Tag Archives: Communications

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.!

Validity of Condo Proxy Vote Process Questioned

J.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I received a proxy for election of the condo board. Seven positions. Eight names with no blank spaces. Seven for re-election. One new. In a conversation with a current board member she told me that the eighth name did not want to be on the board, but a different person did. Asked the management company, without success, how members are elected? Simple majority? A percentage needed? Quorum needed? What happens to the votes cast by proxy of the owner not wishing to be on the board? Does this not disenfranchise the owner wishing to run? Answer I received “You can cast your vote anyway you wish”. Is this proxy election valid?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., without knowing the rules for proxy voting for your state and how your declaration, covenant, rules and regulations read, I can’t give you a definitive answer. Proxies are handled differently and can vary from association to association. I will say that the spirit of the proxy looks to be intact. It is up to you to look up your association’s rules on proxy voting to see if the rules were followed. Typically, candidates are either nominated or self-nominated in advance of the Annual Meeting where the election vote is held. A nominated candidate who wishes not to server can most certainly remove themselves from the ballot. If there were no other properly nominated candidates, it would follow that there would be a vacant slot for the seat running without a nominated candidate. It would also follow that you could write in whoever you would like although there is no guarantee that your write-in candidate would win or even choose to serve if elected. Typically, the elected Board members have the right to appoint a director to fill a vacancy until the next election. Whether or not the proxy is valid may be moot if there were only seven candidates for eight offices. I would encourage any interested candidates to let their intention be known to the Board and that they run for office during the next election cycle. All the best!

Condo Property Manager Offends Unit Owner

P.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If an owner contacts the PM regarding an issue and the PM’s response is that “I am a pain in the ass and a little prick” is there any formal rights I have to request his replacement with another agent from his Firm? Thank You!

Mister Condo replies:

P.J., I am most sorry to hear about such rude and unprofessional behavior from a Property Management professional or anyone for that matter. It reflects the general lack of civility that seems to be far too common in today’s society. As for “formal rights”, I don’t think you have any. The Property Manager is hired by the Board. You should most certainly complain to the Property Manager’s supervisor if he or she has one and you should complain in writing to the Board who can pressure the Property Manager to behave better or be replaced. But the reality is that you were insulted, not assaulted. Anyone who uses such terms when dealing with a client is saying far more about their own behavior and upbringing than yours. Take the high road, P.J.. 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!

Condo Minutes Do Not Show Previous Year’s Votes

M.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I was just elected to our BOD earlier this year and I am the secretary. I have requested and reviewed the minutes of last year’s minutes, to get a feel for how they have been done, and sort of follow what was being done previously. I am very disappointed in what I found. Many actions were taken place through the year that were talked about but not voted on, no motions were made on so many things, it seems ridiculous to me. My main question at this point, is did that board act illegally, and could they be held liable for acting without the proper documentation?

Mister Condo replies:

M.H., welcome to the Board! I trust you will do a bang-up job as Secretary. Legally, the Minutes are the official record of what actions the Board took, what votes were held, what motions were made, and so on. They don’t need to be overly detailed but they do need to reflect basic activities and votes of the Board. Actions taken without a proper vote are subject to scrutiny from any unit owner who can challenge the action since there was not vote or record of a vote. It is a dangerous practice and sets the association up for lawsuits from disgruntled unit owners. That being said, if no unit owners have objected to the actions taken by the Board, there is quite literally no harm and no foul. However, since you are now on the Board and you are armed with the proper information about Minutes, votes, and actions of the Board, I strongly suggest you inform the Board of their erroneous ways and that they have set themselves up for all sorts of problems in the future from disgruntled unit owners. You wouldn’t want to defend actions taken without great records. Good luck!

Condo Cannot Enforce Rules on Land it Doesn’t Own

J.J. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condo association rules state “No Signs of any kind with the exception of one For Sale sign”. With that being said, since all of our roads are county roads and not private roads, can the association stop me from putting political signs in the county road right of way in our subdivision? This is property that is not owned by any association member but the county right of way that is owned by the county road commission. Thank you! I need a quick answer.

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., quite simply the condo can only enforce rules on land that it owns. If you are certain that they don’t own the land you wish to plant signs on then they cannot enforce their rules on that land. However, the land owner of the land in question may have their own rules about what the public can and cannot do on that land. Have you checked with the county road commission? Violating your condo rules can get you a warning or a fine. Violating municipal rules could get you arrested. Better to be safe than sorry. Find out who owns the land and what the rules are for posting political signs before you take any other action.  All the best!

Do Condo Boards Have to Take Minutes?

E.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When condos board meet to hey have to take minutes?

Mister Condo replies:

E.G., absolutely! Minutes are the only official record of Condo Board Meetings. Without Minutes, it is as if the meeting never happened. Condo Boards are representatives of a corporation and have a responsibility to the shareholders of the corporation (the unit owners) to maintain proper records of actions they take. Not every item discussed needs to be in the Minutes but every vote taken certainly does. A Board that operates without taking Minutes risks being sued by any unit owner who doesn’t agree with decisions made by the Board. While state laws vary on what must be included in the Minutes, almost all are based on some type of Corporation Act and some type of Condominium or Common Interest Act. These laws typically demand that Minutes be kept and be made available to unit owners upon request once approved by the Board. This protects both the Board and the unit owners. Some Boards farm out the actual recordkeeping to a Property Manager or other third party but the Minutes need to be submitted back to the Board who votes on their correctness and ratifies them into association records. I hope your Board is keeping Minutes. Thanks for the question!

Board Cites “Attorney/Client” Privilege in Questionable Condo Document Amendments

E.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our Board of Directors are amending our documents without the required 75% of the membership. I was told that two legal opinions were obtained by the BOD stating they have the right to do so. When I requested a copy of the legal opinions, the Management Company said they were invoking Attorney/Client privilege and I was refused. I am an owner of this Corporation and believe these opinions were obtained and probably paid for with my money. Should I be entitled to see these documents?

Mister Condo replies:

E.C., the short answer is “yes” but there are certain caveats in place to protect the Board. In other words, they have the right to withhold the documents during the period in question. I doubt it has anything to do with “attorney/client” privilege as much as it is an action they are taking as an Executive Board, which your governance documents likely give them the ability to do. Either way, if your documents or state law don’t allow them to amend your documents without a 75% vote, these amendments can and should be challenged by you or any other member of the association. You will want your own legal opinion, if necessary. Also, and more importantly, feel free to vote these folks out of office at your earliest convenience. Amending documents should not be done secretly, covertly, or improperly. Regardless of “legal opinion”, the will of the unit owners needs to be respected. These folks were elected to serve, not clandestinely revise the amendments to the association. I would interfere loudly with their plans and then prepare to vote new Board members in to office who will do a better job serving the will of the people. It may very well be that your association needs to revise its bylaws. Holding a meeting and involving the majority of unit owners as outlined in your governing documents is the way to do so. Good luck!

Condo Board Keeping Election Results Private

V.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Voting for three trustee positions with four individuals seeking a position was done primarily via proxy ballot. At the annual meeting, a quorum was not achieved. Some unit owners believe we have an obligation to post the results of the ballot count even though there was no quorum. What is your opinion?

Mister Condo replies:

V.M., results of any vote, proxy or other, are association records. As such, all unit owners have a right to see the results. However, allowing access to records and posting the results are two different things. I would say that any unit owner who wishes to see the results should request the record inspection. The association may or may not charge a small fee for the record inspection as detailed on your state law. My advice would be to always keep communication channels open between unit owners and the Board so as not to give the appearance of impropriety. An informed constituency is generally happier than one that is kept in the dark.

The lack of quorum at your Annual Meeting has no effect on this but it does bear the question of why proxy voting is required and why unit owners are not attending the Annual Meeting. This is common in seasonal properties (i.e. beach communities where owners may not be present year-round) but uncommon in associations where unit owners are typically at home. If the reason for no quorum is unit owner apathy, the unit owners have no one to blame but themselves. As long as the Board has nothing to hide, I would publish the results of the vote just to keep everyone happy and informed. All the best!

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!