Tag Archives: Legal

Noisy Condo Neighbor Serves On the Board and Doesn’t Follow Rules

W.T. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have been having a problem with the owner of the Condo above me. I have asked him several times to try and cut down the noise on his floor (walking, dropping heavy objects, etc.t) which makes noise come down into my condo. He also has a Doberman dog that sometimes barks 30 or more minutes at a time. Yesterday, I talked with him and asked if he would try to cut down on the noise. I have done this before with some results. Yesterday when I asked the question, he came unglued, telling me not to speak to him again and a few other choice words. I feel that if he continues to make excessive noise, I should be able to ask him to try and keep the noise down. What else can or should I do? Also, this person is one of our directors and the other two goes along with him.

Mister Condo replies:

W.T., I am sorry for your problems and for your inconsiderate upstairs neighbor. I am going to give you two answers for your consideration. The first is to write to the Board with as much supporting documentation to describe the noise and the rules violations being committed by your upstairs neighbor. Almost all condos have rules about noise and the rights to a peaceable environment for all residents. Further, almost all have rules about pets and the acceptable noise level and noise curation that other residents have to tolerate. A 30-minute session of any dog barking is sure to be a rule violation. In the past, you have taken a neighborly approach with some success. Speaking with an agreeable neighbor is a great start but that is no longer an option. Your neighbor has made it clear he has no intention of keeping the noise down. Your recourse is with the other members of the Board, his fellow Directors. If they are reluctant to take action against your neighbor, you have two practical options. First, you can sue the Board for neglecting to enforce the noise covenants of the association. Your second option is to move out of this community. It is unfortunate that it has come to this but having a jerk for a neighbor is not only annoying, it can be downright dangerous. Having a jerk like this neighbor on your Board is equally dangerous, especially if his fellow Board members are reluctant to enforce the rules against him. I am sorry I don’t have better news for you. Keep me posted and good luck!

Condo Grease Trap Back-up Leaves Unit Owner Footing Amelioration Costs

K.K. from Illinois writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo sustained water damage from a backup in the sink drain line shared by three units, in a three-story building. My unit is on the first floor, and when the exterior grease trap backed up, water was forced up through my kitchen sink and into the unit. I was out of town at the time, and by my return there was a significant amount of water, slime and mold in the unit. The amelioration bill was $2,300. My insurer covers everything except this, and the condo board refuses to file a claim with the association’s insurer. Also, this happened before to the previous owner of my unit, and to other first floor units. Doesn’t the association have the responsibility to file a claim rather than deny responsibility? The condo is in Illinois.

Mister Condo replies:

K.K., they don’t necessarily have to file a claim but they are likely still responsible for the damage seeing as it was caused by a common element. Your homeowner’s insurance is always your first line of defense and it looks like they paid for the worst of the damage. If your association is refusing to file a claim or pay for the amelioration, it may be time to seek the advice of an attorney. Personally, I would file a suit (most likely Small Claims although I don’t know what your local laws dictate for a $2300 claim). If the association doesn’t want to file a claim, they don’t have to. However, if they are liable, they still have to make you whole. I am sure finding your condo water damaged was stressful enough. Getting the association to pay for the amelioration shouldn’t be. Good luck!

Noisy Condo Tenant May Get Evicted!

N.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have been a noisy tenant in my rental condo. I used to work nights, and I would be unwinding at odd hours. Due to complaints, I even switched my hours to work in the daytime. I still have my night time tendencies. I have been paying tons of fines, but the condo board “will be discussing my issue”. I have been trying really hard to walk on eggshells (keep the TV down, etc…) What can they do to me? Can they kick me out?

Mister Condo replies:

N.A., a noisy tenant is a big problem for a condo association. Unit owners and neighbors complain to the Board and the Board must take action against the unit owner and the tenant of the unit owner – you. Being aware of the problem is half of the battle and you seem to know that you been violating association rules for some time and have paid a “ton of fines”. The idea of the fine is to correct the behavior. In other words, fine the offender a few times and the offender should stop violating the rules. To accrue “tons of fines” means that strategy hasn’t worked with you which puts the Board under pressure to take further action. Without knowing the full details of what options are available to the Board, I will say you and your landlord may find yourselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit seeking eviction. If that happens you will most definitely want to contact an attorney to defend yourself. I have to ask you why you would want to continue to rent in this community where your lifestyle clearly doesn’t fit with the community as a whole? Why not rent in an apartment that doesn’t have as many rules or rent a single-family home where you can live as you see fit. Changing work hours and walking on eggshells doesn’t sound too appealing. You have every right to express yourself as an individual and live as you see fit. However, residing in a condo comes with rules that you voluntarily agree to. If you can’t follow them, you are asking for the kind of trouble you are receiving. I suggest you rethink this particular condo as your home and consider living somewhere more appropriate to your lifestyle. All the best!

Condo Board Installs Fence; Damages Unit Owner Patio

G.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo board just put in all new fencing in the back of the units & between our attached neighbors. In doing so, they removed the retainer wall for my patio pavers. When asked why, they said that it was going to be too close to the new fencing. Fencing is done and there is now a big gap between my patio & the fence (so they were wrong). The pavers are now separating because of the rain and they are refusing to put it back. The President of the Board is my direct neighbor. He “volunteered” to help us put it back. We refused on principal. Why should we have to do anything? They caused the damage they should repair it. Am I correct in my thinking? I have spoken to a lawyer, who agrees with us. But I would like for this to be resolved without having to go that route. I don’t understand WHY they won’t just do the repairs. What are your thoughts?

Mister Condo replies:

G.M., I am sorry for your patio problem although I cannot say it is too surprising to learn that the removal of a retainer wall has made for a problem. That is exactly what retainer walls are for. The real question here is who owned the retaining wall? Unless it was actually a part of your unit, it is likely the property of the association. That doesn’t necessarily mean they should have removed it or left if removed once the fencing project was complete but it may make for an interesting case if you decide to take your attorney’s advice to go after the association to make the repair. Keep in mind that you aren’t going to be the only one with an attorney and the association’s attorney will likely argue that the retaining wall was owned by the association and they had every right to remove it. Your attorney will counter with the fact that the removal damaged your patio (again, built on association property). My opinion is that you very likely should have taken the President up on his offer to help you rebuild the retaining wall. At the very least, you might have offered to pay for the contractor to do the job if keeping your patio intact is important to you. If you prefer to stand on the ground that you are right and the association is wrong, you have every right to do so but I foresee a long and protracted battle while your patio crumbles. Always look for a “win/win” situation. Legal solutions are costly and can take a very long time. The time and money would be better spent hiring a contractor to repair the wall, especially since the Board President seems to be on your side. All the best!

Condo Owner Seeks Relief from Mysterious Vibrating Noises

S.J. from Outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We’ve been hearing strange rattling/vibrating noises coming from the bathroom in our unit. It sounds like it’s coming from the pipes from the wall between our bathroom and flex room. It can get really loud throughout the night. The noise can be as short as 30 seconds to as long as 5 minutes. And we hear this all through the night. We’ve contacted our property manager and the board president and have sent a recording of the sound. Nothing has been done to resolve issue. What can we do? Can we legally withhold our association fees until they start taking our issue seriously?

Mister Condo replies:

S.J., NO! You cannot withhold your common fees! Unwanted noises arising from mechanical or plumbing issues can be a real pain in a condo where you can’t always get at the source of the noise. You have done the proper thing by contacting the Property Manager and the Board. They are not under obligation to act immediately but they do not provide a resolution. Ask for a proper response, in writing, from them about what they plan to do to resolve your complaint. If their answer is to do nothing, then you will speak with an attorney and see what your next step will be. At the very least, the Board should acknowledge your complaint and dispatch a maintenance or engineering person to follow up. Have you checked with your neighbors? Are they having the same problem? There is always strength in numbers so the more complaining that goes on, the more likely there is to be a resolution. Be persistent and be thorough. I am confident that you can have this situation remedied. Good luck!

HOA Has No Jurisdiction Outside of Association Grounds

K.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a townhouse HOA. Everyone in the facility is allowed 2 parking spacing, those with more than 2 cars need to apply with the HOA to obtain an extra space as well as pay a fee for the parking permit. To avoid paying the fee and applying to the HOA it seems a majority of the community parks outside of and on the street into the community illegally in some areas. Honestly, it looks horrendous and makes it difficult to pull into and out of the community as it blocks the view of oncoming cars. What can I do about this? Should I call the county about the other owners/tenants parking illegally?

Mister Condo replies:

K.K., I am sorry that you are dealing with a challenging parking situation at your HOA. While the HOA controls much of what happens inside the grounds of the association, they have absolutely no jurisdiction over what happens outside the common grounds. The County officials are your only hope of correcting this problem. If no laws are being broken, there really isn’t anything else you can do about it. All the best!

Disaster Floods Condo; Association Refuses to Remediate Resultant Mold

C.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My niece owns an upstairs condo unit.  Recently, the bottom unit was flooded by rain to the point of 6′ high.  The area has been declared a national disaster area and FEMA is processing claims.  My niece’s unit has mold growing up her walls and her floor is buckling due to the flood.  The owner of the downstairs unit started working to rid his unit of mold, mildew, etc. but stopped for some unknown reason.  FEMA has told my niece that her unit is a health hazard and needs to be vacated immediately. Here’s the kicker:  They tell her they cannot help her as had the downstairs owner took care of his condo, her condo wouldn’t have felt any effects of the flood.  What say you?

Mister Condo replies:

C.D., I am truly sorry your niece’s condo unit was flooded and damaged. Unfortunately, it would appear we live in a time of escalating natural disasters and many condos around the country have been impacted this past year. How a community association or HOA responds to these disasters can be just as damaging as the disasters themselves. Clearly, your niece has suffered a catastrophic loss here and it sounds like the HOA isn’t doing right by her. This could be because they aren’t familiar with how they should handle this disaster or they may not know where to turn to get the money to make the repairs or there may just be confusion caused by insurance companies or poorly written condo docs. It may be that the downstairs neighbor is also to blame and may be sued as well as part of the money recovery efforts. Whatever the reason, my next call would be to my attorney as this doesn’t look like it will be settled by simply asking the association to make the repairs. Also, if your niece has adequate homeowners’ insurance, she might be eligible for housing costs while the repairs are made. Clearly, she should not reside in a mold-infested unit. This is going to take a while to sort out but I am sure she will get the problem addressed once legal action is taken. Good luck!

Condo Board Denies Unit Owner Driveway Widening Request; Owner Proceeds Anyway!

J.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

One of our condo owners asked the Board if they could widen their driveway to accommodate 2 cars. We, as a board, had to deny the request due to the bylaws regulating common areas. We have discovered they are making plans to proceed without our permission. What can we do to prevent this from occurring?

Mister Condo replies:

J.G., this is the second day in a row I have received questions about unit owners feeling they have the right to do whatever they want in their condo, regardless of the rules of the association. Quite simply, the Board is the enforcer of the association rules and it is up to the Board to make all unit owners comply with the regulations of the community. If a unit owner attempts to modify a common element, in any way, the Board needs to cite them for the violation, ask them to return the common element to the way it was before they violated the governing documents. Further, contentious unit owners who show little regard for the rules of the association often need further “encouragement” in the form of a lawsuit, that not only forces them to comply with the rules but also costs them a good deal of money because they are often charged the cost of the association’s attorney to take action against them. It is unfortunate that it often comes to this but I find it is the best way for the association to protect itself from unit owners who probably don’t belong living in a condominium in the first place due to their lack of consideration of following the rules which make the community a desirable place to live. Good luck!

Condo Owner Modifies Condo Interior Without Board Approval

H.R. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our Small condominium, AKA condex, has one and two bedroom units. A new Unit owner has made changes to their unit without seeking the required permission from the board. The seller notified the association of a new rug to be put in. This was approved. Unfortunately, the new owner took out the old carpeting and put in hardwood floors and added additional rooms to a one bedroom unit. They are currently occupying the space as a non-approved three-bedroom unit. They are also paying the condo fee at a one bedroom rate. What is the most effective way to restore the unit to a carpeted one bedroom?

Mister Condo replies:

H.R., while it would be nice for the unit owner who has broken the rules of the association to simply restore the unit to its previous condition and live in the unit as was agreed to in the by-laws of the association, it is very likely time for the association to hire an attorney and sue the owner to make the necessary changes. Clearly, this unit owner has neither read nor lived up to the expectation and requirements as set out in the governing documents. Fortunately for the association, this is a legal document that gives the association fairly broad powers in forcing compliance. Obviously, the first step is to ask nicely that the new owner adhere to the by-laws and restore the unit to its previous condition. However, if nice doesn’t work, there is always the legal option of suing the owner and forcing compliance. I hope it goes smoothly for the association. This could be a long and costly legal battle if it doesn’t. Good luck!

When is a Condo Guest More than a Guest?

S.W. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Florida condo provides parking sticker for unit owner that lives in unit plus 2 guest passes. My son visits 3 days a week & stays overnight & hangs the permanent guest pass. Board wants him to lie in tenant form that he lives in unit & pays rent. By laws / condo docs state guest can park for a limit is 30 days, for a period of 4 months, except for family members. Board member stated the car will be towed if just using a guest pass. He is my son, therefore a family member & we do not falsify written documents. What are my rights? Also, sometimes I drive his car that is also registered to me.

Mister Condo replies:

S.W., I am sorry you find yourself at odds with your association over your son’s car. You should not be asked to falsify documents but you should also respect the rules of the association. Obviously, the association feels as though your son’s car being on property so frequently is a violation of the rules. You don’t feel that way so there is a disagreement between you and the association over the interpretation of the rules. Let’s start with the premise that you own both cars and want to keep them parked on association grounds. If what you have told me is correct, that isn’t allowed. You get one parking sticker per unit and that is being used for your car. You also get two guest passes that were designed for the specific use of short-term visiting guests. The association has very specific rules on what defines a guest. I can’t tell you specifically how to interpret those rules because you end the statement with “except for family members”, which clearly your son is. What are the rules for family members? Is there a form to fill out indicating that he is a family member? If so, fill it out and follow the rules for family members. If you continue to use the guest pass and the Board feel you are violating the rules, they may begin to fine you and/or tow his car as they have threatened to do. Many associations have these parking restrictions in place so that unit owners don’t skirt rules about long-term visitors and family members taking vacation within units. My guess is that the association is in the right here but you may wish to seek a legal opinion from a local attorney and see what additional rights you have. It is an unfortunate situation to say the least and I am sure neither you nor your son are seeking to be uncooperative. It would be nice to take a deeper look at your documents to see what you are doing “wrong” in the eyes of the association. If all it takes to satisfy them is filling out a form that says he is a family members and not just another visitor, I would likely advise you to do so. All the best!