board make some of these spaces for renters?

We realize it’s the summer season with many vehicles off property/out of town and believe we may see a smaller number of empty spaces after Labor Day, but we really want to know if this would be a case of discrimination in NY or if a court would simply throw it out as the renters do have spaces, they just don’t like where they are now versus prior to the restructure.

Mister Condo replies:

S.G., unless the governing documents read otherwise, the association is free to do what they please with the association-owned parking lot. That being said, in a litigious society such as ours, you might want to run the scenario by the association attorney to see if any residents would have a case. In my opinion, they don’t but I am neither an attorney nor an expert in New York condo law. You will always have malcontents when you rearrange parking. There will be winners and losers but that doesn’t mean they have grounds for a lawsuit. Run it by your association attorney. My guess is you’re fine. All the best!

Condo Board Members Attribute Storm Damage to Unit Owner’s Son

S.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Today I received an email from our property manager company stating that I was going to be assessed fees for repairs to the siding on our building. Attached was a picture of my 19-year-old son standing outside with a lacrosse stick. The claim was that my son had damaged the siding. My son did not damage the siding and the claim is completely unwarranted.

Two years ago, we had storm damage to many of our units and the old property management sent out notices to co-owners that repairs were being made. At this time, our board decided to change management companies and the repairs to our unit were never made.

I was able to obtain the original incomplete work order from the old company as proof that my son did not damage the siding. My concern is will they be able to charge me for this and what is the best way to handle the inappropriateness of a board member taking pictures and claiming something that is not true.

Mister Condo replies:

S.J., I am sorry you find yourself having to do battle with your Board. Any unit owner, including a Board member, is allowed to make a claim of damage against another unit owner. They can even take photos when warranted. The Board is then charged with informing the unit owner (you) and offering you a chance to address the Board to present your defense, denial, or acceptance of the claim against you. Clearly, you are denying the claim and you have your own evidence to support your denial. After you make your counterclaim, the Board is free to do as it sees fit within the bounds of your governing documents. Can they deny your rebuttal and claim your son caused the damage? Yes. Can you then sue them for their actions? Yes, again. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that and that cooler heads prevail. It seems only logical that since your building’s storm damage was never repaired that these repairs need to be made. The claim against your son is scurrilous at best but may be taken seriously be the Board. You may wish to speak to an attorney if they proceed to charge the repairs to you and you will likely prevail from what you have shared with me here. If there is a pattern of harassment from this one particular Board member that took the photo, you might just want to sue them as well. That should get their attention so they can focus on the more important job of repairing the storm damage to the building and not look to saddle individual homeowners with their responsibility. All the best!

Condo Revokes Renters Pet Ownership Privileges

K.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I rented a unit in a condo building with a lease that allows me to have a dog (under a certain weight limit). I waited months to adopt a dog and a week before the dog arrived the condo association posted a notice in the Common Area announcing that only OWNERS were allowed to have pets. I promptly talked to my landlord about this and he said he would talk to the Condo Association. Fast forward several weeks and I now have the dog. The landlord informed me days ago that the “condo association” won’t allow him to bring the matter to the Board. I’m frustrated and confused and ready to break my lease. What recourse do I have?

Mister Condo replies:

K.L., I am sorry you find yourself in this unfortunate situation. The association has the right to regulate who can and cannot have pets on the property. Of course, they need to follow the rules for passing the rules but let’s assume that they did everything right and the rule now stands. Your beef is with your landlord who contractually allowed you to have a pet as a provision of the lease. He can no longer fulfill that provision of the lease which may give you a valid reason for you to break your lease, provided that is what you want to do. Hopefully, your landlord will not challenge your breaking of the lease based on this provision but you may need to speak to an attorney to protect yourself from a suit from your landlord for breaking the lease. Your landlord may be in a position to sue the association or ask for a grandfathering of the pet clause but this will cost him more time and trouble than simply replacing you with another tenant. It is an unfortunate situation to say the least. I wish you and your landlord a happy parting of the ways and a fast turnaround in you finding a new apartment and him finding a new tenant. Good luck!

Who Should Rewrite the Condo Documents?

T.M. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo association was chartered in the early 1980’s, and most of our buildings are converted motel units. There have only been a few amendments made to our documents since then; suffice it to say we know our documents should be rewritten. We need an attorney for that, correct? And the most recent attorney we had retired last year. So, we need another of those, too. Our membership is split on the issue: some feel it’s most important to have an attorney who specializes in condos only, while others feel we need a general attorney who is local to our northern Michigan locale. What do you think? Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

T.M., I think modifying your governance documents make ssense. A lot has changed since the 1980s and if there have been numerous additions or modification to your documents, a fresh set probably makes perfect sense. My advice would be to hire an attorney who specializes in Michigan community association law. Unless there are specific local laws in your part of Michigan, any community association attorney from your state should suffice. I actually know several really good ones and you can find a great list online at http://www.cai-michigan.org/resources/service-provider-directory.html?LocationCategory=63&LocationSearchGo=SearchI found more than a dozen fully qualified firms on that page who can really help you get it right. Good luck!

Must Board Members Attend Condo Special Meeting Called by Unit Owners?

F.C. from New Haven, County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When members hold a special meeting, can they make decisions that override Board, cause Board to do things they do not believe are in best interests of association? What happens if a special meeting is called and no Board members attend?

Mister Condo replies:

F.C., without seeing your community association governance documents first-hand, I can only offer you an overview of what could be going on here. The situation you describe is uncommon. Most associations are governed by their elected Board of Directors. If the Board isn’t doing their job to the satisfaction of unit owners, they are typically voted out of office and replaced with more popular candidates. It sounds to me like you have a group of unit owners who are trying to completely circumvent the Board by holding their own meetings. While there are protocols that allow them to do so, they need to follow the rules for calling a special meeting of unit owners. Typically, those meetings are for very specific purposes, including recalling Board members and electing new Board members to serve in their place. There is no requirement for sitting Board members to attend a special meeting called by unit owners but there may be no grounds for a group of unit owners to call a special meeting and take actions that are beyond the scope of the special meeting. My advice is to remove and replace the seated Board members, either by special meeting as outlined in the association’s governance documents or at the next election. You might also want to consult with an attorney who specializes in community association law to make sure the incoming Board does not make any legal blunders that could lead to lawsuits. Unit owners may want new leadership but there are rules they need to follow. The condo’s governance documents and your local state law will instruct the right way to do so. Good luck!

Condo Owner Harassed by Board President and Other Unit Owners

D.T. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How to bring about a board meeting to discuss being harassed by the president of the condo board and other owners?

Mister Condo replies:

D.T., I am sorry that you feel you are being harassed by unit owners or Board members at your association. Typically, you would simply hire your own attorney and bring a lawsuit or criminal charges against the Board members or unit owners that are harassing you. You don’t have the ability to call a Board meeting but you could attend an upcoming Board meeting and ask that the issue be addressed by the Board. The Board does not have the ability to intervene on legal matters. In other words, if your attorney thinks you have a case for harassment, the matter is settled through legal channels, not community association governance. I hope you have a positive outcome. Good luck!