Tag Archives: Legal

Condo Association Provides Inadequate Insurance

J.F. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If a condo association is maintaining flood insurance, but not the proper amounts as required by lenders to provide financing, how can condo owners force the board to purchase the proper amounts of insurance. A vote would be the simple answer, but a number of units are not interested in selling or refinancing. Is there a duty for the board to insure to the amounts that meet today’s lending requirements? Please note I looked at CT laws concerning duty to insure and the flood insurance provisions are somewhat gray to me.

Mister Condo replies:

J.F., Connecticut’s laws on the association’s duty to provide adequate coverage for units can be a bit confusing. At the very least, you have highlighted a specific area of concern that the law may not address clearly. As long as the association is providing adequate coverage to follow the law, there is no additional requirement that they follow what mortgage companies feel is adequate coverage. In other words, if a mortgage company determines the value of your unit to be higher than what the association has deemed appropriate, the mortgage company may claim a delinquency in insurance and either provide the additional insurance (at a premium to you) or mandate that you provide the additional insurance. This is particularly tricky for units that are in flood zones as the flood insurance is a separate policy from the association’s Master Policy. I have found that there is an additional layer to add to this confusion. If the insurance underwriter changes the amount of the Master Policy coverage, it may create a discrepancy with the flood insurance purchased by the association. In other words, the coverages may be for differing amounts which again cause the mortgage companies to claim a discrepancy and require matching amounts of property and flood insurance. The bottom line is that Boards need to keep a close eye on these policies by working with an insurance professional to make sure they are both adequately insuring the association and complying with state law. I do know of homeowners who have sued their association, claiming the association failed to provide adequate insurance. Will you need to do the same? Maybe. I would bring the insurance delinquency to the Board’s attention and see what they do. If you aren’t happy with the results, seek the advice of a local attorney who will let you know if you have a case. All the best!

Condo Owner Wants to Use Association Owner’s List to Mail Other Unit Owners

J.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is there any condo law against using the owners list of email addresses for personal forum? Such as I don’t think a 25.00 late fee was approximate and I want everyone to know they were wrong. Or, somebody left some trash in the clubhouse and I had to clean it up. I don’t get paid for this and I’m upset. For some reason this action has caught on and gaining momentum. What position does the board have in this and suggestions to stop it? Thanks in advance.

Mister Condo replies:

J.K., your governance documents may prohibit any owner from using the mailing addresses of fellow unit owners for personal or private business. It isn’t the proper forum for grieving late fees or discussing other association business. That’s what Board Meetings and Annual Association Meetings are for. If you are unhappy with association policies, procedures, rules and regulations, etc., you should make your concerns known to the Board. The Board is comprised of democratically elected leaders from within the association who are charged with governing the association in accordance with the rules and regulations of the community. They should be happy to hear you out and advise you if there is any additional action to take on your part or on theirs. That should get you on the right track to resolving your issues. And, you can always run for the Board yourself if you think you could do a better job governing the association. All the best!

Trying to Prevent Condo Water Damage

L.L. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

After my pressure relief valve poured water on my basement floor and caused damage to the floor of my rec room, the property manager informed me that it is a new law in CT that requires all condo owners need to install pans and sensors under their hot water heaters. One of the plumbers that gave me an estimate on the job to install these items, advised me that because I had no drain in the floor, my problem would not be solved, as the pan would not accommodate the amount of water that the hot water heater or the pressure relief valve would release. My question is: what can condo owners in my situation do to eliminate future potential water damage?

Mister Condo replies:

L.L., that is a great question! I am sorry for your problems with your water system. Did you ask the plumber what he would do if it were his home? My guess is that the repair would be in the association’s best interest and they may allow you to install an expert recommended solution. I am not sure of any law that requires condo owners to install pans and sensors although many insurers now require preventative maintenance and standards or they will not honor claims. You might ask the Property Manager to cite the law for you so you know what you are dealing with. If it is just a maintenance standard, do as they suggest so you are covered in the event of damage. Also, once the plumber gives you a proposed solution, speak with the Board about implementing it. Covering yourself from uninsured damage is one thing. Actually solving the problem is another. Good luck!

Condo Association Looks to Remove Use of Common Elements from Delinquent Unit Owner

C.S. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If an owner who has NOT paid Condo fees for a considerable amount of time (4yrs), can the condo association revoke the owner from parking in their assigned parking spot? Also, can the association revoke the privilege of having a storage unit?

Mister Condo replies:

C.S., typically speaking, the association may not remove any of the delinquent unit owner’s rights. In fact, if the association takes such action against the delinquent unit owner, they will very likely be sued by that unit owner. Delinquent common fee collection is separate from unit owner’s rights. There is a process that the association should be undertaking to collect this serious delinquency. That involves collection letters, demands, liens, and, ultimately, foreclosure against the unit. There are many collection firms and law firms in our state to assist the association. Do it the right way, and you’ll get your money. Do it the wrong way and the association will likely end up getting sued. Step carefully and get the money. Good luck!

New Condo Trustee Finds Evicting Long-Time Owner Uncomfortable

L.P. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a first-time home owner. For the first 2 years I lived in my unit I tried to be active in my (small) HOA, but the main Trustee never had time for me and HOA meetings were always cancelled. When he sold his unit, he hurriedly gave me a “crash-course” on duties a week before the closing. It wasn’t until weeks after that I realized he had conned me. He left me with unpaid bills (some a year old!), angry contractors, and one unit egregiously in the hole to the HOA. After weeks of talking with my neighbors, I got them to agree to a payment plan: they agreed to pay a minimum of their balance every month for 6 months—enough time to figure something out—and after 6 months they had to pay in full every month. A year later they are still only paying the minimum and have become even more in debt to the HOA with back fees and Reserve Studies. A friend’s wife—who is a lawyer—is helping me out with the lien process, but my question is this: what should I expect? This family (a retired couple and their adult son) have lived here for 20 years and now I (this young newcomer) is going to be threatening foreclosure. We all live in the same small building, run into each other often, and share a common stairwell. I feel terrible that I’m the one that’s going to be “evicting” them, but obviously they cannot afford to live here—we have not been able to do basic, needed maintenance for years because of their finances.

Mister Condo replies:

L.P., heavy is the head that wears the crown, my friend. People who purchase into an HOA do so at their own choosing. They are aware of the fees and costs associated with owning a home, condo, or unit within an association. While you are the embodiment of the HOA as it takes action against them for defaulting on their duty to pay their fees in timely fashion, they are also the makers of their own destiny. They need only look in the mirror to see the folks responsible for their demise. In fact, it is you they should be thanking for carrying their weight as they neglected to pay their fair share over the years. Where did they think the money would come from if they didn’t pay? Did they not realize that they were in fact forcing their neighbors to pay more than their fair share because they weren’t willing or able to pay theirs? You asked what should you expect? That’s really hard to say at this point. My guess is if these folks are insolvent, they will eventually be foreclosed upon and you will sell their unit and hopefully find some new owners who will fulfill their obligation to pay their fair share of the common fees. Eventually, the association should regain financial strength and get itself back on track. That is the nature of HOAs. The HOA is a not-for-profit business, the key word being “business”. Business is conducted under the terms of business agreed to by all parties. As long as those terms are met, the business thrives. When/if a party defaults, the business protects itself by exercising the clauses that make it a business, no more, no less. You are on the right track to getting back to business. Good luck!

Sample Condo Co-Ownership Agreement

S.E. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi I am looking for a sample co ownership agreement for two or more people owning a single condo unit.

Mister Condo replies:

S.E., co-ownership agreements are legal documents and they are not “one size fits all” as there are different laws in each state that would need to be taken into consideration before preparing such a document. Also, since I am not an attorney, I don’t offer any legal opinions or advice here. On a friendly note, I did a quick internet search of your query and found a great document at one of my favorite internet legal advice websites, nolo.com. Check out: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/joint-property-concurrent-ownership-32229.html. This article deals with various types of co-ownership and co-tenancy agreements. It might head you in the right direction. The best advice I have for you is to work with a locally qualified attorney who can give you the best answer for your part of the country. Happy Co-Ownership!

Condo Developer Refuses to Sell or Properly Maintain Association Amenities

R.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo complex was built about 25 years ago. The developer plans to build housing on the site and has retained ownership of the amenities such as the clubhouse, pool and tennis courts. The clubhouse is an unusable disaster (even has boarded up windows) and the tennis courts are in very poor condition. The pool is questionable but is used and maintained in the summer months only. After that it is an uncovered green swamp I get to look at. My window overlooks the pool. The current condo owners fund these facilities (in my opinion way too expensive) and yet have no control over our amenities. Our management company also manages the amenities that we don’t own. I see this as a conflict. Can anything be done to make this developer turn over the amenities?

Mister Condo replies:

R.M., I am sorry for the lack of properly maintained amenities at your association. Unfortunately, since the association does not own the amenities in question, there is very little that can be done. You can review the governance documents and developer agreements to see if there are any dates by which the association needs to have these amenities turned over or sold to them. Or the association can try to buy these amenities from the developer outright. However, the developer may be under no obligation to sell them to the association (or anyone for that matter). These are all important issues for a new community and buyers into such a community should have a full understanding of what is and isn’t included. Clearly, access to amenities owned by a third party (the developer) may be included but are subject to the whims of the amenity’s owner. You can certainly speak with the association’s attorney to see what legal remedies are available to the association but unless there is contractual paperwork that has been violated I can’t think of any other legal grounds whereby the developer can be forced to turn over the amenities. All the best!

Condo Crime Unaddressed by the Condo Board

J.S. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We live in a condo complex in Newport Beach, California. We had number of incidents violated on our personal property, with 5 Police Reports so far. This included slashed tires, a window shot out in our office, my electric scooter stolen, my wife’s car broken into and everything taken, and most recently, all the air let out of our tires, even while parked in our private covered carport.

The Board and Management Company refuses to get involved, saying they don’t get involved in neighbor to neighbor disagreements. However, these are not simple disagreements, but vandalism.

Mister Condo replies:

J.S., I am sorry for all of the crime that is occurring in your condo complex. I should point out that the police are the people you call for crime, not the Board or Management Company. When laws are broken, it is the responsibility of law enforcement (the police) to handle the matter. You should also notify the Board and Management Company as they may wish to alert other residents of the dangerous activity occurring on association grounds.

Other condo complexes that have experienced high crime have done things like “Neighborhood Watch” or similar programs. I am curious as to why the Board and Management Company claim that these crimes are “neighbor to neighbor disagreements”. Is there proof that fellow unit owners are committing these crimes? Neither the Board nor the Management Company are law enforcement bodies, they simply govern the property as outlined in the governance documents. Depending on your local laws, they may have a duty to inform residents that crime is occurring on the property. Hopefully, the local law enforcement personnel can help you stop the criminal activity. Good luck!

Which Condo Governing Documents Take Precedence?

K.W. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What do you do when you have conflicting master deed, bylaws, and R&R’s? Which one would take precedence?

Mister Condo replies:

K.W., that is a very interesting question and one which I have heard before. However, since I am neither an attorney nor an expert in community association law in your state, I must refer you to local counsel, preferably an attorney who specializes in community association law. It is most typical that the Master Deed would take precedence but if your by-laws are part of the Master Deed, there is a conflict within the Master Deed as well. As you can see this is a matter for legal minds to sort through. I think it would be a good investment for the community to get this matter settled with legal help as soon as possible. All the best!

Previous Condo Unit Owner Had No Right to Modify Attic

S.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I bought my condo in February of 2015. On the mezzanine floor, the previous owner had extended in to the attic a sort of storage room. Basically, there is a door and it leads in to the roof attic for extra storage. I now received a registered letter to close up this area as per it being part of the common ground and is not entitled to me. What’s more is that I was never told by the inspector, the agent, nor the previous owner that it did not belong to me. This extra storage room made my decision for actually purchasing this unit. What can I do? Can I ask the board committee to keep this extra room or am I to close it up? Can I sue the previous owner, agent or/and inspector for not disclosing this room to me?

Mister Condo replies:

S.S., I am sorry for your predicament. The foul was created by the previous owner who had no business commandeering common space and modifying the unit without Board approval. You can certainly petition the Board to allow the modification but I don’t see why they should do so. If they allow it for your unit, they open themselves up to allowing similar modifications throughout the complex. You should comply with their request to return the unit to the condition before the modification was made. As for lawsuits, etc., I am not an attorney and I offer no legal advice here. You should speak with a locally qualified attorney to see if you have a case against the previous unit owner. My guess is that you might have a case but I am not sure how you could prove any damages to yourself that would be worth pursuing. All the best!