Tag Archives: Communications

New Condo Owner Asks to See Association Records

J.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Does a new owner, 7 days, have the right to see minutes and running balance sheets from previous years? She did not ask for any of this before she bought. If so, is there a time limit to which I have to get her this information? Thanks!

Mister Condo replies:

J.S., all unit owners, regardless of how long they have owned, have a right to inspect association records. That certainly includes bank statements and Minutes of meetings as these are official records of the association. Unless the association has something to hide, this should be a request that is simply honored. Failure to do so, on the other hand, could lead to a lawsuit from this new owner as you would be violating the unit owner’s rights by withholding this information. There may or may not be a time limit on honoring this request depending on your by-laws and your state law. My advice is to offer it forthwith. All the best!

When is a Condo Guest More than a Guest?

S.W. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Florida condo provides parking sticker for unit owner that lives in unit plus 2 guest passes. My son visits 3 days a week & stays overnight & hangs the permanent guest pass. Board wants him to lie in tenant form that he lives in unit & pays rent. By laws / condo docs state guest can park for a limit is 30 days, for a period of 4 months, except for family members. Board member stated the car will be towed if just using a guest pass. He is my son, therefore a family member & we do not falsify written documents. What are my rights? Also, sometimes I drive his car that is also registered to me.

Mister Condo replies:

S.W., I am sorry you find yourself at odds with your association over your son’s car. You should not be asked to falsify documents but you should also respect the rules of the association. Obviously, the association feels as though your son’s car being on property so frequently is a violation of the rules. You don’t feel that way so there is a disagreement between you and the association over the interpretation of the rules. Let’s start with the premise that you own both cars and want to keep them parked on association grounds. If what you have told me is correct, that isn’t allowed. You get one parking sticker per unit and that is being used for your car. You also get two guest passes that were designed for the specific use of short-term visiting guests. The association has very specific rules on what defines a guest. I can’t tell you specifically how to interpret those rules because you end the statement with “except for family members”, which clearly your son is. What are the rules for family members? Is there a form to fill out indicating that he is a family member? If so, fill it out and follow the rules for family members. If you continue to use the guest pass and the Board feel you are violating the rules, they may begin to fine you and/or tow his car as they have threatened to do. Many associations have these parking restrictions in place so that unit owners don’t skirt rules about long-term visitors and family members taking vacation within units. My guess is that the association is in the right here but you may wish to seek a legal opinion from a local attorney and see what additional rights you have. It is an unfortunate situation to say the least and I am sure neither you nor your son are seeking to be uncooperative. It would be nice to take a deeper look at your documents to see what you are doing “wrong” in the eyes of the association. If all it takes to satisfy them is filling out a form that says he is a family members and not just another visitor, I would likely advise you to do so. All the best!

Upstairs Condo Flooring Creates Downstairs Condo Nightmare

T.A. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can an HOA threaten or sue me to not call or complain about the constant noises from the unit above mine. It’s like hammering or whatnot. They changed their flooring around January or February of last year and it seems like not a minimum adequate sound barrier was put. I’ve had to call the police several times. Now he’s saying I’ve aggressively approached him using profane language. Not true. I’ve approached him civilly twice and the last time I asked him to “please! Stop the noises or I’m going to have to call the police”…he said call them and slammed the door. He’s now “saying in harassing him by calling the police and aggressively threatening him? Whatever the case, I’m in Florida. Can they sue me or threat me to stop calling the police non-emergency number when the noises get unbearable?

Mister Condo replies:

T.A., I am most sorry for your unfortunate predicament. In today’s litigious world, lawsuits abound and just about anyone can sue anyone else for seemingly ridiculous reasons. You and I are no exception so there is always the possibility of a lawsuit. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Let me address the basis of your complaint and what you may be able to do using your rights as a unit owner inside of a condominium. Step 1 is to review your condo documents regarding peaceable enjoyment of your unit. Also, take a good look at what it says about flooring. Many condominiums prohibit the installation of hardwood or laminate or tile flooring in units that reside above other units. If your upstairs neighbor violated that rule by removing carpeting and installing a new floor, this is relatively simple to fix. You write to the Board about the rule violation by your neighbor and the Board will take action to remedy the situation. This will involve the Board, not you, citing the unit owner for the rule violation and the fines they will incur until they remedy the flooring. If your association has no rule about flooring types, you likely have the right to peaceable enjoyment. You are going to write to the Board about the noise emanating from above and the Board should take action. If they don’t and there is no legal remedy available to you, you should consider selling and moving to an association that values peace and quiet. You have an expectation to minimal noise. Living beneath hardwood or other flooring creates a really bad environment for sound intrusion, which is exactly the reason it isn’t allowed in many condos. My guess is that with some proper complaints (in writing, not verbal) to the Board (not your neighbor), you will get the relief you seek. Good luck!

Are Condo Unit Owner’s Comments Required for Board Meeting Minutes?

J.P. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our board meets tonight and there is a section for unit owner comments. Are those comments required to be part of the minutes published or is it at the discretion of the board?

Mister Condo replies:

J.P., I am glad to hear you are offering a time and a place for unit owners to make comments at the Board Meeting. That is good governance and shows compliance with our state’s Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA). The Minutes of the meeting reflect motions, votes, and actions taken by the Board as well as a few other housekeeping items such as approval of the previous Minutes, and reports from Committees, Property Manager (if any), and even a President’s Report, if offered. The Minutes are not an item for item reiteration of the meeting and other than acknowledging that there was a Unit Owner comment period as noted in the Agenda, the actual comments made do not have to be included in the Minutes. There could be exceptions, of course, and the Board, at its discretion, may wish to include details of the comments in the Minutes if they so wish. All the best!

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!