Tag Archives: Legal

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!

Do Condo Boards Have to Take Minutes?

E.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

When condos board meet to hey have to take minutes?

Mister Condo replies:

E.G., absolutely! Minutes are the only official record of Condo Board Meetings. Without Minutes, it is as if the meeting never happened. Condo Boards are representatives of a corporation and have a responsibility to the shareholders of the corporation (the unit owners) to maintain proper records of actions they take. Not every item discussed needs to be in the Minutes but every vote taken certainly does. A Board that operates without taking Minutes risks being sued by any unit owner who doesn’t agree with decisions made by the Board. While state laws vary on what must be included in the Minutes, almost all are based on some type of Corporation Act and some type of Condominium or Common Interest Act. These laws typically demand that Minutes be kept and be made available to unit owners upon request once approved by the Board. This protects both the Board and the unit owners. Some Boards farm out the actual recordkeeping to a Property Manager or other third party but the Minutes need to be submitted back to the Board who votes on their correctness and ratifies them into association records. I hope your Board is keeping Minutes. Thanks for the question!

Condo Owner Suffers 9 Years Without Kitchen Hot Water!

K.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have no hot water pressure in my kitchen. It is a building problem for several units and is on the “to do” list. I have asked about getting a reduced HOA fee as I am not receiving the same amenities as other condo owners. This has gone on for 9 years!!! Whenever I bring it up they assure me it is the next priority. Can I put my HOA payments in an escrow account until the problem is fixed?

Mister Condo replies:

K.D., I am sorry for your problems and your Board’s ineffective management of the repair. No, you cannot withhold your common fees or the Board can foreclose on your unit for unpaid fees over time. What you can do is sue the association for not providing the hot water. Ultimately, that will get you the hot water, which is what you really want here. Saving money on the common fees doesn’t help. Hot water will fulfill your expectation of what the association is supposed to provide. 9 years is far too long to wait. Speak to an attorney and see what you can do to get a lawsuit against the Board in place. They will likely find it less expensive to get your hot water running than to defend against a suit. Good luck!

Curtain Wall Responsibility Questioned by Condo Owner

L.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do you know of any condominiums where the unit owner is responsible for curtain walls?

Mister Condo replies:

L.S., I am sorry to say that I do, most commonly where glass is the building material in question. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here and my guess is that you will most certainly need one to interpret your condo docs to determine who actually owns the curtain walls. I have seen court cases ultimately make the final determination when associations and unit owners disagree over the curtain wall ownership. Even the state your unit is in will have an impact on the final decision as condo laws vary from state to state. Depending on whether the curtain walls are common areas, limited common areas, or specifically owned by the unit the responsibility will be determined. This litigation process can also be quite expensive so make sure you speak with a locally qualified attorney for an opinion before you proceed with a lawsuit. I hope this all works out for you and your fellow unit owners. Good luck!

Board Cites “Attorney/Client” Privilege in Questionable Condo Document Amendments

E.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our Board of Directors are amending our documents without the required 75% of the membership. I was told that two legal opinions were obtained by the BOD stating they have the right to do so. When I requested a copy of the legal opinions, the Management Company said they were invoking Attorney/Client privilege and I was refused. I am an owner of this Corporation and believe these opinions were obtained and probably paid for with my money. Should I be entitled to see these documents?

Mister Condo replies:

E.C., the short answer is “yes” but there are certain caveats in place to protect the Board. In other words, they have the right to withhold the documents during the period in question. I doubt it has anything to do with “attorney/client” privilege as much as it is an action they are taking as an Executive Board, which your governance documents likely give them the ability to do. Either way, if your documents or state law don’t allow them to amend your documents without a 75% vote, these amendments can and should be challenged by you or any other member of the association. You will want your own legal opinion, if necessary. Also, and more importantly, feel free to vote these folks out of office at your earliest convenience. Amending documents should not be done secretly, covertly, or improperly. Regardless of “legal opinion”, the will of the unit owners needs to be respected. These folks were elected to serve, not clandestinely revise the amendments to the association. I would interfere loudly with their plans and then prepare to vote new Board members in to office who will do a better job serving the will of the people. It may very well be that your association needs to revise its bylaws. Holding a meeting and involving the majority of unit owners as outlined in your governing documents is the way to do so. Good luck!

Condo Resale Disclosure

P.E. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What are the disclosure laws in New Jersey for the resale of a condo?

Mister Condo replies:

P.E., I am not an attorney so I cannot give you a legal answer here. You should speak with a qualified attorney in your region to get a legal response to your question. However, I can offer some friendly advice. Michael Odenthal of the New Jersey Cooperator has an excellent piece I commend to your reading: https://njcooperator.com/article/rules-of-disclosure/For the most part, it is a “buyer beware” transaction. However, a buyer that withholds pertinent information is typically liable for withholding of that information. My friendly advice is that any buyer have an attorney represent their best interest and have a full home inspection performed BEFORE signing any purchase and sale agreement.

Family Not Welcome in Older Condo Community

D.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My husband, me, & our preschool child live in a privately-owned condo rental. A senior neighbor advised me that there are no kid bicycles allowed here as well as toys & they will be disposed of. Next, the condo manager came by and accused us of not supervising our child and that he was in the street, also parking lot. Allegations not true. Then another Senior resident came knocking with the condo rules. I read them and gave them back. I received a copy of my own rules and did note it stated there are to be no bouncing balls or bicycles in the common areas. My son and I have been yelled and screamed at by neighbors for absolutely no reason at times so it’s obvious they have a problem with us but we are pretty good people who keep to ourselves. I was told by a senior resident that all the neighbors here do not like us living here. He stated it was because of our little boy. Our car broke down on a Saturday and we went to take the bus, I noticed that I was being followed part way to the bus stop by one of the neighbors. I also noticed that she was on the phone. I told my husband I’m sure she was calling the association and letting them know that our car was broke down. I can’t prove that but we did within about 48 hours receive a notice that we were going to have our car towed within 24 hours because it was not running. There are several other cars in our area that are out of compliance with their rules, they have not received any notification to move their cars and they are also good friends with management. Is it legal for them to tow our car only and not tow other cars that are not following the same rules? We were told to just move if we didn’t like the rules, this was by the manager. We never said this and my husband has responded to them via letter. They have now been threatening to tow the car for 2 weeks at least. But they still have not. We are in process if attempting to sell it as per our mechanics advise. Any help would be appreciated.

Mister Condo replies:

D.S., it certainly sounds as though you and your family are not being welcomed in this particular community. Is this an age-restricted community, meaning it was designed for older residents (aged 55+)? If so, I can see where the presence of a child and a young family is not welcome here. Regardless of the reason, you are on the enforcement side of rules violations and I am guessing that will continue unless you are able to fully comply with the association’s rules. That can be quite the challenge with a young child and a broken-down vehicle. As for the enforcement of the rules, that is the association’s duty. Rules are typically enforced at the request of a fellow unit owner who complains about the violation or by the Board or Manager if so empowered. If you observe other violations, you would likely notify your landlord who would inform the association. The association could then take action against the rule violators if they so choose. It is possible that may have a discrimination complaint against the association but I cannot offer legal advice in this column. If you feel you have a case for discrimination, you should contact a local attorney who could better advise you of your options. If I were in your position, I would speak to my landlord and let him know how you are being treated. I certainly wouldn’t renew my lease and I would consider moving out as soon as possible. There is no reason for you to not enjoy your rental home and I am sure you can find a more family-friendly community. All the best!

Bank Still Owns Condo Parking Spaces

Z.A. from Illinois writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in Cook County Illinois. I am currently the President of our Board. The parking spaces in our building are deeded, and 24/26 spaces are currently owned by Unit Owners. However, the Developer was unable to sell all of the garage spaces, even though he already sold all the Units. The bank just foreclosed on the remaining two garage spaces and has stated that they will try to sell the garage spaces to someone outside our building. We would like to create a rule that requires the sale, exchange, or leasing of any garage space must be to a Unit Owner, and not to anyone outside our building. Would you recommend we do this with a simple Rule/Regulation, or do we need to amend our Declaration for this? Thanks in advance.

Mister Condo replies:

Z.A., I am not sure you can do this at all! Since I am neither an attorney nor an expert in Illinois condo law, I need to refer you to someone who can help. There are various stages of a condo. Developer Transition sounds like the one you are in right now. If the bank owns the land, you may not have the jurisdiction to make a rule over their land. You may need to purchase the land from the bank before making any rules about how the spaces will be used. Frankly, I am surprised one or more of the 24 existing unit owners hasn’t pounced on the available spaces seeing as parking is at such a premium in your region. I would recommend that the association consider purchasing the spaces from the bank and speak with your association attorney about what to do with them. My guess is they will provide income for the association over time. Good luck!

Condo Board Keeping Election Results Private

V.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Voting for three trustee positions with four individuals seeking a position was done primarily via proxy ballot. At the annual meeting, a quorum was not achieved. Some unit owners believe we have an obligation to post the results of the ballot count even though there was no quorum. What is your opinion?

Mister Condo replies:

V.M., results of any vote, proxy or other, are association records. As such, all unit owners have a right to see the results. However, allowing access to records and posting the results are two different things. I would say that any unit owner who wishes to see the results should request the record inspection. The association may or may not charge a small fee for the record inspection as detailed on your state law. My advice would be to always keep communication channels open between unit owners and the Board so as not to give the appearance of impropriety. An informed constituency is generally happier than one that is kept in the dark.

The lack of quorum at your Annual Meeting has no effect on this but it does bear the question of why proxy voting is required and why unit owners are not attending the Annual Meeting. This is common in seasonal properties (i.e. beach communities where owners may not be present year-round) but uncommon in associations where unit owners are typically at home. If the reason for no quorum is unit owner apathy, the unit owners have no one to blame but themselves. As long as the Board has nothing to hide, I would publish the results of the vote just to keep everyone happy and informed. All the best!

Condo Landlord May Not Be Who He Claims

J.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How do I get information about a condo owner? I am renting from someone I have not rented from before and I want to know that he is the true owner.

Mister Condo replies:

J.M., I appreciate your practice of due diligence. Nobody wants to get scammed by an impostor. The local land record office or equivalent is the keeper of such records. It is usually located in a City Hall or similar complex in the city or town where the property is located. Once you find out where the records are kept, it is usually as simple as visiting the office and looking up the record. Depending on where the property is located and the size of the records office, this could be a simple visit or it could take hours. There are also some online resources to assist but many charge a fee for the full information you are seeking. Still, if you have a genuine concern, that fee could be small potatoes compared to getting duped out of your first, last, and security deposit. Finding out the true owner is only half of the battle. Once you have that information, you’ll want to confirm the true identity of the person offering the lease. Just because I claim to be “Joe Smith” doesn’t mean I am “Joe Smith”. Also, you may find the property is owned by a business entity instead of a person. Again, you will need proof that the lease is offered by the business entity and not “Joe Smith”. My best advice to offer you is that if your gut is telling you that something is fishy, do your homework before signing the lease and paying your money. There may be other rentals available that you will feel better about signing a lease. Good luck!