Tag Archives: Condominium

Condo Association-Hired Contractor Damages Unit Owner Ceilings

D.R. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

A unit owner notified the condo association of a roof leak. A contractor, called by the association to inspect and give an estimate, caused several cracks in the ceiling while up in the attic inspecting, even though he was told the attic had no floor. Who is responsible for the repair, the contractor and his insurance or the Condo association insurance. The condo insurance company said they are not involved.

Mister Condo replies:

D.R., what an unfortunate situation. I am actually surprised that this contractor didn’t fall through the ceiling, which would have caused an even bigger problem for the association and perhaps even caused injury. The association hired the contractor to handle the inspection. Regardless of what the contractor was told, his actions caused the damage as reported by you. Typically, the association should go after the contractor for the damage he caused. Typically, that would have the contractor calling his insurance company to file a claim. It sounds to me like that didn’t happen. Instead, someone initiated a claim with the condo insurance who has subsequently denied the claim as it wouldn’t typically be covered by the type of insurance most associations have for their buildings. In fact, you have stated that the damage was caused by the contractor.

Without knowing all of the details, I would suggest the association needs to go after the contractor they hired and have the contractor make good on the damage he caused. If his insurance will cover it that should be a fairly simple process. If his insurance will not cover it, he should pay out of pocket for the damage. If he won’t do that, the association should sue him for the damage and make good on the repairs for unit owners. If all else fails, unit owners may have to sue the association for hiring the contractor that caused the damage. Sounds like everyone has to do what’s best for them in this situation although the legal fees could quickly outweigh the actual cost of repair. Good luck!

New Jersey Condo Board Not Holding Elections

J.B. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

  1. Our Condo Board meets in a conference room in local town hall. The meeting is open to all condo owners. Is it possible to have the Board Meeting in Skype or conference call instead of meeting in person? Will it meet the NJ Condominium Act requirement of “All meetings at which a board takes a binding vote are required by law to be open to all owners and advance written notice of such meetings must be given as provided by law.”
  2. Some of our Condo Association Board Members have continued without any election for years. Is that legally allowed? No election notices were sent out, they just continued on for years. Can other members who got elected request for an election? If yes, how do we do it?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., “without any election for years”!!! I have never heard of that in a functioning condominium. Surely, your governance documents call for an Annual Meeting and a proper election process for Board members. Adding Skype to your Board meetings is the least of your worries right now!

I am not an attorney nor am I an expert in New Jersey Community Association Law, J.B., so please accept my advice as friendly. If you require a legal opinion, you will need to seek out a local attorney. That being said, let’s start with your governance documents with regards to election of officers. Typically, the condo docs require a minimum of one Annual Meeting per year. This is also done to satisfy most states’ Corporation laws that require an Annual Meeting of Shareholders be held to conduct corporation business. Your condo is a corporation, albeit a non-profit one, but a corporation nonetheless. At the Annual Meeting, a few pieces of business must happen. Perhaps the single most important is the adoption of the Annual Budget for the upcoming year. The second is to hold the election for officers. Now if there are no new candidates to select from, it is quite possible that a single vote is cast returning the Board members up for reelection to another term. Terms can vary but are typically one, two, or three years. The Board also has the ability to appoint Board members in the case of vacancy. However, it is done, there needs to be Minutes of the meeting to reflect the action. As a unit owner, you have the right to inspect Minutes once they are approved by the Board. In other words, you can go back and look at the election records for your association. If you can’t find any, you have a problem. My guess is that these folks have run unopposed for many election cycles and have simply continued to serve. If that is not the case, you would be wise to insist that elections are held at the next Annual Meeting or sooner if the situation merits it.

Whether a meeting is held in person or via conference call or Skype, the same rules apply as if the meeting were held in the real world. I know of many associations that have adopted technology advances like Skype to their meetings. However, just like any meeting of the Board, there must be minutes and the meeting must be made available to all unit owners, even if they are required to be muted during the meeting, they have the right to observe. The use of technology does not dissolve the burden of advance notice and all unit owners should be given notice of upcoming meetings in accordance with law.

Hope that helps. All the best!

Condo Parking Space Yanked Without Notice

D.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When I purchased my condo ten year ago it included assigned parking which was the original owner’s parking (in front of the unit). The association has since started renting units. Two weeks ago, I came home only to find a new renter was given my assigned spot! Can they just take my parking without notification or justification? The assigned parking was written in my purchase documents.

Mister Condo replies:

D.B., I am sorry for your worries. Without seeing the documentation for the assigned parking, I have to assume that the association owns the parking lot and that your parking space is not deeded (actually a part of the deed, this is not that common). That being said, the Board controls the parking lot and the assignment of the parking spaces. Clearly, you do not agree with what they have done with the parking but, seeing as you do not own the parking space, you do need to abide by the Board’s decision. However, you do not need to reelect any of the Board members who have so callously stripped you of your assigned parking space without as much as a notification. Your purchase documents will not likely help your cause. Electing better thinking and acting Board members will. Good luck!

What is a “Reasonable” Amount of Time for A Condo Record Request Inspection?

L.L. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How long should I wait to view my condominiums financial records? I requested to see them 6 business days ago.

Mister Condo replies:

L.L., as a unit owner you have the right to inspect just about all of your association’s records, including the financial records. Typically, the records need to be available during normal business hours or within a “reasonable” time. That is where the real answer to your question lies. What you consider “reasonable” and what the keeper of your records considers “reasonable” may vary so the key is likely for you to remain vigilant but patient. If the record keeper fails to provide you with access, your recourse is to sue. I am not an attorney nor do I offer any legal advice in this column. My friendly advice is to ask again and ask what the association considers as a “reasonable” amount of time to honor the request. My guess is you’ll get access to the records when the other party is available to accommodate your request. Keep in mind the records are owned by the association. If you wish photocopies, you may be charged for the service as well as a small fee for the employee’s time for assisting you. Good luck!

Ill Condo Renter Has Car Towed

L.H. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I rent a condo in a complex that has an Association and also a building management company. My car was recently towed without any prior notification to me – no phone call, no email, no letter, no knock on the door. I have not been driving my car since September of 2015 for medical reasons, and in October of 2015, someone from the Association put a note on my car because it hadn’t been moved for a month. I called the building management company and informed them about my medical issue. I never heard back from building management. So yesterday without notice the car was towed. I haven’t yet been told where the car is, who towed it, or what I might need to do to get it back. BTW, I’ve rented this unit for 10 years now, and have NEVER been introduced to ANYONE on the Association and none of the members have ever made it their business to get to know me. What are my legal rights in this issue? Thanks.

Mister Condo replies:

L.H., despite your status as a long-term renter in this condo, you are still bound to follow all of the rules of the association as is every other unit owner, renter, and any other resident. That includes the parking rules, which can be quite challenging to enforce. I agree with you that this is an unfortunate situation that could have been handled better but if your car was parked in violation of association rules, the association has the right and the responsibility to enforce the parking rules so that all community members may enjoy the parking area. I am not an attorney so I do not offer legal advice in this column. I do not personally believe you have legal rights in this situation as you violated the parking rules by leaving your vehicle parked on the association-owned parking grounds for far too long a period of time. I am not sure why you would have any expectation to be introduced to anyone on the Board of the association. They represent the unit owners and are elected by the unit owners at unit owner meetings. As a renter, you aren’t a unit owner. Your relationship is with the owner of your unit; not the association. If you feel your legal rights have been violated, by all means, contact an attorney who could better advise you of your options. In the meanwhile, the management company should be able to tell you where your car has been towed. You will likely need to pay for the towing and/or storage fees to get your car back. Once you do, you should make alternate arrangements for the long-term storage of your car. Otherwise, it will likely be towed again in accordance with the rules of parking in your condo. Good luck!

Hardship Case Causing Condo Rental Cap Chaos

H.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our association passed an amendment to the CC&R’s capping the rental of units at 17. We have 66 units. This was done in 2006 to help us keep FHA funding. Our last management company let it slide, so our new management company has gone through the hoops and we are now FHA approved again. We have a clause that allows a temporary hardship case which allows renting of a unit out for 1 year and 2nd extension of 6 months. Someone has married and his wife has 3 kids and lives in a house. He bought the condo just before the big collapse in prices. Now he cannot sell it for what it is worth. His wife was laid off. He wants to claim hardship to rent for a year. He said we had until a certain date to give him an answer for a court filing. Well we finally decided to let him do it after conferring with our lawyer. But we waited past his deadline. We have a rental list that he could get on. He has not signed up. If the current person who is number 17 on rental list and cannot get his unit rented within 60 days, he falls to bottom of the rental list. The next person on the rental list moves up to rental position. This person with the hardship case, if he signed up, would now be able to rent the 1 bedroom unit as a regular rental now, if the other 4 folks on the list allowed him to skip over them to be 1st on the rental list. Then we would be back to 17 units rented and no hardship case. This way we won’t lose FHA funding. Some folks are saying FHA is now allowing up to 50%. We are considered the old school rule of condos. I don’t want to take a chance of going over 17 units if I can help it. Will we be in trouble being over the 17 units with this hardship case?

 

Mister Condo replies:

H.S., your adherence to FHA rules while trying to accommodate a unit owner who has fallen on hard times is admirable. However, since you have already involved the association attorney in these proceedings, my best advice is to continue to seek legal advice to guide you through these murky waters. While hardship cases tug at my heartstrings, condo associations are businesses and do not have the luxury of caring about individual unit owner’s unique situations. It sounds to me like you have some very reasonable rules in place about rental restrictions. They have been in place since 2006 and, I am assuming, are in compliance with your state laws on rental caps within community associations. The unit owner’s lack of ability to sell the unit for what it was purchased for is not the business of the association. The collection of common fees from that unit owner and the enforcement of the rental restrictions and other rules of the association are the concern of the Board. If your true concern is FHA funding eligibility, you would be wise to speak with an expert in that area. I am not an expert but I would agree that the current standard of 50% is accurate as of the time of this writing. As your question so easily points out, the FHA changes the rules so today’s answer may not be true tomorrow. There are other reasons for maintaining rental caps, including quality of life for unit owners. Additionally, if you do wish to change the rental cap restrictions, you will need to hold another vote on the matter.

Confrontational Condo Owner Seeks Chair Lift for Condo Pool at Association Expense

J.S. from New York writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi, I met you and your wife at the Long Island Chapter of CAI meeting last month. We have a homeowner who has lived in our association from the start about 14 years. He can be very confrontational. There have been numerous incidents involving him and the board and he and his neighbor. He has developed several health conditions. He still shops on his own and he drives on his own. He has veiled threats against the community to call the Americans for Disability and force us to put in a chair lift in the swimming pool for him. He does enter and exit the pool on his own now and there will be issues in about a month when he wears his same outdoor dirty sneakers into the pool and occasionally has unhealed sores. My question is: can he force us after all these years to construct a chair lift for him which could run up to one hundred thousand dollars?

Mister Condo replies:

J.S., I hope you enjoyed the presentation in Long Island. It was a pleasure to meet so many Chapter members and share time and stories with you. You certainly have an interesting situation on your hands. As you know, I am not an attorney nor am I an expert is New York Community Association law. However, I will offer you some friendly advice. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to protect people with disabilities and allow access on public properties. Most condominium associations are private properties and are not subject to the same requirements that public businesses are. Although, there are exceptions. If your pool or club house are rented out and used “for profit”, the association may be subject to all the provisions of the ADA. So, you have a bit of a sticky wicket here. It is most certainly time to speak with your association attorney who can give you a legal opinion. Of course, a unit owner who threatens to sue is quite different than a unit owner who actually does sue. If the unit owner makes a formal request for the pool chair, contact the association attorney to determine your legal options. If you are not bound by the ADA rules, you can likely do one of two things. You could simply deny the request, citing the expense as being an unreasonable request or you could allow the installation at the unit owner’s expense, keeping in mind that the unit owner would also be responsible for the maintenance of the chair as well. You can also have pool use rules added that prohibit bathers from wearing shoes (or any footwear) in the pool and prohibit use of the pool by anyone with open soars. Check with your local Health Department for suggested rules on pool use restrictions as well. I hope that helps and I look forward to seeing you again in the future.

Florida Condo Homeowners Insurance Requirement

V.B. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’ve lived at my condo in Orlando since 2009, when it was vetoed that unit owners are required to have insurance for condo. Are unit owners required to have condo insurance?

Mister Condo replies:

V.B., I am not an expert in Florida community association law so please consider this a friendly answer and not a legal one. You may wish to check with a local attorney for a legal opinion. Generally speaking, unit owners should have a homeowner’s insurance policy at the very minimum, regardless of requirement, to protect themselves from potential losses. Many association governance documents require unit owners to hold such policies but I am not aware of any legislation that requires unit owners to hold policies. In fact, my understanding of the Florida Condominium Act is that it does not require the insurance but it does state that the interior damage is the unit owner’s responsibility. As long as it is unit owner responsibility, the unit owner should want to have that risk insured, regardless of the law. That being said, if your original documents did call for a requirement to carry the insurance and the association voted to discontinue that requirement, there may, in fact, be no requirement for unit owners to do so. However, most mortgage companies would have a requirement for the unit owner to carry homeowner’s insurance and it is certainly a best practice to do so.  All the best!

Mentally Ill Child of Condo Neighbor Creating Noise Nuisance

D.E. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have been living in our condo for three years and love it. Recently new owners moved in next door with their 9-year-old child. Come to find out she bangs her head against the wall and screams bloody murder at all times of the day. Unfortunately, she has mental illness – bipolar, OCD, etc. I have spoken with them nicely 3 times and when we have asked it does stop so it seems like it is in control and they are just lazy. They came from a 3800-square foot home to a 1450-square foot condo. Knowing there are issues like this I would think you would investigate your surroundings first before buying this type of place. My brother was mentally challenged so I certainly have compassion but this really has to stop – I am on the verge of calling 911 every time this happens. What is my recourse?

Mister Condo replies:

D.E., you are kind to be considerate and compassionate to understand the challenges your neighbors are facing. However, all unit owners, including you, have a right to peaceable enjoyment of their units. Clearly, this noise, regardless of the source, is violating your right to peace and quiet. Your recourse is to file an official complaint against your neighbor with the Board who will then take appropriate action. Typically, that involves summoning your neighbor to appear before the Board to address the rule violation. The Board then can take further action which is typically a fine or whatever else is outlined in your governing documents. If the noise continues, you continue to report it to the Board in writing (usually via the Property Manager). Your complaints are records of the association and, as such, are subject to review by any association members, including your neighbor. For this reason, some unit owners are reluctant to file a formal complaint. However, you have already tried the nice route and only received temporary reprieve. It is up to you to take the next step to restore the peace and quiet you are entitled to. Perhaps your neighbor will do a better job of restoring the calmness or perhaps they will realize that this close living quarters just isn’t the proper environment to raise a child with these types of special needs. Either way, I hope you get your peace and quiet back. All the best!

Who Owns the Condo Skylights?

R.M. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What does the CT Building Code rules for skylights i.e. window or part of roof structure?  Should the HOA be responsible for repairs if the skylight was originally installed?

Mister Condo replies:

R.M, as far as I know, the Connecticut Building Code does not address skylights. Of course, I am neither a building inspector nor an expert on the Connecticut building code. Since skylights are a part of the roof, many associations treat them as common elements (owned and maintained by the association). However, I also know of some condominiums where the skylights are treated as though they were windows and owned and maintained by the unit owner. It really comes down to your governing documents although some are silent on the issue creating a grey area where the Board must make a determination as to who owns and maintains them. Once that decision is made, a precedent is set and from that point forward the repairs and maintenance are typically handled the same way. So, off to your governing documents you go to see what, if any, descriptors are in place for skylights. If there are none, look to the history of how they have been handled in the past. Good luck!