Tag Archives: Governance

HOA Turns Off Water on 5-Day Delinquent Owner

B.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’m wondering if our Property Management really has a right to authorize disconnection of water in my unit due to unpaid HOA dues (only 5 days overdue to be exact) even if I don’t have an outstanding balance from my water provider. I can say that this is the first time that my HOA dues was paid late because I’ve been paying my dues always 1 year in advance. Hoping for your advice. Thanks

Mister Condo replies:

B.A., I am sorry that your HOA took such a drastic measure as turning off your access to water after you were only 5 days overdue with your payment after having a great track record for so many years. The reality is that every association has its own policies for such things and it would appear that yours is quite strict. As to whether or not they had the right to do so is a legal question best posed to an attorney in your area. My guess is that they tool lawful action and that you aren’t the only unit owner who has had this happen. You can always make a quick call to an attorney to confirm if your rights were abused. Other than that, my advice is to set up auto-payment or prepay as you have done in the past. Common fees are the lifeblood of any association. The association is right to do all that they can to assure they are paid in timely fashion by all unit owners. All the best!

Condo Board Issuing Fines without Hearings

A.F. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a board fine a unit owner without a hearing?

Mister Condo replies:

A.F., typically, the Board cannot simply fine a unit owner without due process which typically involves a written notice of violation and a summons to appear before the Board to explain the reasons for the violation. After hearing the unit owner’s rebuttal or explanation, the Board is then free to take whatever disciplinary action that is called for in the governance documents, which is typically a fine. There are rare exceptions but the Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA) does give unit owners very specific rights that many times supersede the association’s own governance documents. If you fell the Board is improperly doling out fines, ask them if they are following the state’s laws in doing so. If not, they should change their ways or risk being sued by a homeowner who will claim they had their rights violated. All the best!

Condo Unit Owner Controlling Voting Outcomes Using Proxies

B.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Typically, our condo meetings do not have many members present. There are 14 units in our association and usually there are at least 4 votes controlled by one person. My question, is there a limit to how many votes can be cast by one owner? With such a small association it appears that one owner can easily get a vote swayed his direction by having 4 votes.

Mister Condo replies:

B.S., voting by proxy varies from state to state and association to association. You need to look at your governance documents as well as your state’s laws to see how many votes one unit owner can cast. 4 out of 14 is over 25% of all the available votes. In Connecticut, for instance, proxy voting is limited to 15% of the available votes. If your state laws or governance documents don’t limit the amount of proxies one person can hold, there may be nothing to prevent such activity. Of course, you can always rally the other unit owners to attend the meetings and cast their votes. That is true democracy in action. Good luck!

Condo Terrace Maintenance Responsibility

B.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a member of the board. We have structural cement issues on the terraces and the rest of the board, that does not have a terrace, want to have a special assessment. We have money but we are also doing pointing and windowsill work. They want to take the monies from the non-terrace owners out of the general fund, and bill only the terrace units. The by-laws also are vague and state that repair and maintenance of these limited common areas fall on the unit owners. 

My terrace does not need any structural work. They also plan to have the terrace owners pay for their own scraping and painting of railings. They are trying very hard to get us all involved in this. Some of us took care of our terraces over the years, me for one. Can I protest this and just do my own aesthetic work? They want us all to pay high prices to have this scraping and painting done on the terraces. 

Mister Condo replies:

B.L., your association has entered into a very common dispute over ownership and maintenance of limited common elements. I assume these terraces are for the exclusive use of the unit owners whose terrace is attached to the unit. It would be nice if the by-laws spell out whose responsibility it is to maintain the terraces but that is not apparently the case. You can protest all you want but the Board is likely to prevail, especially f the wording is sketchy about the terrace ownership and maintenance. Limited common elements are not always treated as common elements due the very nature of the unit owner’s exclusive right to use the space. However, if the terraces are determined to be the association’s responsibility as any other common element would be, the terrace’s maintenance would fall upon the association, not the individual owners. This is one of those times where it might pay to have an attorney who is verse in common interest community law take a look at your documents to see if there is, in fact, a determination to be made. If the attorney sides with you, you might be able to persuade the Board to maintain the terraces. If not, the Board may have the final say with little or no recourse from unit owners with terraces. Best of luck! 

HOA Requires City Resident Parking Permits for Parking Passes

C.S. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am an owner of my condominium with an onsite parking lot. I have two parking spaces on my unit deed. Due to recent parking issues the HOA sent out a letter stating in order to receive our new parking pass for our parking lot we must obtain a city resident parking permit prior to any passes being issues. Is this something an HOA can require?

Mister Condo replies:

C.S., I don’t see why not. You are a resident of the city and assuming unit owners are paying taxes to the municipality in return for their parking permit, it isn’t too far of a jump for the association to use the city’s parking permit for verification for their own parking pass issuance. If a unit owner were denied a parking pass for a deeded space based solely on refusal to produce a city parking permit, I could see where the rule could be challenged but it would take time, effort, and a lawsuit to do so. My guess is that it is just easier to comply with the HOA’s request. Good luck! 

Condo Board Changes Dog Ownership Rules or Did They?

D.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our Declaration of bylaws states household pets, dogs, cats, birds are welcomed. Our rules & regulations that were written and passed by the board and not by owner has banned dogs. Which ruling is correct? We recently found out the board keeps two versions of the bylaws on hand and distributes a version without the page that includes the portion that dogs are welcomed to new owners. Do I need to hire a lawyer or can I just tell the board I’m getting a dog? Can board members who have intentionally hid bylaws be banned from being on the board.

Mister Condo replies:

D.C., I am sorry that your Board is practicing deceptive communications. You will most definitely need to hire an attorney to challenge the by-laws if you decide to get a dog. The Board can be sued for not issuing updated condo documents to new owners but that isn’t likely to help your case. The original declaration and by-laws will work to your advantage but that isn’t to say the by-laws have not been legally modified since then. The Board would need to show that the rule was legally adopted and the by-laws modified. They would also have to explain why the proper by-laws are not being provided to new owners. What often happens is the Board thinks they have modified the by-laws but have not, in fact, taken all of the required steps, which nullifies their actions. Your attorney can guide you through the process if it comes to that. Good luck!

Condo Unit Owner Claims Negligence as Reason for Not Paying Assessment

V.M. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If I do not pay an assessment because of negligence by the trustees do I lose my rights as a unit owner?

Mister Condo replies:

V.M., regardless of what the reason for not paying an assessment, the association will very likely take collections action against you, up to and including foreclosing on your home. You do not fight a claim of negligence by withholding fees or assessments because the association has a legal duty to collect those funds from you and from all unit owners. You have rights as well and challenging the Board with a claim of negligence is done with a lawsuit initiated by you against the association. The only thing withholding fees or assessments will accomplish is legal fees and possible loss of your condo through foreclosure. That is not a good strategy, in my opinion. All the best!

Condo Parking Lot Design Blocks Walkway Access

S.A. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo has unassigned parking with a “two space” limit, first come-first serve. The issue is that spaces are directly in front of my walkway. Vehicles completely block it. During normal weather I can use the grassy area to go around. During winter when snow is piled high and I have to squeeze between vehicles and there would be no way for a quick medical extradition if needed. I have requested adjustment numerous times without any solution. I even drew a schematic with an easy solution. I also have a 20% disability to my right leg. Is this a legal parking spot? Thank you

Mister Condo replies:

S.A., unless the local building code calls for something else, these parking spots. Are under direct control of the board to use as they see fit. You would think that they would want to keep a path clear for unit owners and first responders but I am not aware of any law requiring them to do so. This parking condition has likely existed since the condo was built so it is not a new condition. Keep speaking common sense to the Board. Perhaps they will agree with you and act. If you feel your disability entitles you to more than the Board is willing to do, you might want to speak with an attorney to see if you can sue them and force them to act. Other than that, I think you are stuck with the parking situation as it is. Good luck!

Lack of Maintenance by Self-Run Condo Board

D.T. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The self-run condo board is not taking care of the maintenance of our complex. Shingle, roof, painting and paving have not been addressed in years. We pay on an average of 350.00 a month in HOA fees. What recourse do the owners have to get action and for the board to be held accountable to provide proper upkeep for our complex? Is there a state board that we can contact that can help us?

Mister Condo replies:

D.T., I am sorry that you find yourself at odds with your Board over care and maintenance of your complex. I wish I could say that you were alone in your dissatisfaction but the truth is that many associations simply haven’t saved enough money over the years to appropriately maintain their properties. This leads to the unpopular Special Assessment and the equally unpopular increase to common fees. In your case, $350 per month should likely be adjusted to $450 per month or higher. That way, the current expenses of the association could be paid and a healthy contribution to the Reserve Fund for future repairs could be established. As for the immediate needs of the association, a loan or Special Assessment is very likely needed. From the brief list you have provided, I wouldn’t be surprised if $10,000 or more per unit would be needed. If unit owners can’t afford that kind of one-time payment, then a loan (which will also increase common fees and have the additional expense of interest) is in order. The bottom line is that Boards of Directors turn over in condo associations over time. Each new Board inherits the good or bad practices of the previous Board. In associations that require maintenance on 20 to 30 year-old buildings, that means either having the money to do the projects from the great fiscal planning of previous Boards or picking up the pieces from poorly thought out Reserve Fund planning. Guess which kind of association you live in? The bottom line is that it takes money to perform the needed maintenance and that money only comes from one place – the owners. It sounds to me like it is time for your association to pay the piper. Of course, all of the unit owners have a say in raising common fees and Special Assessments. Neither are popular and both have real consequences to owners, including forcing out the folks who can’t pay up. However Darwinian as this sounds, it is the way of the world. I wish you and your community good luck in solving this difficult problem.

Aggressive Dog Worries Condo Board

K.D. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What is the procedure if an owner has an aggressive dog on property. Do we have to wait for an incident before having the animal removed?

Mister Condo replies:

K.D., I am sorry that you have an aggressive dog housed within your condo. “Aggressive” is a subjective term so it is quite difficult for me to give you an answer you can put into action. Start with your current by-laws and see what they say about pet restrictions. There are usually rules about noise (barking), which is typical with an aggressive canine, and limitation of size. Smaller dogs are not typically considered a threat or classified as “aggressive”. You can also check with your local animal control officer to discuss any local ordinances that are designed to protect residents. Other than that, unless there is an attack made by this dog on a unit owner, guest, or other animal on property, there may be no rules or laws that are being broken. Good luck!