Tag Archives: Neighbor Issues

Careless Condo Owner Ruining Neighboring Unit

H.H. from Los Angeles writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in Los Angeles and the unit above me has had water leaking into my unit – this will make the 4th time. I had to get my insurance company involved last time and they had to replace my ceiling and shower. 2 days ago, water was pouring into my newly renovated kitchen. She claims she spilled a pitcher of water. I have pics and video. Prior to the last two incidences, I had to replace my bathroom ceiling because she was missing the rubber ring in her tub. Prior to that I had water running down my walls from a seal issue she had in her shower. Should I get an attorney? What can I do? I’ve been living in construction for the last year. I’m losing my mind!

Mister Condo replies:

H.H., I am sorry for your neighbor problems. Thankfully, you have insurance to assist with the repairs but there is no way to protect your peace of mind. You certainly could hire an attorney but to what avail? Your upstairs neighbor is just behaving in an un-neighborly manner. Her careless ways are making your condo life uncomfortable and downright miserable. You can write to your Board and ask that they intervene on your behalf but it doesn’t sound as though any rules or laws have been broken. This is just a case of a careless unit owner causing grief for fellow unit owners, in this case, you. Speak with an attorney if you think you have a case of some sort against ether the neighbor or the association. Other than that, keep your fingers crossed that this neighbor decides to start acting like a responsible adult and realizing that her careless action have real consequences to those around her. Good luck!

Condo Unit Owner Removes Load Bearing Wall; Disaster Ensues

N.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a condo on the fourth floor. An owner of a unit below moved a load bearing wall and now I have cracks on my walls and my floor sags. Who’s responsible; the owner that did the work or the association?

Mister Condo replies:

N.G., Yikes! I always shake my head in disbelief when I hear these stories. A unit owner took it upon themselves to move a load bearing wall and caused great damage. You are lucky that the building didn’t collapse. I hope that you can have your unit repaired to the way it was before this unit owner caused all this problem. The unit owner who modified the building is at fault here and should repair the wall and your unit and any other damage to neighboring units. If the association granted permission for the unit owner to do the work (unlikely) they may bear some of the burden to repair units and/or common areas. There is a reason for architectural compliance and approval before unit owners take on the kind of project your neighbor did. Your example is a worst-case scenario fo what can happen when they don’t do it right. Good luck!

Board and Fellow Unit Owners Making Condo Life Uncomfortable

M.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo is 40% Fundamentalist Christian. They have a weekly Bible study and control the Board. We had a ten-year standing water issue which was finally resolved when we took steps looking into a lawyer. They are so judgmental and repeatedly report us to the board over trivial matters. We moved out and now are moving back in after our home failed to sell. They kept bombing me with “nice” nosy questions and now I refuse contact and have taken steps to insure my privacy. Is there anything I can do to get them from approaching me every time I go on my deck or outside? And is there anything we can do about the favoritism they show such as forgetting repeatedly to cut the weeds behind my condo.

Mister Condo replies:

M.K., I am sorry that you are feeling uncomfortable in your own condo association. Freedom of speech pretty much guarantees all of us the ability to say what we want within reason. You have already taken steps to distance yourself from their expression of speech. As for governance issues, the Board has legal responsibilities to enforce the covenants of the association. One of those covenants is peaceable enjoyment of your unit. The attorney who assisted you with the water problem can likely offer you the best legal advice for your state. If the Board is taking actions that deny you peaceable enjoyment of your unit, you may be able to sue them. Whether you agree with their Fundamentalist values or not, you should not be subjected to harassment of any sort. As for issues of favoritism, that is unfortunate and you should complain, in writing, to the Board when services that are provided to others are not provided to you. I know that selling your unit didn’t work last time but I would strongly urge you to consider trying again. There is no reason for anyone to remain living in a condo that is not to their liking. Lower your price, do whatever you have to do to make your unit more appealing. Perhaps a current unit owner could find a friend or family member more attuned to the community’s nuances? I wish you better success down the road.

Condo Dryer Vent Aimed at Neighbor’s Window and Deck

A.G. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My neighbor’s dryer vent blows onto my deck, heating my personal outside area. My dog can’t go outside, my kids can’t play, and I can’t even open my bedroom window or leave my sliding glass doors open, because the hot air from their dryer blows inside. Other condos have their dryers venting into the alley, but my neighbor won’t do it. What can I do?

Mister Condo replies:

A.G., I am sorry for your problem and I am sorry that your neighbor doesn’t seem to want to work with you to solve the problem. The first question I have for you is if the neighbor’s dryer vent was designed that way or if it was modified over the years? Since others have vents that blow into an alley, it seems strange that this vent is aimed at your “space”. You do have the right to enjoyment of your unit and that should include having your windows open and use of your deck. I would complain to the Board about the dryer vent invading your space and preventing you from enjoying your unit and see if they won’t intervene on your behalf. If they won’t help and your neighbor is unwilling to modify the direction of the vent, you might just want to speak with an attorney to see what, if any, legal options you have. I would think you could sue the association for not protecting your right to peaceable enjoyment of your unit. I hope it doesn’t come to that but you should make sure you and your family can enjoy your unit. Good luck!

Condo Owner Floods Uninsured Neighbor’s Unit

H.W. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Recently my washer broke (the tube was incorrectly installed by the previous owner and it popped off). I didn’t realize anything was wrong until the unit below me called in a panic about the water leaking from his ceiling. Water was pooling in my catch tray and the overflow was then leaking under the floor boards, so there was never any pooling to alert me. Unfortunately, neither my unit insurance or the master will cover repairs to his ceiling, and he does not have unit insurance. He asked me to split the repair cost. I’m torn! It was my washer that caused his water damage, but the cost would be WAY less if he had insurance (half the deductible versus half the repair cost!). We are very neighborly, so part of me thinks to maintain the relationship I should eat the cost… but I’ve also put a lot of my blood, sweat, tears, and loans into this association to keep it afloat, and after paying the plumber I’m kind of tapped. What should I do?!

Mister Condo replies:

H.W., your neighbor’s lack of insurance is troubling and may even be against your association’s regulations. Many associations require all unit owners to carry their own homeowner’s insurance for just such occurrences as this. If so, and your neighbor was delinquent in his duty to insure, you may not have any liability whatsoever. If that is not the case, you may be on the hook for half or all of the damage. It really depends on how your neighbor proceeds. If he sues, in Small Claims, or other, then and only then. Might you find yourself held legally responsible for the damage. I appreciate your “good neighbor” attitude and paying some of the expense, which you did, should help keep the relationship between you and your neighbor congenial.

Why in the world are you loaning money to your association? Are you a bank? Why does your association need money to “keep it afloat”. You have signaled a big problem with your association’s finances. Common fees should be sufficient to keep any association afloat. Individual unit owners should not be loaning the association money. It is time for your association to get some real world training on how to run itself and practice sound fiscal policies, which include adequate common fees for the association to fund itself. All the best!

Laws About Condo Flooring Materials in High-Rises

J. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am on the lower level of a condominium and the owner above me removed area rugs, and walking on hard wood floors above me sounds like horses walking around!! Are there any laws or standards regarding wood floors in condos?

Mister Condo replies:

J., there are no laws about floor types or covering in condos that I am aware of. However, many associations, especially those with upstairs/downstairs unit owners have their own rules about materials that may or may not be used by owners. Many apartment style condos require wall-to-wall carpeting to help prevent noise from travelling downward. Check your condo docs and see what they say about floor types and coverings. It is quite possible that your upstairs neighbor has violated the building’s policy by having hard wood floors, regardless of area rugs. At the very least, you might ask the Board to intervene as the noise is disturbing your peaceful use of your own unit. Good luck!

Neighboring Condo Unit Owned by a Hoarder

J.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The unit next to me is owned by a hoarder who moved in during 2015. The owner is hoarding on the deck/common elements outside as well as inside the unit. There are no window treatments so you can see piles upon piles of “stuff” inside the unit. I have complained to my association in June of this year because my unit had mice. (I have owned for 10 years and never had a rodent prior to this) They have done very little and communicated very little to me despite my calls/requests for assistance. They had the County Board of Health come and just confirm that it is a hoarding situation, that the mice are most definitely coming from there but the BOH has stated there is little they can do about the conditions on the inside of the unit. I had the Fire Marshall some and speak with the unit owner but they have limited power as well. He did let them know a neighbor is upset and asked them to clean up and they said they would. Of course, they did not. I had an exterminator come out, they did their best but stated if the cleanup doesn’t happen this will be a recurrent issue and it could get much worse. Well two months later and I have mice again. I have contacted the Board several times with zero response, Mister Condo, without the board acting. We have antiquated by-laws that’s don’t address hoarding. What are my options at this point? I was told to sue the board and the neighbor. Do you have any wisdom on this issue? I’m really losing hope and thinking I need to sell my condo.

Mister Condo replies:

J.C., hoarding is a real problem at condos and apartments around the country, not just in your community. I am very sorry for your particular horror story. You are doing all the right things. You also need to contact an attorney. Regardless of what the Board can and cannot do to get this hoarding situation under control, you need to have your property rights protected and that might very well include a lawsuit against the hoarder and the association. The problem is that hoarding isn’t properly addressed in association rules and by-laws. Further, the courts have often sided with the homeowner right to live in their home as they see fit. The legal battle happens when their lifestyle creates “nuisance” for other unit owners (like you). Selling your unit is certainly a viable option but finding a buyer is likely to be quite challenging with a mouse infestation problem. A savvy buyer would surely notice the sights and smells that are usually associated with a neighboring unit housing a hoarder but I wouldn’t rule it out as one possible and realistic solution to your problem. My advice is that you consult with an attorney, gather up as much information as you can, and make an informed decision about whether to stay in place or sell your unit. Good luck!

Unit Owners Informally Question Board Members in Condo Corridors

J.L. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The president and I are new to the board. We live in a 12-unit building where the unit owners were used to freely going up to past board members doors and address whatever concerns they had. The president and I feel we have a management company that we pay and that the unit owners should address any issues with the management company instead of us. We’d like to post a note addressing the unit owners that going forward they need to contact the management company. Please let me know your thoughts?

Mister Condo replies:

J.L., since the previous Board had a very “open door” policy regarding unit owners addressing concerns, you have inherited their management style, like it or not. The way to correct it is to let all unit owners know that there has been a change in Board members and that new policy is in place. In fact, I would argue that the old policy was fraught with potential disaster, including Board members making “on the spot” decisions that could come back to haunt the association. The proper procedure for unit owners to bring their concerns to the Board is to contact the Board via the Property Management company or in writing so their concerns can be addressed at the next scheduled Board meeting. That way there is written action (Minutes) to document the concern and what action, if any, was taken. Casual conversation in the corridors of the building is nothing more than that. In a small association like yours, I would guess close to half of the unit owners serve on the Board so it is not surprising that such an informal approach was adopted. However, that doesn’t mean it was correct. I hope you can manage it to your liking in the future. 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!

Condo’s No Parking Rules Ignored by Unit Owners Including Board President

K.J. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

There is a spot near my garage which is marked “No Parking”. If someone parks there, it is very difficult if not impossible to maneuver my car into my garage. Additionally, it narrows the driveway in our parking lot so that other cars have trouble going around the lot. Sometimes a neighbor will have a guest park there because the guest is too lazy to park in visitor parking which is about fifty feet away. One of my neighbors parks there weekly because it’s just more convenient than her garage. That neighbor is president of the condo complex. I have complained to her about “people” parking in that spot and she says “You’re right they shouldn’t” and then the same day SHE parks there. What should I do?

Mister Condo replies:

K.J., all you can do is complain loudly and often each and every time the “No Parking” rule is violated. The president of the Board is not exempt from the rules of the association and should be reported for each and every time she violates the rule as well. Presidents who feel they do not need to follow the rules of the association have no business serving as officers of the association and I would not hesitate to point that out at the next election cycle when she is running for reelection. If she isn’t going to follow the rules how can she be expected to enforce the rules, a primary duty of the Board? Other than that, it sounds like you have a series of unit owners and guest who just don’t care about the parking rules and how their violation of those rules inconveniences other community members. The world is full of rude and ignorant people; sounds to me like a fair number of them reside in your association. The rules are on your side; well-mannered residents are not. Keep complaining. It may get better; it may not. All the best!