Tag Archives: Condominium

Fairness of Condo Common Fees Questioned

A.L. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Mr. Condo, how should HOA fees be calculated in a condo association in the State of Connecticut? Is it fair that everyone pay the same fee every month even if all the units are not the same size?

Mister Condo replies:

A.L., common fees are typically defined in the condo governing documents and usually are derived using the percentage of unit ownership formula which does take square footage into consideration. However, neither the state nor the governing documents require the use of this formula and there are many other perfectly legitimate methods of determining common fees. The only universal rule is that the governing documents dictate the formula and that formula can only be changed by very strict rules for doing so. It is extremely uncommon for the formula to be changed and typically requires a full consent vote of the unit owners and, many times, even the mortgage holders of the units. Some of the other factors that I have seen that determine common fee allotment include: water-view versus non-water-view, top floors versus middle and bottom floor units in a high-rise, and end units versus middle units. Some associations like yours use a simple “everyone pays the same” common fee, which may not be fair, but is certainly not illegal and is well known before anyone purchases into the association. There isn’t too much you can do about it, A.L., as changing the common fee schedule is a major legislative ordeal. You can talk to your Board but I doubt you will see things change. Good luck!

Muffled Condo HVAC Sounds Heard in Unit Owner’s Home

J.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live on the 2nd floor of a condo. From beneath my living room, I hear a low rumbling/clanking noise. Beneath me is a yoga room and in between my floor and the yoga room is some ventilation system that is housing some machines related to AC/Heating. The level of this noise is not loud but it is very noticeable and I can hear it from my entire place, even from the bedrooms. Isn’t any noise penetrating my condo unacceptable no matter how subjectively low the sound may be? And at what point is outside noise from building infrastructure deemed a problem which requires action by management? Thank you for your consideration of my inquiry!

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., I am sorry that you are having to put up with noise inside your condo unit. Do your governing documents indicate what is and isn’t acceptable levels of sound intrusion? Many documents state that unit owners and residents are entitled to peaceable enjoyment of their units. Some go further and elaborate levels of sound in either decibels or typical activities (running a vacuum cleaner, for instance). My guess is that the level of noise you are describing either isn’t mentioned or isn’t included in the restrictions. If that is the case, you may be stuck living with the noise. Have you contacted the Board of Directors of the condo to state your case? HVAC units may need some fine tuning. The hours of operation of the yoga studio may offer you some relief. You may also be able to install some sound deadening material on your floor that might mitigate the noise, at your expense. Other than that, your best bet may be to sell your unit and be much more selective about ambient sound in your next unit. Good luck!

Unhappy and Unsatisfied Condo Owner Moves Out

J.J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I been having a problem at my condo where I used to live. I left because they were always harassing me and my daughter. I’ve been towed because my car on my parking spot and the back tire was on line of the other parking spot. I have been trying to find out for 3 years where money is going because we have Reserves but we have no amenities but a pool.

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., I am sorry you have had such a trying experience living in a condo. Following parking rules can be challenging but managing the parking lot so all unit owners can enjoy the amenity is even more challenging. If you parked where you shouldn’t have you really can’t be too upset if your car got towed. How else could the association parking lot be available for all of the other unit owners who have also paid for unobstructed use of the parking lot? Understanding where your common fees go can be difficult to understand. Just because an association has a Reserve Fund (all should) doesn’t mean they don’t need your common fees for other budget items. All of the common amenities and services are paid for out of the common fees. Everything from the lights in the parking lot to the trash removal to the management of the association and so much more are paid out of your common fees. If you feel you were harassed in any way by your association, I would encourage you to speak to an attorney to see if what you experienced meets the requirements for harassment. Towing your car for parking improperly and insisting you pay your common fees certainly doesn’t qualify but I am guessing there is much more to the story than you have relayed to me here.  Good luck!

Rules for Condo Special Assessment

R.F. from Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

In Connecticut, can a special assessment be levied, with a vote by homeowners to paint buildings, repair buildings, labor and material? Can the Board of directors create a special assessment, by vote from homeowners for capital improvements which is patently a capital expense?

Mister Condo replies:

R.F., the rules for levying special assessments are determined by a few things, including the association’s own rules and state law. If the homeowners were allowed to vote, then, typically, the assessment would be deemed valid. Of course, all of the rules for giving proper notice of the vote would have to have been followed and all of the rules for conducting the vote would have to have also been followed. It sounds to me like that is what happened. The underlying issue is why was there a need for a special assessment for a capital expense that has likely been known about for years. You might want to suggest the Board conduct a Reserve Study and then present a plan for funding the Reserve fund so future capital expenses can be paid for out of Reserves and not via special assessment. All the best!

Condo Board Leaves Leaky Roof in Place for 8 Years!

K.P. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live on the fourth floor of a 4-unit condo. The roof is damaged to the point that when it rains it pours inside my apartment. It has been more than eight years and the condo association will not fix the roof. I stopped paying condo fees and informed the condo association that I was going to save the money to pay for the roof. I have not paid the condo fees for four years. The condo does not call for regular meetings. Two of the other owners had some funds on the condo and they spent it on things that they needed to fix without a voting from the condo association. Now they have a lien on my condo. I have damages in my apartment. Is it legal to not pay for the condo fees and save it for the roof repairs as the condo association has not fixed the roof after eight years of discussion? Can I request that the condo association pay for the damages in my condo?

Mister Condo replies:

K.P., I am sorry for your problems. If you read my column with any regularity, you will see that I never advise any condo owner to withhold common fees for any reason. As you are seeing first-hand, the Board will sue you for those fees and they will win. If you can’t make good on your arrears, you could have your unit foreclosed upon by the association. I hope it doesn’t come to that for you. Assuming you don’t lose your home in this debacle, let’s discuss what you can do to get your unit repaired. First off, hire an attorney. After 8 years, let’s face it, it is long past time to sue the association for dereliction of duty in maintaining the roof. There will undoubtedly be a Special Assessment to make the repair but a lawsuit and judgment against the association will force the issue. Keep in mind that this will cost you as well as the other unit owners a financial hardship but you really have no choice. Hopefully, the threat of the lawsuit will be enough to motivate the association to make the repair to the roof. If not, a lengthy and expensive legal battle will likely ensue. This is a “lose/lose” situation for you and the other unit owners but their ridiculous mismanagement of the roof has lead you all here. Once the repairs are made, I would strongly consider selling and getting out of this potential money pit. If they let the roof go for 8 years, I can only imagine what other nightmares await. There are better places to live. Good luck!

Condo Owner’s Guest Flagrantly Violates Parking Rules

L.W. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our parking rules state that “no vehicles may be stored in common parking spaces when not in use. Vehicles that are not operable or that will not be utilized for 15 days or longer should be parked in the Unit Owners garage or driveway.” The live-in boyfriend of a unit owner has parked his beat up pickup truck in a parking spot in the common area for more than one month. It has not budged in a month. I requested our Management Company ask that he move the truck weeks ago, but it has not moved. The owner of the truck is NOT an owner in this complex, just a friend of one. The truck owner has a new truck which he parks near the old one, indicating to me that he is merely storing this unused truck in one of our common area parking places. It is infuriating that they are being allowed to do this. What do you suggest?

Mister Condo replies:

L.W., the use and management of the common parking areas is the purview of the Board. It is up to them to enforce the rules of the association. Your duty is to report those parking violations that you observe to the Board. It is then up to the Board to take the appropriate action. You can follow up with the Board to see what they are doing but that is the limit of what you can do. The Property Manager can only do what the Board empowers him or her to do. While your by-laws state the intended use of the parking lot they may not say what, specifically, can be done to unit owners or guests who do not comply. Typically, fines are issued after warnings are given. In extreme cases, the Board may have the authority to tow the vehicle off property. Whatever the rules are, all you can do as a resident is to report the offense. It is up to the Board to deal with the problem. All the best!

Condo Board Divided Not Getting Work Done

R.G. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My board can’t agree on replacing security cameras. Meanwhile we have no cameras. Our pool is also closed since November for structural repairs. Five members can’t agree on anything or even get a quorum. I want to know what can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

R.G., other than running for the Board yourself or electing folks that work better together, there isn’t anything you can do. Board members are volunteer leaders from within your community and are democratically elected by you and the other unit owners in your association. They are charged with conducting the business of the association but they don’t have to get along or agree on anything, kind of like members of Congress! Unlike members of Congress, they aren’t compensated for their work but that doesn’t mean they can ignore the wishes of their constituents! My advice is to look at the Minutes of the Board meetings this past year and find out how the members are voting. If you don’t like what you see, organize more like-minded candidates to run for the Board. Perhaps you should consider running? That way, you’ll have a ringside seat to see what is causing these delays. Otherwise, my guess is you can expect more of the same. Good luck!

Condo Sheetrock Project Creates Dusty Nightmare for Residents

J.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 65-unit owned condo. Our manager refuses to clean the hardwood laminate flooring until the plumbing project is complete. It is covered in sheetrock dust and tracking everywhere in the common areas. What can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

J.T., there isn’t too much you can do as a resident other than complain to the Board to apply pressure to the Property Manager and/or the contractor doing the work. Sheetrock projects generally create dust and a better plan for the project would have included dust control measures. That component was either overlooked or the Board decided to take a cheaper route and not include it. The end result is the messy situation you have right now. Not all projects are as simple as hiring a contractor to do the work. Sometimes you need to think about the side effects on residents. This is a great example of how that lack of foresight lead to a bad living experience for residents. The good news is that “this, too, shall pass” and that the project is likely already over and the repaired area looks great. Remind the Board that future projects should include a plan for dust remediation, even if it costs a little extra. All the best!

No Elections Held for Years at this Condo!

P.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What if no new elections have taken place for several years? Can board members just keep voting selves in?

Mister Condo replies:

P.A., unchallenged, a seated Board can do a lot of things, including behave outside the rules of governance for the association. Your documents clearly state how elections to the Board are held. Most require annual meetings of the shareholders (unit owners) at which time two very important things should happen. The adoption of the Annual Budget which sets out the common fee schedule and how the money will be spent throughout the year and the election of Board members are the two things that generally must happen. If there are no unit owners coming to these meetings and no unit owners looking to serve, guess what happens? The seated Board is free to do just about whatever they want because there is no one to stop them from continuing to serve on the Board. As long as the association’s bills are getting paid and no one is pushing back on the common fees it would appear as the other unit owners are content to let things be. This is an incredibly dangerous situation and a condominium association I couldn’t get out of fast enough but it does happen. When you purchase into a condominium association you are actually purchasing into a corporation. If you don’t care what happens to your investment you don’t have to pay attention to how the corporation is run. The same is true in a condominium. If you and your fellow unit owners are ready to challenge the sitting board, I would suggest you all attend the Annual Meeting this year and get ready to run for office. It is an unpaid, volunteer position but it is vital to the healthy running of the association. Even if you are not elected to serve, the fact that unit owners like you are paying attention may be all this Board needs to offer more transparency. Shame on any association member who doesn’t care enough about how the corporation is run to not pay attention to something as important as this. They will have no one to blame but themselves if the association is poorly run or money goes missing. Good luck!

Cantankerous Condo Renter Unhappy at Condo

B.C. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The condo president is a nightmare. The Board is a nightmare. This condo is intentionally making it difficult for guests to get in and out of the building. The intention is increased security but it is just increased harassment. If a nurse or CNA visits every day, calling the gate every day is absurd. They get too many phone calls and don’t have time to make parking passes for the number of visitors we have during the winter. Disabled parking is not required for condos in FL — but they have a sign saying that if a resident parks in a guest spot (even with a handicap sticker) the car will be towed. There is a sign saying I can be fined for drinking water while swimming. Funny thing is….they have no one to enforce any rules or call the tow company so the folks who rent here ignore the rules and the board and work everything out with the parking amongst ourselves. I cannot be evicted by a condo board and my landlord will never evict me. They can’t “put pressure” on the landlord because he will ignore them. I have spoken with the President of the Rec Center and he sees my side but refuses to hire his incompetent manager who is the cause of ALL problems here. I never agreed to follow any rules. I don’t even have a written lease anymore….because my landlord trusts me. If the Board of this condo refuses to let in my guests, I will either have a panic attack and call the police or I will insult someone who will then hit me and then I will file battery charges. Can I file a law suit against the Condo Board for discrimination against the disabled? The manager is hated here…how do I get her fired without ending up in jail myself?

Mister Condo replies:

B.C., I can’t for the life of me understand why you would live in a place that is so out of touch with your living needs. A condominium is not an assisted living center and the association is under no obligation to change its rules to suit your needs. You, and everyone else, need to follow the rules of the community. The Board, democratically elected by all unit owners, including your landlord, conducts the business of the association as it sees fit but does have to answer to unit owners at annual elections. If they aren’t doing their jobs they are likely to be voted off the Board. That doesn’t seem to be the case from what you have told me. Your lack of lease agreement with your landlord does not exempt you from the rules of the community. In fact, my guess is that your landlord is in violation of the rules for renting units by not having a written agreement with you on file with the association. You claim you can’t be evicted by the association but without a valid rental agreement to defend yourself, I am not so sure you are correct. You would be unwise to do anything illegal such as verbally assault any of the Board members or Property Manager at your condo. You would do well to speak with your own attorney and see what, if any, legal rights you have. From what you have told me here, I don’t see where any laws are being violated but I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. You might consider moving to a more suitable community when your lease ends, whenever that is (who knows with an unwritten lease?). Whatever you decide to do, I wish you a happier condo life experience. All the best!