Tag Archives: Legal

HOA Turns Off Water on 5-Day Delinquent Owner

B.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’m wondering if our Property Management really has a right to authorize disconnection of water in my unit due to unpaid HOA dues (only 5 days overdue to be exact) even if I don’t have an outstanding balance from my water provider. I can say that this is the first time that my HOA dues was paid late because I’ve been paying my dues always 1 year in advance. Hoping for your advice. Thanks

Mister Condo replies:

B.A., I am sorry that your HOA took such a drastic measure as turning off your access to water after you were only 5 days overdue with your payment after having a great track record for so many years. The reality is that every association has its own policies for such things and it would appear that yours is quite strict. As to whether or not they had the right to do so is a legal question best posed to an attorney in your area. My guess is that they tool lawful action and that you aren’t the only unit owner who has had this happen. You can always make a quick call to an attorney to confirm if your rights were abused. Other than that, my advice is to set up auto-payment or prepay as you have done in the past. Common fees are the lifeblood of any association. The association is right to do all that they can to assure they are paid in timely fashion by all unit owners. All the best!

A Top 10 Bad Condo Story! 80% of Unit Owners Don’t Pay Fees!

M.D. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How can I get out of a 100-unit condo development where only 20 units pay maintenance and road dues? The association painted over rotten wood siding 4 years ago! They cut what little grass there is every two weeks that’s about the extent of the maintenance for last 10 years. Retaining walls falling down, parking lots are sliding in to the building, the roof leaks with ice build-up and more. Help!

Mister Condo replies:

M.D., I am so sorry for your problems at this poorly run condo association. While I’d like to think I have “head it all” when it comes to condo craziness, clearly you have provided a Top 10 Bad Condo story. Obviously, you want to get out of this poorly run association before the units are condemned or deemed not worthy to sell. The good news is that there is “an ass for every seat” and if you price it right, you just might be able to cut your losses and buy into a properly run association. Without the benefit of a crystal ball, I will make a few predictions about your current association. With 80% of unit owners not paying their fees, the association will collapse. Vendors who are owed money will sue the association at some point. Even unit owners such as yourself could sue the association for not fulfilling its obligation to maintain the common elements. Even one lawsuit could bankrupt the association. If the association is to survive, it would likely be due to receivership (the court appoints an attorney or property management firm to run the association) at which time special assessments would likely be levied and common fees raised significantly. The 80% of unit owners who aren’t paying fees would likely default and eventually lose their homes through foreclosure. The bottom line is that unless you really love your unit and are willing to live through the chaos and expense of such an action, it just isn’t worth sticking around to see how it plays out. If I were you, I would sell as quickly as possible, even at a loss if I had to, and make sure the next association you buy in to is properly run and funded. All the best!

Sinking Floor Troubles Condo Owner

D.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If I hire a structure engineer to do a report and it is in fact the association to cover damage of sinking floor will the association have to pay me back for the cost of the report?

Mister Condo replies:

D.G., I am sorry you find yourself with a sinking floor. I assume you have asked the association to make the repair and they are claiming that it is not their responsibility so you now find yourself needing to take further action to get rid of the sinking floor. If you expect the association to pay for anything – the cost of the report, the damage caused, and, ultimately, the actual repair, you will very likely need to sue the association. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here but my friendly advice would be for you to speak with a competent local attorney and see what your rights are. Since the association has already refused to make the repair and you will likely be suing them, I don’t see why you couldn’t include the cost of the report in your suit. However, if you are unsuccessful in your lawsuit, you might not be able to recover any money, including the cost of the engineering report. Speak with an attorney first and then follow the advice on how to proceed. I sure hope you get your sinking floor repaired one way or another. Good luck! 

Condo Rental Cap Requires a By-Law Change

L.R. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What is the amount of votes needed to change a bylaw? We are considering making a cap on rentals in our complex as absentee landlords are renting to multi-family groups (against our bylaws).

Mister Condo replies:

L.R., I am sorry that you have unit owners in your association who are renting to ineligible renters. Rather than change your by-laws which can be challenging at best, why not just go after the landlords who are breaking the existing rules? Get in touch with your association attorney and let him or her know you have a problem and ask for legal help in remedying the behavior. Typically, notice is sent to the offender asking them to come for a hearing before the Board. Then it is possible to fine and/or sue the landlord. Once the unit owner is sued, the sweetness of collecting rent on a unit that is racking up debt and legal expenses tens to remedy the problem.Adding rental caps can be challenging due to the nature of changing such a by-law. You need to review your documents to see what percentage of unit owners need to vote in favor of such a change. Again, speak with your association attorney so you have a full understanding. If you think there are enough votes (typically 2/3 or more, maybe even 100%) you might be able to change the by-laws. Otherwise, I would advise you to use the by-laws you already have and begin enforcing them against the offenders. All the best!

Changing the Condo Common Fee Structure

E.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What are the ways to realign the condo fees in a condominium building?

Mister Condo replies:

E.G., it is very difficult to change the common fees in most condominium associations, and for good reason. The fees are established when the condominium is formed as part of the condominium’s governance documents. When units are purchased and mortgages are created for individual units, this fee structure is part and parcel of how a unit owner buys into the association. They effectively become a shareholder in the corporation. There are many different formulas for how these fees are arrived at. The most common is the percentage of unit ownership formula. Everyone pays a share of the fees based on their percentage of ownership in the association. However, there are other factors that can contribute to these formulas, including but not limited to enhanced desirability of a unit for factors such as water views, penthouse locations, garage parking, etc.. The bottom line is that the fees are part and parcel of the corporation itself and changing them typically requires 100% of unit owners voting in favor to do so. If you check your condo documents and state law, you will have a better feel for if and how the change can be made. Personally, I advise against it. Everyone who purchased into the association knew what their share of the common fees were before they made the decision to purchase. Changing these fees after the fact is patently unfair and likely unachievable even if allowed by law. All the best!

Hellish HOA Landlord

M.G. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What if an owner lies to the renter and their HOA concerning the number of dogs living in their unit? My owners put on the lease and collected $450 nonrefundable pet fee for 2 dogs. However, unbeknownst to me until I moved in, they put 1 dog on the HOA form. This is because there is a strict “20 pound, 1 dog” limit on the property. However, I was told there was only a strict 20 pound weight limit. (This would not have been a problem, because my 2 Maltese are only 16 pounds together.) I was there less than 24 hours, when I was informed by the groundskeeper that there was a 1 dog/unit policy & that they would give me a hard time about having 2 dogs. I was handed the keys after they’d had approximately 20 people over for one last party. It cost me $450 for a two day deep clean move-in to remove all the filth and sand from everything. Do I as a renter, have any recourse after signing a deceitful lease?

Mister Condo replies:

M.G., I am sorry for your problems. I had to shorten your letter for space but, needless to say, you rented from the landlord from hell. The short answer to your question is “yes”, you have recourse but not without hiring an attorney who will sue this landlord for leasing the unit to you while not fulfilling the contract and flat out lying to you about the pet restrictions. You will need to ask the attorney about the cost of this suit and the likelihood of you getting your money back. Weigh the cost to return benefit before proceeding. You should also check with the state to see if you have protection as a renter that the state will pursue for you against your landlord. It goes without saying that you should not lease with this landlord again and I encourage you to do be as diligent as possible before signing your next lease. Just as a landlord requires references from you, you should require references of a landlord. Good luck!

Developer Obligation to Pay HOA Fees on Undeveloped Lots

C.C. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Does a developer of A PUD have an obligation to pay dues on unsold lots once the transition/takeover of board has taken place?

Mister Condo replies:

C.C., an unsold lot is not the same as an undeveloped lot. If the PUD consists of built units, then it is likely that the developer would be liable for the dues from the unsold units. Undeveloped lots, do not likely carry the same burden, especially since they are undeveloped. You would need to check the documents for further clarification but it is uncommon for a developer to pay fees for undeveloped lots. If the association has an attorney (and they should have their own attorney during the transition/takeover period), this is a great question for him or her. Good luck!

Deceased Majority Condo Unit Owner Creates Governance Issues

P.D. from Texas writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have 116 townhome units that fall under the Texas HOA Condo law, and 50 of those units were bought out years ago by a gentleman who has since died. His estate is tied up in court and with the IRS because he didn’t have a will (I know RIGHT)? Anyway, for years his ‘property management’ lady that rents and lives on property is always using her 50 votes to tilt outcomes in her favor.  

We are hoping one day if we take it to court and have a judge look at the unequal leverage that one person holds over us that isn’t even a homeowner, we are hoping that could change or that a judge would see it as not a true democracy. 

Wondering if you could give us any advice? We don’t get a full turn out of homeowners because many are elderly on our property, and she single handedly runs the show/votes/outcomes on how she wants it to happen (and even voting HERSELF on the board!) 

Thanks so much for all you do for us in sharing your knowledge 🙂

Mister Condo replies:

P.D., I am sorry that your association finds itself in such a predicament. The “property management lady” you refer to must have some arrangement/authority for the deceased seeing as she is living in one of his units and managing the others. You should look at your by-laws and even state law on the number of votes any one single unit owner can cast. Some limit to a percentage (15% of total votes cast, for instance), others limit to a set number of votes. If that is the case, you can simply impose those limits on here the next time there is a vote. The reality is that you have a single unit owner who owns almost half of all of the units. I would not personally wish to live in a condo with that kind of single ownership ratio because, as you can see, this can create exactly the kind of problems you are dealing with. What if all 50 units stopped paying common fees? What if the association had to take adverse possession (foreclosure action) against the deceased’s estate? The legal fees and glut of units could create a hardship for the other unit owners. You should really be thankful that the association doesn’t have far larger problems than what you have described.My advice is to speak with a locally qualified attorney who specializes in community association law. You can find a list of such attorneys by clicking on https://www.caionline.org/Chapters/Pages/Chapter-Listing.aspx#TXand finding the CAI Chapter that services your part of Texas. Austin, Dallas/Fort Wort, Greater Houston, and San Antonio all feature many qualified attorneys who can guide your association through the proper steps to regain control of your association.Keep in mind that there may be little the association can do. After all, even though he is deceased, his estate still controls 50 of the 116 units in your association. The right to vote is part of what you purchase when you buy a condominium. You are a shareholder in a corporation and you most certainly have a right to vote. I wouldn’t easily give up my right any easier than you would. Good luck!

Condo Unit Owner Claims Negligence as Reason for Not Paying Assessment

V.M. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If I do not pay an assessment because of negligence by the trustees do I lose my rights as a unit owner?

Mister Condo replies:

V.M., regardless of what the reason for not paying an assessment, the association will very likely take collections action against you, up to and including foreclosing on your home. You do not fight a claim of negligence by withholding fees or assessments because the association has a legal duty to collect those funds from you and from all unit owners. You have rights as well and challenging the Board with a claim of negligence is done with a lawsuit initiated by you against the association. The only thing withholding fees or assessments will accomplish is legal fees and possible loss of your condo through foreclosure. That is not a good strategy, in my opinion. All the best!

Transitioning Outgoing Condo Manager Fees

R.S. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What can we expect legally that a transitioning property manager must provide to a new incoming property manager upon termination? What is the outgoing manager allowed to charge after termination, and what is considered reasonable or unreasonable?

Mister Condo replies:

R.S., developer transition in a condominium association is a tricky time at best. There are very few rules or laws to guide you here and my best advice is for the association to have its own attorney review all of the transactions that take place during the transition period because there are just too many things that can go wrong. Association that tackle this without professional and legal help often stumble and find themselves on the short end of the stick with missing funds, incomplete work, missing paperwork, etc.. An experienced attorney is worth twice their fees during this period as they can actually save the association thousands of dollars if the transaction is handled incorrectly. If the outgoing manager has a contract in place, the association is bound to pay whatever the contract calls for. If there is no contract in place, the manager may be free to try to charge whatever they wish. This is one area where an attorney can be incredibly useful as the association may not have to pay anything if there is no contract. At the very least, the attorney can negotiate such items for the association making sure it doesn’t pay a penny more than it needs to. All the best!