Tag Archives: Communications

Former Board Member Making Life Difficult for New Board and Condo Contractors

M.M. from Windham County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

A resident is prone to harassing our contractors for landscaping and snow removal. He is very resentful that he is no longer on the board and sends us lengthy emails about their shortcomings. Years ago, he used to enjoy kickbacks from contractors who no longer work here. He also removes branches, shovels snow and blames us for his hernia. Our manager reminded him that he is not to do work on the common areas, and he is livid. So far, our new board is calm, but he is accusing us of horrible crimes, threatens to expose someone’s DUI arrest and demands to see contracts under CT’s FOI rule. We know FOI does not govern this, but what is the specific law that does govern a privately-held condo association? How do we protect ourselves?

Mister Condo replies:

M.M., it certainly sounds like you have your hands full with this unit owner. The Common Interest Ownership Act is very likely the law that gives him the right to inspect any and all association records, which includes contracts that the association has entered into. I am not an attorney so please accept my advice as friendly and not legal. While the association does need to provide information as requested, it does not need to do so for free. Reasonable fees for preparing and copying the documents can be charged. Again, there are limits so check with your association’s attorney before deciding how much to charge for the record copies. As for protecting yourselves, you simply need to practice good governance and realize that you are officers in a not-for-profit corporation. You are bound by your own governance documents and state law. I always recommend that Board members receive adequate training and in our state, the local Chapter of CAI offers an excellent program called “Condo, Inc.” where Board members can learn the basics of good community governance. In fact, there are three programs offered this next year. You can lean more by clicking the following link: http://www.caict.org/events/event_list.asp?show=&group=&start=10%2F31%2F2017&end=&view=&cid=18225 Good luck!

Noisy Neighbor Making Condo Life Unbearable for New Owner

A.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I know you get a fair amount of questions about how to deal with noise in condo living situations. Here’s another one. I just moved into a unit in a rather large building, back in February. On the night of the walk-through I noticed that in the master bedroom I could hear the next door neighbor’s television. The former owners joked at the closing that the neighbor was fond of westerns and classical music (meaning they were familiar with the noise). Said former owners slept in the guest bedroom and used the unit as a weekend home, so they were not here very often nor did they sleep in bedroom with noise.

I do sleep in my master bedroom. The neighbor is an eighty-five-year-old man who has owned here since the seventies. (I know this because on the only occasion I have had to actually address my concern about his loud television in the middle of the night, he told me that he had lived here for forever and that I should sleep in my master bedroom…) I expect quiet, to the degree that I can get it. I had not expected that I would have to deal with loud television sounds in the middle of the night. The neighbor is pretty deaf and perhaps unaware (?) of how loud is his television. He definitely has a sense of entitlement because of his length of ownership. Are there tools that can assist an elderly person with knowing if they are going above a certain decibel level with their noise?

I am in communication with the management company. So far, they have done nothing about the issue. Instead, they suggest that I have someone come into my unit to ascertain if I am truly hearing something. Considering that I am a light sleeper and have really good hearing, and that their suggestion is based on a truly subjective meter, I’m pretty sure I will not allow someone in my unit at 1:00 a.m.. So, mostly I write emails that don’t get a response and call the door person and don’t get relief.

Any suggestions?

Mister Condo replies:

A.M., I am sorry that you find yourself in this position within your own home. Some condo governance documents are quite specific on acceptable noise levels; many are silent on the subject and simply call for peaceable enjoyment of the premise, which leaves a lot of wiggle room for both the Board and the unit owners. The vast majority of unit owners live by the Golden Rule: Do Unto Others as You Would Have Done Unto You. However, if you have neighbor that is hard of hearing and is unresponsive to your requests to keep the noise down, you now have to look at other options. While your Property Manager may not take action, your Board doesn’t have the luxury of ignoring your formal request to take action and enforce the association’s rules on noise, whatever they may be. Start with reviewing your condo documents to see what they say about acceptable noise levels. Make a formal complaint to the Board, in writing, and site the by-laws that support your complaint. Then, follow up with the Board to make sure they do take action. If your neighbor is violating rules, they can fine him. He will resist and play the “I’ve been here forever” card but that has no legal importance whatsoever. If the Board thinks he is violating the noise rules, they can take action to correct his behavior. You need to continue to document each time he breaks the noise rules and report to the Board when he does. In other words, be a squeaky wheel. Make your problem their problem. If you still get no relief, speak with an attorney to see what other legal actions may be available to you. My guess is it won’t come to that but that would be your path to relief. Good luck!

Condo Owner Can’t Get Copy of By-Law Changes

S.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 6-unit condo with 2 units on the market. There have been updates made to the by-laws in the last couple of years, but no formal version has been shared. I’ve tried to call a meeting to find out what is being shared with prospective purchasers, but I can’t even get a reply to email. Are there any options available?

Mister Condo replies:

S.G., updates to by-laws need to be published and distributed to unit owners as called for in your by-laws. If these updates happened in the last couple of years, you should have been served notice. It sounds like that didn’t happen. As for requesting an association record such as a by-law change, you have every right to do so and the Board must comply. However, in a small association like yours, things don’t always go as they should and you have run up against an unresponsive Board. Are there options available? Sure! Will you want to spend the money to sue the Board to force them to produce the documents? Probably not. The good news is that with 2 of the 6 units on the market, there is about to be a 33% change in ownership. This is a great time for you to run for the Board so you can have a first-hand look at what’s going on. Don’t be surprised if there are no formal records from this previous Board. Sound to me like they are flying by the seat of their pants. Good luck!

Legality of Condo Board Voting by Email

M.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a condo board vote by email when an issue needs resolving quickly?

Mister Condo replies:

M.H., without knowing exactly where you are from, it is impossible for me to give you a definitive answer. You need to refer to your condo governance documents (many were written before email was prevalent so they say nothing about it) and your state laws on community associations. Many have adopted email as a valid method of allowing votes provided the email records are kept as association records and the results of any votes held between Board meetings are properly documented in the Minutes of the next meeting, As long as that protocol is being followed and no laws are being broken, it is entirely likely that the Board can vote on issues via email between Board meetings. Thanks for the question!

How Long Do Condo Records Need to be Kept?

B.C. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How long do you have to keep unit files and other correspondence?

Mister Condo replies:

L.D., that is a great question and, the answer varies from state to state! Since you are from Connecticut, let me share with you what I know of the requirements in our state. My advice is to keep as much of the association’s records as is reasonably possible but there are some that you must keep. Obviously, the governing documents need to be kept in perpetuity. Minutes of all meetings, a record of all actions taken by unit owners or executive Board without a meeting, and a record of all actions a committee takes in place of the executive Board on the association’s behalf all need to be kept at least one year, but ideally should be kept forever as they are the historical records of what votes and actions were taken. These records would need to be produced if a unit owner ever challenged an action of the Board. Without those records, the Board would have great difficulty defending itself if a suit were brought. I answered a similar question back in 2013. You can take a look at my reply for further edification if you care to: http://askmistercondo.com/how-long-must-condo-records-be-kept/. Keep in mind that laws are always subject to change and I am not an attorney. I always recommend that you confer with an attorney to answer legal questions as you really want an expert opinion from someone who is practicing community association law when it comes to such an important topic. All the best!

Inadequate Condo Board Meeting Notice

N.T. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a first-time condo owner in California for a year. I wrote a letter to the board requesting for reimbursement for an expense that my condo insurer and I felt was a responsibility of the HOA to prevent further damage to the interior since the HOA contractor was overwhelmed and was unavailable. I wanted to attend the next board meeting in case my issue comes up on the agenda. The board typically meets on a certain day of the week every other month. The community newsletter typically indicates which day the month prior or it has been rescheduled. However, the past month the date was left empty on the newsletter but there was a meeting and my issue was raised and I was not there to clarify the statement the manager made which was not true. My question, is the board required to publicize the dates of the board meeting? I plan on attending the next board meeting which was publicized in this month newsletter which listed both the prior month meeting date that occurred and the upcoming meeting date. Thank you in advance and will greatly appreciate any information you can provide.

Mister Condo replies:

N.T., I am sorry that your introduction to condo living has been so controversial and that you experienced problems right off the bat. You asked about meeting notice requirements and the short answer is, yes, the Board does need to give advance notice to all unit owners of the association as outlined in either the governing documents or local or state law. Typically, the notice requirement is in writing to the individual unit owners, although other methods may be acceptable as long as they are agreed to by the unit owners. If the newsletter is the standard and medium used then that is how it is done in your community. I will say that a newsletter alone is not typically considered due process for serving notice of a Board meeting and that email would be more common in this day and age. The notice needs to include the agenda as well as the date and time. Board meetings are open for unit owners to attend but unit owners don’t participate unless asked by the Board to do so. In your case, you wanted to clarify your petition to the Board for reimbursement for expenses you made to prevent further damage. Ideally, the Board would have undertaken this expense and you wouldn’t have been out of pocket in the first place. The Board, and only the Board, can make repairs or alterations to common elements even though common sense likely drove you to take the action you took. I hope you are not out a tremendous amount of money. It might be best to write this one off and understand that you need to let the Board take this action if it comes up again. Good luck!

HOA Board Ain’t Fixin’ Nuttin!

R.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

4 months ago, I purchased a duplex which has 3 buildings and 6 owners. I had a hard time getting documents during the sale and did not understand the dynamics involved. The first email I got from the treasurer was on the day the fees were due. Our first meeting when I met the other owners was a nightmare. The president has been in position for 20 years and has Alzheimer’s so her daughter had appointed herself to the position. The treasurer was appointed by her, not vote, and the secretary had been behind 6 months in fees which they were trying to cover up. When I brought up concerns about the outside of our building, I was yelled at by the President’s son-in-law and told “we ain’t fixing nuttin, we got no money!” Then my neighbor brought up a repair not done properly and he stood up screaming and swearing at her and everyone started fighting. I asked for the bylaws and I was told by the president to find them myself. She doesn’t have them.

A few weeks ago, the fascia that needed repair was hanging off of my roof. I called the president and son in law started screaming and threatening me and said we have no money to fix it. I mentioned the Reserves that we should have had when I moved in, and both him and the treasurer admitted it was fudged to make the sale happen and accused my realtor of fraud. I had her call them and the next day the son-in-law apologized and paid out of pocket to have the fascia repaired.

They had previously called a special meeting to discuss the budget so I told them I did not want the son-in-law there as he has no business there; they agreed. The meeting started off ok until we brought up questions about missing payments from a couple of owners. We started getting bullied again. When the argument was brought up about the fascia I defended myself telling what the son-in-law said to me. He came running down the stairs screaming and swearing and threatening me again and threw me out of his mother-in-law’s house. I called the police.

I want to have the President, Treasurer, and Secretary removed by law for keeping false books, hostile environment, favoritism, harassment and negligence. If I have solid proof (which I do), will I be able to charge the association for the attorney since it’s in the best interest of the owners? It’s the board who caused all of these problems.

Mister Condo replies:

R.M., your tale of woe reads like a comedy of errors. I am glad you got your fascia replaced but the rest of this tale is a nightmare! This is a small homeowner’s association (6 units if I understood your opening statement). Small associations face the same challenges as larger associations but have far fewer resources to handle the issues. A functioning Board is a good start but there are legal remedies available to you. I want to ask you about your own purchase into this association. Did you use an attorney? Did the attorney review the governance documents? They can’t go missing as they are part of the closing process. Of course, if you somehow waived your right to these critical documents in an eagerness to make the purchase, you are experiencing a major case of “Buyer Beware!” It sounds to me like there is awful lot of impropriety going on here. You need to speak with an attorney, which I am not. I offer friendly advice; an attorney will offer you legal advice. You may end up suing the association, individual officers, anyone else associated with these misdeeds in an attempt to get the association back on sound footing. By the way, 6 owners don’t guarantee deep enough pockets to do that. In fact, you may be throwing good money after bad in an attempt to correct this problem. Your attorney can better advise you if you can include your own legal fees in any litigation but winning the litigation is just the beginning. You need to collect from these folks, who clearly don’t have the money from what you have told me. If it were me, I think I would try to sell and cut my losses. Otherwise, be ready to deal with an ongoing problem for months and even years to come. Keep the police on speed dial because these folks clearly have no idea what they are supposed to be doing and will likely continue doing what they have always done. Good luck!

NYC Condo Board Forcing Rule Changes on Unit Owners

M.T. from New York City writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We live in NYC in a 22-unit condominium building. We recently received an e-mail from our management company (on direction by our board) that certain “rules” would be changed, including language that limits what the building insurance would cover and how many pets are allowed per unit. We don’t really care about the change in pet policy though it does strike us as funny that one of the condo board members has more than the two dogs currently allowed. The change to the insurance language however does seem odd since it’s contrary to our by-laws. In the same message that contained the new “rules,” we were also informed that we needed to sign the attached document within 2 weeks and return it to them. Failure to sign would result in escalating monthly fines. I don’t see anything in our by-laws that specifically authorizes this – except that the condo board of course can enforce rules and fine for non-compliance. Do I have to sign? Or in other words, can they fine me for not signing this? The rules at this point look more like an amendment of the by-laws and it’s our understanding that we need to vote on that in order to make a change.

Mister Condo replies:

M.T, I can see where you would find it odd that these rules are being changed almost arbitrarily, especially by a Board of such a small condo. If there are 5 Board members and only 22 units, almost 25% of the units are represented by Board members. You are correct to challenge the process of changing rules or by-laws and you should look at both your governing documents and any local laws that may offer you protection from a Board that oversteps their authority to make changes that require a full vote of unit owners. As for signing a document provided by the Board that states they have informed you of the rule changes, I don’t see where that is a foul. Fining you for not acknowledging these rule changes seems a bit extreme. Typically, the Board only needs to notify unit owners in writing of rule changes for the rules to be considered in place and due process to have been followed. Forcing unit owners to sign this acknowledgement and then fining them for not doing so sounds like an unnecessary step to me but your governing documents may call for such a measure. You might want to attend the next Board meeting and observe what is going on. If they offer an opportunity for unit owners to voice concern, you could ask what these changes are about. It could be that the insurer has given the Board reason to make these changes. One instance I can think of is creating maintenance standards for things such as water supply lines inside of units. If left unmanaged, broken water supply lines can cause a fortune in damage. Many insurance companies now require that these lines, even if working properly, be replaced at regularly scheduled intervals. All the best!

Condo President Perplexed as Unit Owners Feed Wild Animals

R.M. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

As president of our association I have been faced with an issue of residents that constantly toss bulk amounts of food outside in common property areas for the purpose of feeding wildlife. This is causing our community to become unsafe due to many varieties of animals from bears to skunks on the property as well as residents complaining about food on the common areas. We have sent letters and threaten fines but nothing has worked. Can we add a policy to our rules and regulations to stop such behavior in the future? Help!

Mister Condo replies:

R.M., rules are only as good as they are enforceable. You mentioned sending letter and “threatening” fines but you haven’t gone as far as to actually issue fines. Your rules, therefore, have no teeth and residents are scoffing at them. As the next order of business, ass the rules and appropriate fines for rules violations to your by-laws. Then, when a unit owner or resident is accused of violating a rule, issue a summons for them to appear before the Board at the next meeting. Ask them why they violated the rule. Then issue either a warning or a fine and repeat. You tried the “common sense” approach and that didn’t work. It’s time to escalate the words into actions. My guess is once it starts costing them money, the rules violators will stop. Good luck!

Condo Meeting Notice Delivery Requirements

V.A. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What is the law on providing meeting notices to unit owners-re Websites-e-mail, Blogs or Notice boards at the Condominium?

Mister Condo replies:

V.A., there isn’t one specific law about how an association provides or serves notice of meetings for unit owners. Your condominium governance documents usually state that unit owners will be notified by mail. Of course, most of those documents were written long before the proliferation of email and websites occurred. The Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA) in Connecticut does give the association the ability to use electronic communications to disseminate information to unit owners. However, the unit owner needs to agree to receive electronic notices and the association needs to keep a record of the unit owner’s acceptance of such notification. An association cannot simply stop sending mail because it has a website or decides to use email. There are many times when unit owners don’t have access to these modern tools and many elect to continue to receive mail as their official notice from the association. Check your governance documents to see what is required for notice at your association. If you haven’t given approval for electronic communications, they still need to send you mail. All the best!