Tag Archives: HOA

Turning a 2-Bedroom Condo into a 3-Bedroom Unit

M.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are considering buying a condo which has 2 bedrooms. We thought to set the kids in the bedrooms and transform the dining room into our “bedroom”. We were thinking to install some sliding doors to enclose the dining room – they could be just sliding on the ceiling, no need for railing on the floor. We just need some privacy as adults, but we are not fussy. Anything simple, practical would do. However, after reading online that permission needs to be asked for everything from HOA, we are a bit skeptical they would allow sliding doors. Then we thought about using IKEA tall bookcases, or even heavy curtains as dividers. What do you think would be our best bet? Does any idea above not need approval from HOA? Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

M.M., by design, this 2-bedroom condo has two bedrooms. You are attempting to turn it into a three-bedroom unit. My first instinct is to tell you to simply look for three-bedroom unit so you don’t need to alter the unit in any way, regardless of the permission required by the HOA. HOA restrictions are in place for a few reasons. People purchase into an HOA with an expectation that the HOA rules will be observed by residents and enforced by the Board of Directors and/or their assigns such as the Management Company. If you can find a way to live comfortably in this unit without breaking any of the HOA covenants, then you should be good to go. However, consider the long-term ramification of giving up a dining room or needing to live behind a bookcase instead of a walled-off room as is typical for most adults. It seems to me that you simple need a larger unit. Maybe the cost is keeping you from seeking such a unit but I have to question the long-term happiness of you and your family living in a confined space without a dining area. One of the central goals of condo living is a comfortable life style. If you can achieve that without breaking any rules, more power to you. Only you can answer that question. Good luck!

HOA Repairs Handled in Untimely Fashion

T.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I made a request to repair flashing and downspout to our townhome exterior? How long should it take for the repair to be completed? Unit owners are now responsible for exterior insurance coverage.

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., responsiveness to unit owner requests for repairs is a function of several items at HOAs and condominium associations. If the association is professionally managed, there is usually a process of issuing a work order and then the order being fulfilled, either by the management company or the contractor hired to do the work. In self-managed associations, the process is similar although there may not be as robust a response if the work coordination is handled by volunteer Board members who may need time to bid out the work, hire a contractor, and actually get the work done. In both situations, there needs to be ample money available to pay for the work and there may be some bureaucracy that slows the process. For instance, if the repair cost exceeds a threshold for spending that the management company does not have, say $2500 or more, the repair may need to be approved by the Board at the next Board meeting. Depending on how frequently the Board meets, this could be a significant delay. The job may have to be sent for bid, another process that could delay the repair by months. Finally, if the association is cash-strapped and doesn’t have enough money to pay for the repair, the project could be delayed for quite some time. Your job doesn’t sound too complicated or expensive so my guess is you just need to keep on top of the folks who handle the repair. The squeaky wheel usually gets the grease but be polite when you inquire about the delay. My guess is that the repair should be handled within a few months of the request. If not, write to the Board and ask for an explanation of the delay. Keep on top of them until your repair is made. All the best!

HOA Wants to Sell Parking Space to Home Owner!

H.G. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a homeowners’ association buy little stubs that in the past 50+ years have not been used and simply allowed easy access to parking on either side of two beach property homes and were either owned by no one or owned by the association and force the owner of the home to purchase it ($7k) or risk that someone else will buy it and use for parking between your homes and make parking for us nearly impossible?

Mister Condo replies:

H.G., that is a loaded question if I ever heard one! It is a question that would best be answered by an attorney, which I am not. Who owns the parking spaces? If it is the association, they can very likely handle the access to those spaces however they see fit. Even if they haven’t invoked their right to charge a fee for the past 50+ years as you state, it is still their property. If you own the property, that is a different story. If they are selling you the space for $7,000 and it is then yours to use or sell as you see fit, I would think that is a good investment. Otherwise, as you say, who know who else could buy it and prevent easy parking for you and your guests. 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!

HOA Bills Unit Owner for Repair Team’s Lack of Unit Access

J.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The unit above me leaked into my garage. The owner happens to be on the Board of Directors. He is having the HOA pay for it. Now, I got a bill from HOA that my tenant was not home for them to do the work.

Mister Condo replies:

J.C., well this is certainly a series of unfortunate events. I am sorry for your troubles. Typically, the association carries insurance for damage caused by your fellow unit owners. The fact that this unit owner serves on the Board of Directors is irrelevant unless you are alleging wrongdoing on the part of the Director. From what you have told me, I do not see any wrongdoing here. The Director is also a unit owner and protected by the same association insurance that you are. The HOA dispatched a repair operation to your unit, which is what they are supposed to do. Was their communication between the HOA, the repair firm, and you or your tenant? If so, and your tenant agreed to be home when the repair team was dispatched yet failed to be there, I can see where the HOA would assess a fee to you for the cost of the repair team not being allowed access to your unit. If there was no communication that a repair team was coming and they are still charging you, I would challenge that fee and maybe even speak to an attorney about the fee to see if it is something you could sue over. Chances are the amount in question is too small to sue over. The bottom line is that you want the repairs to your unit made so work with your HOA to make sure that happens. If your tenant can’t be there, you may have to be there yourself to make sure the repair team has access. All the best!

Homeschooling Condo Unit Owner Seeks to Add Garage Window

A.R. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I want to add a window in the garage because I homeschool my kids and is too hot inside for them.

Mister Condo replies:

A.R., I appreciate your desire to provide a window for your children as you feel it would help cool your garage, which I gather you are using as a classroom for homeschooling purposes. However, adding items like windows falls squarely under the governance authority of the Board who has to consider the architectural compliance issues that allowing you to do so may create. If you are allowed to add a window to a garage, theoretically all unit owners who asked for the same modification would have to be allowed. That creates a potential nightmare for the Board, who has a duty to keep the community looking in a uniform fashion. You can certainly ask but please respect the decision of the Board in this matter. It isn’t as simple granting your request to assist with your homeschooling efforts; the decision has far-reaching consequences. All the best!

Denver Condo Owner Getting a Snow Job from the Association!

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K.A. from Denver, Colorado writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hello! My HOA piles all the snow from our parking lot directly behind my parking spot making my spot unusable until it melts, which can be 2 days or 2 weeks, depending on how much it has snowed and the temperature. My spot is deeded and I own that spot. They have said there is nowhere else to put the snow. I disagree; there are options but just not as convenient. My dad owned the unit since 1981 and rented most of them time for a very small amount so the tenant who lived there about 20 years just dealt with it and never brought it to his attention as her rent was VERY low. I only became aware after I bought the unit from his estate after he passed away. Parking on the street is very difficult after about 7pm as I live in a dense urban area so it can take a while to find a spot and it’s not very close at times. We have a company that we pay to deal with HOA issues and the man who does our building acts like I just need to deal with it. My question is, do I have ANY legal recourse??? To me it seems to be a right of way issue- like if I had a driveway and some blocked it. Any info or advice would be greatly appreciated!!

Mister Condo replies:

K.A., thank you for your letter and I think you have already answered your own question. Yes, you have legal recourse against the association for taking over your deeded space with their excess snow. Yes, it will cost them more to remove the snow in proper fashion but neither of those problems are yours. Speak with an attorney, threaten the association with a lawsuit, and, if they don’t change their ways, sue them! They will need to modify their snow removal arrangements to make sure your space is as free of snow as everyone else’s space. The extra cost of snow removal may cause a need for extra money in the snow removal budget but that expense is shared by all unit owners, not just you. Please keep in mind that I am not an attorney nor am I an expert is Colorado community association law so please speak with a qualified local attorney at your earliest convenience for a proper legal opinion. Good luck!

Community Manager Test Specifics

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J.B. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When and Where is the next state test to become a community manager?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., that is a great question! You can always get up to the minute information at the CAI-CT website at caict.org and, in particular, on the Manager Licensure page at http://www.caict.org/?page=ManagerLicensure. You will find a link there to the Frequently Asked Questions about Community Association Manager Licensing at the State of Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection website (the state’s DCP oversees Community Association Manager licensing in our state) – http://www.ct.gov/dcp/cwp/view.asp?a=1629&Q=521982 Everything you need to know is there. I will say that there is not a scheduled time for a particular test and that many applicants simply take an online or onsite computer driven test for the testing portion of the licensure. It all starts with completing the coursework from CAI to become a community manager. Once completed, there are several testing options available to you, including a pen and paper test if there is enough demand for one. Traditionally, these have happened in March and September but there is no formal scheduled event for me to direct you to. Good luck fulfilling the requirements and passing the test!

HOA Board Assigning Parking Spaces

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T.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have 14 units and 28 parking spaces. The HOA is currently talking about assigning one parking space per unit. Is this a good idea?

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., management of common resources and elements like the parking lot is the purview of the Board. 14 units and 28 parking spaces is a fine ratio assuming all unit owners use one space for a personal vehicle and leave the other space for guest parking. However, what happens when one unit has more than two cars parked on the property? What if a unit owner had no available parking for their own vehicle or guest because another unit owner occupied available parking spaces? These problems become the problem of the Board so I think it is wise of them to address the issue before it becomes a problem and before bad habits set in. If you follow my column on a regular basis, you will see that I field an awful lot of parking-related issues. Assigning parking spaces is likely a good idea and will create a better sense of parking rules for residents. Good luck!

Does the HOA Have a Say in Who I Hire for My Own Basement Repair?

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B.R. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a condo HOA force me to use their maintenance person as a contractor to repair something inside my own unit? I have a problem in the basement with moisture on the wall. It is not clear whether it is coming from my unit, another unit, or a common element. It’s not a very big spot, but I am concerned that it be repaired correctly and safely as to not create a bigger problem. I’d prefer to hire a licensed contractor that I trust to investigate the problem. The HOA keeps acting like they can tell me I can’t do this or that I need some sort of approval unless I use their person. It is my understanding that as long as my investigation/repair doesn’t involve something clearly indicated as a common element, they really have no say in this? Am I mistaken?

Mister Condo replies:

B.R., determining who has ownership of the basement and all of the components that go into a basement within an HOA can be challenging. Does your basement abut to a neighbor’s basement where you share a wall? Do common utilities run through your basement? Do you have a sump pump that dries more than your unit? Depending on the nature of the work being done, it is possible that the HOA does not have a say other than to require you to provide a license and proof of insurance for the contractor before work begins. Sometimes, it is just simpler to use their preferred contractor because the contractor has inside knowledge of how the buildings were built and how they run best. Your water spot may be something their contractor has seen a dozen times and knows what the likely culprit and remedy are. In that case, they HOA may actually be doing you a favor by having you use their contractor. One final caveat is to review your HOA governance documents. It should spell out when you need to use an association-approved contractor. My final piece of advice is just practical. If this is not a very big spot and likely a small repair, if any, why not just go with the HOA’s suggested contractor? I can’t imagine this is going to be a very big deal one way or the other. Hope it all works out for you.