Tag Archives: Neighbor Issues

Violent Condo Resident Danger to Himself and Others

A.O. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I reside in a 4-unit condominium, all owner occupied, in Massachusetts. We are a self-managed property and three years ago a new resident purchased one of the units; this owner’s Master Deed is both in their name and his mother’s; his mother does not live on the premises.

Since this individual has moved into the Association there have been significant violations of bylaws as well as safety concerns that have involved the police: spray painting the exterior of his door with red spray paint, stating obscenities; screaming for hours on end at night while also causing physical destruction within his own unit; threatening to murder people; leaving pools of his own blood in common area; taking a baseball bat to the fire alarm; and a series of other disconcerting behaviors.

We, and our neighbors, routinely call the police and they have taken him into custody on some occasions and not others. In some cases, unfortunately, association members have not called the police out of fear of escalating the situation (fears include that this individual could hurt himself, others or cause damage to our property). We have attempted to engage the parent, who is also on the deed, who only assures us that this individual is harmless.

While we are not certain that this individual is mentally ill, we assume that the presenting behaviors are indicative of such, so we are at a loss as to how to protect ourselves and our property while also being mindful of the law.

What can we legally do?

Mister Condo replies:

A.O., there isn’t too much that you can do other than what you have already done. There are no laws that prohibit mentally ill people from owning real estate. The police have been called (as they should be) and have taken appropriate action as they deem fit. That takes care of the criminal activity. As for the violations of rules and by-laws, the Board should be taking whatever action is appropriate to protect the association. However, if you have a violent or mentally unstable resident in your building, there is little that can be done by the Board. Ideally, this person would leave your condo and get the help they need. Until then, I am afraid the only other option you have is likely to put up with the behavior or sell your unit. I know which one I would do. Good luck!

Neighbor Damages Unit, Refuses to Pay for Repairs

L.W. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

A few months ago, a neighbor (a tenant – owner rents it out) attempted to make a change to the plumbing in his kitchen. It was done incorrectly, causing water to flow incessantly for several days into my garage which is below their kitchen. Water flowed all across the length of my ceiling (into the area where the air conditioning ducts are housed), and down the sides of the walls causing the sheet rock and insulation to be very soaked with water. I hired a painting and home improvement company who has done work for me and several others in this complex to get rid of all the water-soaked materials, and then to replace the materials once the area had time to dry out. It took them a several hours for several days to complete the work. It was done nicely, and I am satisfied with the work.

The problem is that the owner of the unit believes my contractor’s final price was too high – $750. I believe it was a fair and reasonable price. He is someone I trust, and he does good work. The owner paid half of that bill. I believe he should be the rest. He (by allowing his tenant to perform unlicensed plumbing work) endangered not only my unit, but those nearby. If I had not been home and noticed the leaking in my garage (the tenants were away for the week), the damage may have been disastrous.

Do you have any ideas on how to get this unit owner to pay the rest of the bill? I am considering Small Claims Court if he doesn’t pay within the next few weeks.

Mister Condo replies:

L.W., I am sorry for your problems. Typically, when a unit owner damages another owner’s unit, their insurance or even the association’s insurance is used to handle the repair of the damaged area. Since you took it upon yourself to handle the damage repair, you may be on the hook to collect from the other unit owner (or their insurance). Personally, I like your “take charge” common sense approach to getting the repair handled in timely fashion. However, now you may need to take your neighbor to Small Claims court to get your money back. Honestly, it sounds to me like you got an exceptional price for the work but your “shoot first, ask questions later” approach is receiving pushback from your neighbor. You might want to run the information past an attorney to see if you have a legal leg to stand on. Also, since the neighbor has already drawn a line in the sand at $375, you may need to ask yourself how much aggravation you are willing to suffer to recover the extra $375. You might just want to write this one off and pay attention to what happens the next time and hope that there isn’t a next time. All the best!

Neighbor’s Children Ruining Condo Living Experience

S.F. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a condo in Florida. We have 1 assigned parking space. However, the neighbors from hell have moved in with unruly children and company taking up the visitor spot in front of our building. They have visitor spots closer to their building but prefer ours because of the shade. Also, I have sent pics of their kids jumping from one a/c unit to the next and, again, these are in front of our building not their and right in front of my bedroom window which for some reason they like to play. I have a 6-year-old but I don’t allow her to go past our patio. I don’t understand. It’s like they play in front of other people’s window/building except their own. I only rent and wish I could up and move. But what are my options as far as them hogging the one visitor space in front of our building instead of the visitors in front of theirs and these unruly children. Help! I am a migraine sufferer.

Mister Condo replies:

S.F., I am sorry for your troubles. Unruly and poorly behaved children would be a difficult problem in any condo. Many associations are challenged by rules enforcement issues when it comes to children but your only recourse is to report the rule-breaking activity to the management company and Board so they can take corrective action. Parking is a separate issue but with a similar solution. If anyone is parking in a space assigned to another unit owner, they can be reported to the Board and dealt with by fines and/or towing as allowed by your by-laws. However, simply parking in a visitor space is not a violation. If the visitor space is up for grabs or “first come, first served”, there is nothing you can do to stop your neighbor from parking there, any more than they could prevent you from parking in a visitor space other than the one closest to your unit. As for the migraines caused or exacerbated by living with these in considerate neighbors, I would honestly consider renting somewhere else. Why stay in a unit where the neighbors are such a problem? I wish you all the best!

Neighbor’s Smoke Forces Condo Owner to Sell!

J.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a condominium owner who can no longer hack the smoke. I see from this forum that the raging conflict rarely goes well. I AM LOOKING TO SELL THE PLACE. I am not looking for legal advice nor interested in beating a dead horse with the association again. I did all of the polite and never uncivil neighborly discussions, bought all the expensive air cleaners, spent countless dollars and days fixing insulation and ventilation, and tried countless variations of adjusting fans and windows.

The sooner I sell, the sooner my freedom from this. While I am not a Zen Monk I wish to enjoy my life in the here and now, free from resentments and in harmony as much as I can. At the risk of going off on a tangent, it’s not in any control freak power-hungry thinking to want fresh air any more than wanting food. Point being that the cosmic “here and now” talk goes out the window when basic survival needs are in the forefront. You may see an animal with flies around its eyes not even twitch, but if somebody blew smoke at it, it would freak out.

NOW TO MY QUESTION. How can I show the place to potential buyers during hours conducive to do so (nonbusiness hours; evenings weekends). The problem smoking neighbors leave for work during normal business hours and I can get the place aired out. I don’t feel obligated to put anything about neighbors in a seller’s disclosure document because that document is not about neighbors any more than the neighbors’ religion on sexuality or race and I chances are the buyer won’t be as sensitive to smoke as myself. My problem is that all hell breaks loose here when they get home from work, the times most conducive to show the place to potential buyers. I look forward to my newfound freedom after selling a place I really liked everything else about, but now how do I keep the culprit smokers from blowing the deal?

Mister Condo replies:

J.S., as a fellow non-smoker I feel your pain. There isn’t anything you can do about showing your unit to unsuspecting buyers. However, since there are so many folks unlike you and me, who prefer to smoke, why not use it to your marketing advantage. Use words like “smoker-friendly” or “ideal for smokers” in your marketing. In this world of “smokers be damned” I wouldn’t be surprised to see several potential buyers who smoke entering your unit and thinking they found their own Zen Monk experience. Win/Win, my friend. More and more, there are smoke-free communities and states that are outlawing smoking in high-density housing like condos. My guess is that you will be thorough in your quest for your next home. I wish you clean air and healthy living. Good Luck!

Condo Owner’s Guest Flagrantly Violates Parking Rules

L.W. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our parking rules state that “no vehicles may be stored in common parking spaces when not in use. Vehicles that are not operable or that will not be utilized for 15 days or longer should be parked in the Unit Owners garage or driveway.” The live-in boyfriend of a unit owner has parked his beat up pickup truck in a parking spot in the common area for more than one month. It has not budged in a month. I requested our Management Company ask that he move the truck weeks ago, but it has not moved. The owner of the truck is NOT an owner in this complex, just a friend of one. The truck owner has a new truck which he parks near the old one, indicating to me that he is merely storing this unused truck in one of our common area parking places. It is infuriating that they are being allowed to do this. What do you suggest?

Mister Condo replies:

L.W., the use and management of the common parking areas is the purview of the Board. It is up to them to enforce the rules of the association. Your duty is to report those parking violations that you observe to the Board. It is then up to the Board to take the appropriate action. You can follow up with the Board to see what they are doing but that is the limit of what you can do. The Property Manager can only do what the Board empowers him or her to do. While your by-laws state the intended use of the parking lot they may not say what, specifically, can be done to unit owners or guests who do not comply. Typically, fines are issued after warnings are given. In extreme cases, the Board may have the authority to tow the vehicle off property. Whatever the rules are, all you can do as a resident is to report the offense. It is up to the Board to deal with the problem. All the best!

No Enforcement of Condo Parking Rules Leads to Chaos for Condo Resident

L.T. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have requested for past 5 years to move my parking spot. I rent (by choice) and I am allowed 1 marked spot and 1 visitor spot. I have the only spot parked under a tree. My car gets ruined every day by bird droppings it has ruined the paint on my car and is costing me a small fortune at the car wash. This is not my original spot as you can clearly see on the pavement it was changed. I drive an SUV and I am boxed in by car in front of me and one behind me. Almost every day I come home and someone is in my spot. It clearly should be visitor spot with the one behind me. Gas Co., Comcast , pizza delivery. etc.. So, I park in my visitor spot instead of honking my horn. I also take photos to document. I receive “fines” from condo board for parking in visitor spot. Clearly someone has nothing else to do. Nor have they asked “why” am I supposed to run out all night to check if they left. And it seems to only apply to renters. I also am disabled suffer from migraines. All this exacerbates my condition dealing w/ this every day. Seems there is one set of bylaws for owners and another for renters. I am now submitting a reasonable request. I cannot get an answer why this is such a problem? Just switch my spot. They did it for previous owner. I can go on and on example nobody parks in front of their garage as the bylaws state, parking spaces are not the same length, etc….

Mister Condo replies:

L.T., I am sorry you are having such parking difficulties at your condo apartment. Residents of condominium associations are supposed to voluntarily follow rules such as parking rules because they wish to live in an orderly community. Clearly, your fellow residents have no desire to do so which means the Board needs to intervene and enforce the rules. Sending you fines for violating the rules is one way in which they can attempt to impose order. However, they need to fine all offenders, not just you. If you are being unfairly singled out, you may have a case for a discrimination claim against the association. You should seek the advice of an attorney to see if that is plausible. Other than that, there isn’t too much you can do as an individual. You a should complain to the Board each and every time a parking violation is observed. The Board is under no obligation to move your space although you are free to continue to ask. My guess is this is a classic case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. Be thorough, be consistent, and continue to document the parking violations and report them in timely fashion to the Board. Appear at the Board meetings to voice your complaints. If the Board is unable to fulfill its duty and provide your parking as it does other residents, you will be left with only two other options. Again, you can speak with an attorney to see if there is a legal case to be made or you can move to another apartment where parking may not be such an ordeal. Good luck!

Condo Resident Refuses to Stop Smoking!

J.H. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am president of the Board for my condo. The son of a unit owner and his girlfriend living in the unit are extremely heavy smokers which is causing the unit owner next door great consternation as the smoke seeps through the common block wall between units. We have been dealing with this for some time, and have sent letters to the owner and offending parties, but they are addicted and won’t cease.

The offended party is tearing off walls to try and smoke proof the area and wants to send the condo association the bill for perceived indifference. We are limited in what we can do about this. We have by-laws that cover being a nuisance to your neighbor, but are unsure of how to enforce them given that these people are very addicted and I doubt simple fines will be the answer. In your opinion what is the next step?

Mister Condo replies:

J.H., smoking is a very serious concern for many condominiums around the country. You need to speak with your association attorney to determine what legal steps you can take to make your community “smoke-free”. I am not an attorney but I do know of several who are quite knowledgeable about this subject matter in your state. Two of them have published articles that you need to read:

https://www.goldmanpease.com/secondhand-smoke-and-your-condominium-how-to-navigate-the-changing-legal-landscape.html

https://meeb.com/uncategorized/condominium-smoking-war-heats-up-in-massachusetts/

The bottom line is that second-hand smoke can be considered a nuisance. Clearly, for your non-smoking unit owner who is battling this fight first-hand, nuisance barely begins to describe what he is living with. I find it unlikely that he can charge the association for repairs and changes he is making to his own unit but, in court cases where laws are often interpreted, you never know. I think it is more likely that your association can ban smoking, which will protect the association. Further, beyond fines, it may be possible to evict those who repeated refuse to follow the rules. In some states, smoking in a high-density housing area where smoking is prohibited can be considered a crime. I am not saying that you will have the local police come out to get your smokers arrested but you can make their decision to smoke a lot less appealing. There is no constitutional “right to smoke” so if the association passes a “no smoking” rule, it would very likely stand up to a legal challenge. My hopes for you would be that the smokers would realize this is not the community for them to live in and that they should consider relocating to a “smoker friendly” environment, such as a private home. Best wishes!

Previous Condo Trustee Allowed Unit Owner Delinquency to Go Unchecked!

M.C. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our trustee just sold her unit making me the new trustee. After she left, I found out one of the Unit owners wasn’t paying their HOA fees and that the former trustee had used funds I put in the Reserve Fund for my share of assessments to front for them. We were about to hold off on a planned assessment because of this when the city slapped us with a fine so now we have to move forward or rack up more fines! I asked a lawyer for a consultation hoping he could give us some advice on how to proceed and he practically laughed me off the phone saying the situation wasn’t worth a lawyer. But the unit owners still aren’t paying and the city is expecting us to move forward with the assessment! What do we do?

Mister Condo replies:

M.C., for starters, you get a new lawyer! I don’t know of any lawyer committed to community association law that would “laugh you off the phone” for such a potentially serious and clearly legal matter. You have three very separate matters to attend to here. The city slapping you with a fine is likely your biggest fish to fry. Get your association in compliance with the city so no further fines result. The city likely has powers to make your life quite uncomfortable depending on the nature of the offense. If they find your buildings are uninhabitable due to a safety issue, they could actually forbid people from living in your units. You certainly don’t want that and I am hoping that the fine is for something easily remedied. If a Special Assessment is needed to bring the association into compliance with the city’s requirements, it may be time to levy that assessment. Be sure you do so in accordance with your association’s governance documents and state law. Second, you need to take legal action against the unit owner in arrears as allowed by your governing documents. Typically, this is the work of an attorney or collection agency. Do not take matters into your own hands. Collections is a delicate and legal process best handled by professionals. Collection efforts may even lead to a foreclosure action by the association against the unit owner in arrears. This is not a matter to be taken lightly. Finally, the previous Trustee has acted inappropriately and, perhaps, even illegally. The decision to let another unit owner to forego paying assessments was very likely outside the scope of their authority. At the very least, it was a dereliction of duty. An attorney can best advise you if it is worth seeking criminal or civil charges against the previous trustee in an attempt to collect the delinquent common fees. Once you get all of these problems behind you, M.C., you can focus on running the association like a business, as it was intended to be. Good luck!

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!

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!