Tag Archives: Governance

Big Amenities Still Being Added to this Big Apple Condo!

L.L. from New York City writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi, Mr. Condo! We are in a 90-unit newer (2009 built) condo in NYC with doorman, gym, roof/grill facilities. A bike storage was originally promised by the sponsor. However, they have not been cooperative in fulfilling that promise. Currently the board presented a bike storage design that features another grill/kitchen, a still reflecting pool, fire pit and many seemingly excessive designs. Also, there is no budget or cap on this current project. Although we have an adequate Reserve Fund for the building, the board is planning on taking out a loan in addition to using cash to fund this project.

How much would a second grill/kitchen, small reflecting still water pool and fire pit add to the selling price of units in this building? Will the cost and maintenance/liability outweigh the positive? (To be honest I am failing to see any positives on these added features)

Mister Condo replies:

L.L., sounds like you live in a lovely condominium, despite the problems you are now facing with the sponsor fulfilling all of the promised amenities. Despite the potential for increased costs and maintenance liability, it is likely that these additional amenities will make the condo more desirable, which is what drives up market value as well as outside factors like real estate prices for competitive units. I am a bit confused about why the Board needs the loan if the sponsor is still in the picture but these amenities are likely part of the master plan that was approved and need to be either completed or, if possible, removed from the plan by a vote of the unit owners. You may also face pushback from the city as the project approved is the only one that can be built without going through the approval process again with no guarantee changes would be acceptable. In other words, in for a penny, in for a pound and the most likely course is for the original plans to be honored, regardless of the price and regardless of whether or not individual unit value will increase because of the amenities. I’ve never known property values to decrease because of increased amenities and my guess is that it will enhance the value of your existing units. All the best!

Who Owns the Carpeting on a Carpeted Condo Balcony?

L.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo association installed carpeting on balconies many years prior to my purchasing my unit. The association is now requiring the carpet be removed at my expense. I claim that I did not install the carpet therefore I am not responsible for its removal.

Mister Condo replies:

L.B., that is an interesting quagmire you find yourself in. Are you certain of the carpet installation history? Balconies are typically limited common elements for the use of the unit owner who has exclusive use of the balcony. If that is the case, the Board may feel as though individual unit owners are responsible for the carpet maintenance as it is for the limited use of the unit owner, in this case, you. Your claim that you did not install the carpet may be true but you really need to find out who owns the carpet. If the association owns it, then they are responsible for the upkeep. If it was installed by a previous unit owner or by the association but at a previous unit owner’s request or expense, then it is quite possible that the Board is correct. However, it is worth your time in getting a straight answer. Ask to see the records from when the carpet was originally installed. See if you can’t find definitive proof of who owns the carpet. Good luck!

HOA Sues Owner for Trying to Rescue a Stray Cat

J.H. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My neighbor accused me of feeding a feral cat. HOA is taking me to court. I was not feeding a feral cat! This female cat was tame, but pregnant. I was feeding the cat in order to catch her. If I had not, there would now be 3 females pregnant by the 2 tomcats roaming the condo complex. I did these people a favor! I bought the food, sat outside with the woman from a rescue organization and caught the mother and two kittens. Can a HOA have ordinances to override the County, City and State laws?

Mister Condo replies:

J.H., I salute your efforts to help but I hope you can understand how dangerous feeding any wild animals can be and the potential risk it puts on the HOA. Your neighbor had no way of knowing what you were up to and reported the behavior to the Board, who took the appropriate action for your rules and by-laws. I cannot imagine that any of their rules override local laws and the answer to that question is “no”, they cannot have rules that conflict with local ordinances. I have to believe that the correct solution to this problem would have been for you to report the stray but tame cat to the association and let them take whatever steps they deem appropriate to remedy the situation. After all, this wasn’t your cat. The person from the rescue organization would have been their likely contact and the same end result could have been achieved without your personal involvement in rescuing the animal. I am sure you meant well and I am guessing you are an animal lover, which I certainly admire. However, in most HOAs, feeding stray or ferial animals, regardless of your intention or their tameness, is prohibited due to the risk of pestilence and/or animal attacks on residents. All the best!

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!

Condo Sidewalk Repair Project Causes Unit Access Loss

L.D. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo board in Lee County, Florida just told me I will lose access to my unit, which is my only residence, for a full week in order to do maintenance work on the walkways and power wash the buildings. I am currently on an extended tour of Asia and return the very week the work is scheduled to be returned. Can the board throw me out on the streets like that? And what procedures must they follow if they can do that?

Mister Condo replies:

L.D., I am sorry that the scheduled power washing of the buildings and sidewalk repairs coincide with your return from duty. Thank you for your service. The Board isn’t so much throwing you to the streets as they are alerting you that they are protecting your investment with power washing and walkway maintenance. I am a bit surprised that they need a full week and that they are suggesting you need to lose access to your unit during the cleaning and walkway repair but you may wish to ask them. It is possible that it is an insurance issue or that the walkways will be unsafe during the project. Explain your situation and respect the Board’s concern for the safety of you and all residents during this repair. On the upside, you should have clean buildings and beautiful new walkways when the project is completed. 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!

Neighborly Pet Behavior Missing at this Condo!

A.S. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a neighbor who has gotten out of control with her little dog relieving its self on her deck. It stinks! I contacted the property manager and health department. They both told me to take photos, proof, so I did. There is a hearing for the owner of this unit. I was told by the police that I cannot take photos, the police told me the property manager needs to take the photos. Our decks are 12′ off the ground, no stairs to them, so what am I supposed to do? Call the property manager and wait for him to come out? By that time, it’s too late!

Mister Condo replies:

A.S., you have a series of unfortunate events to deal with here if you are going to curb your neighbor’s behavior. The violation of your condo rules is the purview of the Board and the Property Manager. The police are only involved if laws are being broken. If your neighbor allowing her pet to relieve itself on the deck is a rule violation (most likely, it is), then you document the violation as requested by the Property Manager and let the Board take action against the neighbor. If the police are involved (likely through a domestic complaint) you need to follow their rules so they can enforce the laws. You may wish to hire an attorney to get a better answer as to what you can and cannot do for law enforcement. Honestly, if the Board takes action against the neighbor (violation letters, fines) that is probably all it will take to get the neighbor to be a more responsible pet owner. If that doesn’t work and you do need to involve the police, you will have to follow their instructions, as difficult and improbable as they sound. Good luck!

Apartment to Condo; Now Back to Apartment

N.P. from Illinois writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We bought a condo in 2010 in a large apartment complex that was going condo right when the recession hit. It was an investment and we rent it out. Not many condos were sold, the prices never dropped in the recession. Even now many (not sure how many) of the units are still rented out by the developer. Now we have received a letter saying that the developer wants to buy back our unit and NOT be a condo development. The letter is friendly, and says nothing about what happens if we don’t want to sell. We’ve had one tenant in there this entire time (with different roommates) and been very happy with this investment. Do you know what the laws are regarding this situation?

Mister Condo replies:

N.P., dissolution of condominiums varies from state to state. Just as when the project filed to become a condo, a new filing will be made to dissolve it. I am not familiar with the specifics of Illinois law regarding the dissolution of a condo but I imagine it is similar to other states. Typically, unless court ordered (which happens when an association fails or defaults), a petitioner sends in the required paperwork to dissolve the association. There is usually a majority or full 100% agreement required by all with an interest in the association. That can include mortgage holders as well as unit owners. This is a very legal action and you will most certainly wish to hire an attorney to guide you.

I found this link on dissolution of non-profit corporations in your state to be of use: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=080501050HArt%2E+12&ActID=2280&ChapterID=65&SeqStart=10900000&SeqEnd=12900000

I can see where the developer wants to stop the bleeding and the polite letter was likely an opening attempt to gauge your interest. The reality is that if there are many unsold units in the condo, it may fail due to lack of funds from common fees to pay expenses. If that happens, you could see a creditor sue the association and have a judge dissolve the association or put it in receivership. You don’t want that as that could be quite costly for all involved. If the developer wants to convert back to apartments, you should look into how best to protect your investment. It is likely that a smooth transition could actually help you out in the long run. Good luck!

Lights, Camera, Action! Condo Fine Fought with TV Presentation!

C.S. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

In the State of Florida, now the Board votes on if a unit owner should be fined for a violation and a fining and suspension committee acts as the hearing committee did in the past, giving the unit owner the chance to state their side, and the committee then decides if the fine voted on by the Board, should be upheld or if no fine is to be given. I have a Unit Owner who wants to state his side and have all of his friends give their opinion at the meeting, while also giving a TV presentation in which not all of the committee members will be able to see since they will be calling in. My question to you is can the unit owner have all of these people speak their opinion on behalf of him, and should he be allowed to give a presentation when not all of the committee members will be able to see. What exactly is the unit owner allowed to bring to this meeting or is this a place that he just pleads his case as to why he feels he shouldn’t be fined? Hope this all made sense.

Mister Condo replies:

C.S., it all makes perfect sense but what a crazy HOA and condo world we live in where unit owners feel the need to give a video presentation to defend themselves before a Board or Fining Committee. As far as friends speaking on the unit owner’s behalf, I would refer to the by-laws and any applicable state law. My guess is that one or two unit owners (neighbors) who have something of interest in the matter that will support the defense of the unit owner, it would be allowed. That being said, all participants should be kept to a timed presentation. Neither the Board nor the Fining Committee should be subject to endless banter in favor or against the fining of an individual unit owner. A complaint was made. The unit owner was notified. The unit owner appears before the governing body and either agrees a rule was broken or denies it. I would think the unit owner would not need more than two minutes to rebut the claim. Supporting unit owner testimony could easily be submitted in writing in support of the defense. I cannot see where a TV presentation is warranted although if there is a short video clip that supports the defense, I suppose it could be offered as evidence. Again, in advance of the meeting for review by the Board or Fining Committee before the meeting. Fines are not court cases. They are simply the Board administering the rules of the association as they are reported to be violated. I think this unit owner may have watched to much “Law and Order”. If the Board fines the unit owner and they disagree, they can appeal. Or they can pay their fine and move on. If they feel they have been discriminated against or treated unfairly, they have recourse through the courts. Other than that, let’s keep it simple, folks. All the best!

HOA Board Ain’t Fixin’ Nuttin!

R.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

4 months ago, I purchased a duplex which has 3 buildings and 6 owners. I had a hard time getting documents during the sale and did not understand the dynamics involved. The first email I got from the treasurer was on the day the fees were due. Our first meeting when I met the other owners was a nightmare. The president has been in position for 20 years and has Alzheimer’s so her daughter had appointed herself to the position. The treasurer was appointed by her, not vote, and the secretary had been behind 6 months in fees which they were trying to cover up. When I brought up concerns about the outside of our building, I was yelled at by the President’s son-in-law and told “we ain’t fixing nuttin, we got no money!” Then my neighbor brought up a repair not done properly and he stood up screaming and swearing at her and everyone started fighting. I asked for the bylaws and I was told by the president to find them myself. She doesn’t have them.

A few weeks ago, the fascia that needed repair was hanging off of my roof. I called the president and son in law started screaming and threatening me and said we have no money to fix it. I mentioned the Reserves that we should have had when I moved in, and both him and the treasurer admitted it was fudged to make the sale happen and accused my realtor of fraud. I had her call them and the next day the son-in-law apologized and paid out of pocket to have the fascia repaired.

They had previously called a special meeting to discuss the budget so I told them I did not want the son-in-law there as he has no business there; they agreed. The meeting started off ok until we brought up questions about missing payments from a couple of owners. We started getting bullied again. When the argument was brought up about the fascia I defended myself telling what the son-in-law said to me. He came running down the stairs screaming and swearing and threatening me again and threw me out of his mother-in-law’s house. I called the police.

I want to have the President, Treasurer, and Secretary removed by law for keeping false books, hostile environment, favoritism, harassment and negligence. If I have solid proof (which I do), will I be able to charge the association for the attorney since it’s in the best interest of the owners? It’s the board who caused all of these problems.

Mister Condo replies:

R.M., your tale of woe reads like a comedy of errors. I am glad you got your fascia replaced but the rest of this tale is a nightmare! This is a small homeowner’s association (6 units if I understood your opening statement). Small associations face the same challenges as larger associations but have far fewer resources to handle the issues. A functioning Board is a good start but there are legal remedies available to you. I want to ask you about your own purchase into this association. Did you use an attorney? Did the attorney review the governance documents? They can’t go missing as they are part of the closing process. Of course, if you somehow waived your right to these critical documents in an eagerness to make the purchase, you are experiencing a major case of “Buyer Beware!” It sounds to me like there is awful lot of impropriety going on here. You need to speak with an attorney, which I am not. I offer friendly advice; an attorney will offer you legal advice. You may end up suing the association, individual officers, anyone else associated with these misdeeds in an attempt to get the association back on sound footing. By the way, 6 owners don’t guarantee deep enough pockets to do that. In fact, you may be throwing good money after bad in an attempt to correct this problem. Your attorney can better advise you if you can include your own legal fees in any litigation but winning the litigation is just the beginning. You need to collect from these folks, who clearly don’t have the money from what you have told me. If it were me, I think I would try to sell and cut my losses. Otherwise, be ready to deal with an ongoing problem for months and even years to come. Keep the police on speed dial because these folks clearly have no idea what they are supposed to be doing and will likely continue doing what they have always done. Good luck!