Tag Archives: Governance

Condo Association Limits Number of Occupants per Unit

D.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our Condominium is all 2 and 3 bedrooms per unit. All bedrooms are in excess of 100 Square feet in size. The Condominium Association limits the occupancy to two members per unit. It charges $200.00 for each occupant over 2. There is nothing in our Declaration about this limit. Nor can I find any federal or state laws that would allow this limit. Have you folks ever heard of this? Thank You, DL!

Mister Condo replies:

D.L., yes, I have heard of associations placing restrictions on occupancy of their units. Typically, this is done to prevent overcrowding of the community and too many residents using the amenities and common areas. Too many cars, too many people in the health club or swimming pool, etc.. Is the $200 charge for additional occupants monthly or a one-time fee? If there is nothing in your Declaration, it is likely a rule that the association adopted previously. As long as the rule was adopted in accordance with the association’s governing documents and does not violate local, state, or federal housing laws, the rule stands. Good luck!

Condo’s Underfunded Reserve Creates Many Problems

C.R. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo building with 58 units. There are zero adornments except for a very nice meeting room. We have two elevators which travel eleven floors up and down. I am currently serving on the board. Our Reserve fund is at 18K which in my eyes is very low. We will need a major elevator repair in a few years and increasing insurance as well as a rooftop service plan. We have decided to increase HOA dues 15% = $3000. more each month or 20% increase equaling an extra $4000. per month. We want to propose this to our residents and are working on a plan. Currently, there are a few things that need addressing (i.e. a new awning, a better gardener and washing the windows). We do not feel we can do these things with such a low Reserve. We have had many leak and flooding issues some handled by insurance some not. Can you offer any advice?

Mister Condo replies:

C.R., I feel your pain. When it comes to long-range planning and proper funding a Reserve Plan and a commitment to fund the suggested amounts of Reserves is a commitment taken on by the community (through the Board) are always the best solution to problems like yours. However, as many as 7 out of 10 associations decided to underfund or completely fail to fund their Reserve Fund, leaving them in the same precarious situation you now find yourself in. You have answered your question by suggesting that it is time to increase common fees and fund the Reserve. It may also be time to consider a community association loan to make the more urgent repairs. Neither of these options are going to be popular with the unit owners as both will cost them an increase to their monthly fees. Many Board members who wish to continue serving on the Board will be afraid of upsetting their constituents by suggesting an increase to the common fees but that is what needs to be done. How you handle it will determine your success. I suggest an open dialogue with all unit owners. Explain the problem and the proposed solution. It may be a bitter pill for them to swallow but it is the only way to keep their investment properly protected and financially secure. Good luck!

Former Condo Board President Feeling Threatened by New President

W.R. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I been having serious issues with the new president and other board members since I stepped down a year ago. This position went to the new president’s head to the point where she put all my neighbor’s business out in the community and when my neighbor addressed her via email she then called the management company to tell them she felt threatened by her. Then we were going back and forth via email about some of the bylaws & rules and as well as rumors that she was talking trash about me, she turned around and falsely accused me of threatening her and called the cops. The officers could not find any evidence of me doing that. Life for me has never been the same since. She doesn’t like to be told what to do and put my personal business concerning my email address in an email that went out to the entire community instead of addressing me only. How do I have her removed or handle this? Can I file a harassment charge against her and the board?

Mister Condo replies:

W.R., I am sorry for your troubles. As you know, I am not an attorney nor do I offer any legal advice in this column. If you are serious about filing charges against the President or the association, I think you should speak with an attorney to see if you have a case. As far as having her or any other Board member removed from office, you need only to vote them out at the next opportunity. Board members are democratically elected by all unit owners. If they aren’t serving the needs of the community, there is no need to return them to office. Of course, that means you will need to have other candidates willing and able to serve. You say that you just stepped down. You know what the commitment to serve is like. Perhaps you should run again or encourage a fellow unit owner to run. If you don’t replace these folks, you will very likely get more of the same. If they violate the rules of governance for your association, you can take action. Again, this may require the services of an attorney. I hope it doesn’t come to that. All the best!

Repair Costs to Condo Limited Common Elements

R.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When an HOA is paying for repairs of limited common elements that vary by unit (eg decks) and it must be paid by special assessment, can this be imposed based on actual cost of work per unit or must it be equal in % to the common elements. In our case it’s set up as 1/12th – equal for all units even though we are smaller and have less decks.

Mister Condo replies:

R.B., without being able to review your governance documents, I really can’t offer you a specific answer here. Typically, common elements are handled by the association in accordance with how the governing documents dictate. If the item in question is not mentioned, in your case “decks”, then the repairs are handled the way all other repairs are handled, in common. If the documents call for the decks to be maintained by the unit owners, then it is their responsibility. Special Assessments have their own rules for how they are levied. Again, your documents specify the terms. Typically, an assessment is levied in proportion to the percentage of unit ownership formula but there are exceptions. My advice is for you to review your condo documents about common and limited common element repair and maintenance. I think you will find your answer there. All the best!

Condo Owner Acting as Unofficial Landlord

C.P. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

One of the condo owners in our complex does not reside in her unit. Instead, she lets “various friends??” use her condo for periods of time ranging from a few weeks to several months. There have been several residents in her unit and lots of problems, ie: drug overdoses, excessive drinking, police in and out. She claims these people are guests and therefore does not have to abide by the condo rules or town rules regarding rentals. Therefore, she avoids having her place inspected by the local Board of Health and paying the fee involved. No leases exist and the people staying at her place are supposedly “guests” and paying nothing. Everyone in the association knows the whole setup is bogus and we would like to put an end to it. Any suggestions.

Mister Condo replies:

C.P., there are solutions to every condo problem, in my opinion. In your case, it is a job for an attorney. If your current governance documents do not have enough definition of who can live in a unit with or without a lease, it is time to stiffen the rules and the penalties for violating those rules. Any competent community association attorney in your area should be able to help. Once these rules are in place, residents without a lease will no longer be allowed. Keep in mind that these new regulations will have to be observed by ALL unit owners and residents. You may limit guests to no more than a day or a week of residency, for instance. That might affect unit owners who have family come visit for extended periods of time. Understand that once these rules are enacted, all unit owners will be affected. That is why I recommend you work with an attorney to draft the right regulations, properly vote them into the by-laws, and then enforce them evenly. I am confident that you can get this one unit owner to start playing fair and get your vagrancy problem under control. Good luck!

Condo Owners Creating Eyesore By Using Patios as Storage Areas

J.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have concrete patios in front of basement doors. We now have homeowners leaving all kinds of stuff (sand boxes, gas grills, coolers, etc.) on their patios which is seen from the pool area and making it look very sloppy. Looking for regulations on what can be left on Patio area in front of each homeowner’s unit.

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., I am sorry that your fellow homeowners have decided to use their patio concrete slabs as storage areas, creating an eyesore for the community. Have you looked at your existing governance documents? It is quite common for there to be rules and regulations about how common and limited common elements can be used by unit owners. It may be as simple as having these rules enforced. If the documents are silent on the use of the space, it is time to ask the Board to consider new rules to keep the property looking great. If the Board refuses or there isn’t enough consensus to enact such rules, there may be nothing you can do. If there aren’t rules against using a common element like a patio in a certain manner, it is typically up to the unit owner to use the space as they see fit. Hopefully, between existing or future restrictions, you can get the eye appeal of your association back up to snuff. All the best!

Condo Board Lax in Enforcing Leasing Covenants

S.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

There are 17 out of 80 condos that are rented or have rooms rented out with no permission or application submitted by any of these owners or tenants. I have a list supplied by the former maintenance man. I got this when he still worked there. They have refused by request to rent mine out. I am recently widowed and am hoping I can arbitrate based on selective enforcement rules. Also, there seems to not be a census though president claims to mail it in. Do I have a good chance to win?

Mister Condo replies:

S.A., typically, condo governance documents require landlords to disclose who their tenants are and to provide a copy of the lease to the Board or Property Management Company, acting as the Board’s agent. Like any governance provision, it is only as effective as it is enforced. From what you are telling me, your current Board is uninterested in enforcing the regulation. Therefore, chaos rules and it puts unit owners such as yourself in a precarious situation with regards to leasing their own unit. When your case comes to arbitration, it will force the issue with the Board as to why there are so many undocumented rentals in the community and why are they choosing to enforce the regulation only against you. This could put them in a potential discrimination lawsuit position and they may be eager to see it your way and allow your lease. However, when it comes to Boards, attorneys, and arbitration, it is difficult to predict which way the wind will blow on any given day. I would encourage you to seek the arbitration and I wish you the best of luck. I do think that if what you have told me is true, you have a very good chance of prevailing.

Condo Owner Seeks Conversion of Handicapped Parking Space

K.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I purchased a painted and marked handicap parking space in my new condo. I was told that since no new owner needed that parking spot it was up for grabs. I now want them to take down the sign and paint over the handicap decal. They refused saying “that is still a designated handicap spot”. Can I press my issue to have all handicap designations removed since I am the deeded owner of this space? Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

K.S., you can certainly press the issue but I am not certain you will prevail. There are a few key terms here that need clarification before I can offer you any advice. First off, a phrase like “I was told” raises a flag with me. By whom? If the spot was “up for grabs” how is it that you now claim it is deeded to you? Typically, the Board controls the parking lot and the parking lot is common ground. The Board can designate spaced to be for handicapped use, which it sounds like they have done. They are not under any obligation to convert a commonly owned parking space to non-handicapped just because you request for them to do so. Conversely, if, in fact you do own the space and it is part and parcel of your deed, you may have every right to convert the space back to non-handicapped use. This is likely a matter for your attorney to discuss with you to see what, if any, legal rights you may have in this matter. All the best!

Condo Radiant Flooring Failure Creates Big Problem

J.G. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo had radiant floor heating. The heating split in the floor and is unable to be fixed. I have requested quotes from several different HVAC installers and they all have come up with a heating system that requires an outside condenser. My question is if the association says no to the condenser outside my unit what are my rights to having an affordable working heating system in my unit?

Mister Condo replies:

J.G., I am sorry to say that you would have almost no “rights” to installing a new HVAC unit on the association common grounds as it is owned by the association and not you. I have to question the lack of repair available to you and I would strongly suggest you contact other repair people who specialize in radiant floor heating. You are certainly well within your rights to petition the Board to allow for an HVAC installation outside of your unit. Are other units in your condo heated or cooled with external units? If so, you can argue that the precedent has been set and that you are simply doing what other unit owners have already done. In my experience, Boards aren’t likely to get in the way of an HVAC unit being installed where other units are already present. However, they may dictate that your new unit be like kind and model as others already on the grounds. This is their right under architectural compliance. My guess is you will either find a different repairman to fix your radiant floor heating system (ideal) or you will have the Board tell you which type of heating system they will allow or they will ask you to provide the specification for your installation and will either approve or deny based on the architectural compliance guidelines established for the association. All the best!

Seasonal Condo Landlord Faces Pushback from Year-Round Owners

S.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I bought a condo as a vacation home in Maine. There are five units. As I live in Massachusetts, and still work full-time, I am only able to use it intermittently in the summer, and then I rent it out November – May. There is another owner that rents hers year-round, and a third that comes intermittently in the summer and closes it up for the winter. That leaves two other units that are owner-occupied year-round. One of them is proposing that the non year-round owners pay an extra percentage or dollar on the monthly condo fees “for months when owners are not here to cover all the management/maintenance issues that fall to those who live here full time”. Can they do this? I would agree that the year-round owners are the ones who have to call the repairman, or may sweep up between cleaning lady visits, or admit inspectors to our units if required, but should they/can they be compensated through additional fees?

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., unless your governing documents allow for such a fee (unlikely), then the only way to add one would be to modify the documents. Since three of the five unit owners would likely vote against such a rule, it is unlikely to pass. That being said, there may be some validity to what the other year-round unit owners are asking and since it is such a small community, you might want to find an agreeable solution to keep peace and harmony in the community. Personally, I would argue that the year-round unit owners are benefitting by being the ones making the calls to repairmen and keeping their homes in good working order. If they need additional “sweeping up” between cleaning lady visits, perhaps it is time to schedule more cleaning lady visits, an expense shared by ALL unit owners, even those not there year-round to benefit directly from the additional cleaning. Other than that, I think they should review the governance documents and realize that the real estate purchase they made entitles them to the common services as outlined. Anything above that is an unreasonable expectation on their part. Good luck!