Tag Archives: Neighbor Issues

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!

Upstairs Condo Flooring Creates Downstairs Condo Nightmare

T.A. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can an HOA threaten or sue me to not call or complain about the constant noises from the unit above mine. It’s like hammering or whatnot. They changed their flooring around January or February of last year and it seems like not a minimum adequate sound barrier was put. I’ve had to call the police several times. Now he’s saying I’ve aggressively approached him using profane language. Not true. I’ve approached him civilly twice and the last time I asked him to “please! Stop the noises or I’m going to have to call the police”…he said call them and slammed the door. He’s now “saying in harassing him by calling the police and aggressively threatening him? Whatever the case, I’m in Florida. Can they sue me or threat me to stop calling the police non-emergency number when the noises get unbearable?

Mister Condo replies:

T.A., I am most sorry for your unfortunate predicament. In today’s litigious world, lawsuits abound and just about anyone can sue anyone else for seemingly ridiculous reasons. You and I are no exception so there is always the possibility of a lawsuit. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Let me address the basis of your complaint and what you may be able to do using your rights as a unit owner inside of a condominium. Step 1 is to review your condo documents regarding peaceable enjoyment of your unit. Also, take a good look at what it says about flooring. Many condominiums prohibit the installation of hardwood or laminate or tile flooring in units that reside above other units. If your upstairs neighbor violated that rule by removing carpeting and installing a new floor, this is relatively simple to fix. You write to the Board about the rule violation by your neighbor and the Board will take action to remedy the situation. This will involve the Board, not you, citing the unit owner for the rule violation and the fines they will incur until they remedy the flooring. If your association has no rule about flooring types, you likely have the right to peaceable enjoyment. You are going to write to the Board about the noise emanating from above and the Board should take action. If they don’t and there is no legal remedy available to you, you should consider selling and moving to an association that values peace and quiet. You have an expectation to minimal noise. Living beneath hardwood or other flooring creates a really bad environment for sound intrusion, which is exactly the reason it isn’t allowed in many condos. My guess is that with some proper complaints (in writing, not verbal) to the Board (not your neighbor), you will get the relief you seek. Good luck!

There is No “Right to Smoke” at the Condo!

H.S. from Washington state writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have an owner who is objecting to his neighbor below, who smokes while sitting on her back deck. She even has a fan going outside to blow smoke away, so it does not go upstairs. We have rules saying no smoking within 25 feet of bldgs. But smoking is allowed on back decks. We only added in rules years back about 25 feet so not to put out cigarettes on flooring or drop onto walkways so not to burn coating. The property manager and president now want to have a lawyer draw up an amendment to prohibit smoking outside because of one owner whining. I feel they are taking away someone’s rights. I do not care for the smoke either, but I also hate having to close my windows when neighbors light up barbecues. That is more annoying to me, and lasts longer. I said maybe we should ban barbecues. I was only making a point about taking others rights away with barbecues. I believe we will have 4 against out of 7 on the board for having an amendment, but I will be gone this next meeting, so who knows? What is your feeling? It just seems like more, silly liberal “must not offend, take away rights, nonsense.

Mister Condo replies:

H.S., I can understand both sides of this issue quite well and while I agree with you that “less rules” is a simpler solution, nuisance-free living is a staple of most condo governing documents and the issue of smoke and foul odors needs to be taken quite seriously be condo association Boards unless they would prefer to defend their lack of action against such complaints in court by unit owners who wish to exercise their rights. Speaking of which, you use the word “rights” to describe smoking. There is no such right. Smoking is not constitutionally protected so no one has a “right” to smoke anywhere on association property. They also don’t have a “right” to barbecue and you have a right to claim the odor is a nuisance to you. The real question here is how far are the unit owners willing to go to protect their right to nuisance-free living. Non-smokers have the upper hand here although, their initial action is to ask the Board to restrict the activity. If the Board refuses, their only option is a lawsuit. If they are serious enough about protecting their own rights, they may just sue the association and they will likely prevail based on the current legal climate. You can search for local court records to see how the battle is going. My guess is you will see unit owners prevail against allowing smoking. Also, many state public health agencies are also encouraging smoking bans in all high-density housing (HDH) areas, of which your condo is likely one. With both condo governing documents and state agency policy on their side, non-smokers will likely prevail, in my opinion. Good luck!

Condo Parking Blocks Sidewalks

P.D. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I own the upper condo with a renter in the lower condo. She threatened me with police and association complaint of me parking in my parking slot in front of sidewalks. 95% of parking slots are in front of the sidewalks. Does she have a leg to stand on?

Mister Condo replies:

P.D., I am sorry that you and your neighbor are at odds over the parking in your condominium. Surely, there are rules from the association as to what is and isn’t allowable. I can’t imagine the police getting involved on what happens on association property that the local municipality has no control over. If you have somehow blocked the entrance to her unit with your parking, she may have reason to call the police but other than that, this is an association matter. If you are violating association parking rules, then, yes, she has a leg to stand on and you may be fined and/or towed for violating the parking rules. If not, this is just an unfortunate situation between neighbors. If you can’t work it out amicably, you may be in for a contentious relationship with your neighbor but that may say more about her than you. Good luck!

Former Board Member Making Life Difficult for New Board and Condo Contractors

M.M. from Windham County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

A resident is prone to harassing our contractors for landscaping and snow removal. He is very resentful that he is no longer on the board and sends us lengthy emails about their shortcomings. Years ago, he used to enjoy kickbacks from contractors who no longer work here. He also removes branches, shovels snow and blames us for his hernia. Our manager reminded him that he is not to do work on the common areas, and he is livid. So far, our new board is calm, but he is accusing us of horrible crimes, threatens to expose someone’s DUI arrest and demands to see contracts under CT’s FOI rule. We know FOI does not govern this, but what is the specific law that does govern a privately-held condo association? How do we protect ourselves?

Mister Condo replies:

M.M., it certainly sounds like you have your hands full with this unit owner. The Common Interest Ownership Act is very likely the law that gives him the right to inspect any and all association records, which includes contracts that the association has entered into. I am not an attorney so please accept my advice as friendly and not legal. While the association does need to provide information as requested, it does not need to do so for free. Reasonable fees for preparing and copying the documents can be charged. Again, there are limits so check with your association’s attorney before deciding how much to charge for the record copies. As for protecting yourselves, you simply need to practice good governance and realize that you are officers in a not-for-profit corporation. You are bound by your own governance documents and state law. I always recommend that Board members receive adequate training and in our state, the local Chapter of CAI offers an excellent program called “Condo, Inc.” where Board members can learn the basics of good community governance. In fact, there are three programs offered this next year. You can lean more by clicking the following link: http://www.caict.org/events/event_list.asp?show=&group=&start=10%2F31%2F2017&end=&view=&cid=18225 Good luck!

Noisy Neighbor Making Condo Life Unbearable for New Owner

A.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I know you get a fair amount of questions about how to deal with noise in condo living situations. Here’s another one. I just moved into a unit in a rather large building, back in February. On the night of the walk-through I noticed that in the master bedroom I could hear the next door neighbor’s television. The former owners joked at the closing that the neighbor was fond of westerns and classical music (meaning they were familiar with the noise). Said former owners slept in the guest bedroom and used the unit as a weekend home, so they were not here very often nor did they sleep in bedroom with noise.

I do sleep in my master bedroom. The neighbor is an eighty-five-year-old man who has owned here since the seventies. (I know this because on the only occasion I have had to actually address my concern about his loud television in the middle of the night, he told me that he had lived here for forever and that I should sleep in my master bedroom…) I expect quiet, to the degree that I can get it. I had not expected that I would have to deal with loud television sounds in the middle of the night. The neighbor is pretty deaf and perhaps unaware (?) of how loud is his television. He definitely has a sense of entitlement because of his length of ownership. Are there tools that can assist an elderly person with knowing if they are going above a certain decibel level with their noise?

I am in communication with the management company. So far, they have done nothing about the issue. Instead, they suggest that I have someone come into my unit to ascertain if I am truly hearing something. Considering that I am a light sleeper and have really good hearing, and that their suggestion is based on a truly subjective meter, I’m pretty sure I will not allow someone in my unit at 1:00 a.m.. So, mostly I write emails that don’t get a response and call the door person and don’t get relief.

Any suggestions?

Mister Condo replies:

A.M., I am sorry that you find yourself in this position within your own home. Some condo governance documents are quite specific on acceptable noise levels; many are silent on the subject and simply call for peaceable enjoyment of the premise, which leaves a lot of wiggle room for both the Board and the unit owners. The vast majority of unit owners live by the Golden Rule: Do Unto Others as You Would Have Done Unto You. However, if you have neighbor that is hard of hearing and is unresponsive to your requests to keep the noise down, you now have to look at other options. While your Property Manager may not take action, your Board doesn’t have the luxury of ignoring your formal request to take action and enforce the association’s rules on noise, whatever they may be. Start with reviewing your condo documents to see what they say about acceptable noise levels. Make a formal complaint to the Board, in writing, and site the by-laws that support your complaint. Then, follow up with the Board to make sure they do take action. If your neighbor is violating rules, they can fine him. He will resist and play the “I’ve been here forever” card but that has no legal importance whatsoever. If the Board thinks he is violating the noise rules, they can take action to correct his behavior. You need to continue to document each time he breaks the noise rules and report to the Board when he does. In other words, be a squeaky wheel. Make your problem their problem. If you still get no relief, speak with an attorney to see what other legal actions may be available to you. My guess is it won’t come to that but that would be your path to relief. Good luck!

Condo Rental Blues

A.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I rent a unit in an 8-family condo building. The day I got my keys, three neighbors knocked on my door and told me the previous tenant moved out because they called the police on her four times for noise. They proceeded to list noise complaints and told me they could hear me already (I was cleaning! I had not moved in yet). They told me the previous tenants talked on the phone loudly after 10pm, banged the water off and on, and slammed the cupboards – this is why they called the police.

Now I’ve been living here for two months and I can hear everything the complaining neighbor (below me) speaks – clearly – and I can hear her snoring. I don’t think there is sound proofing if I can hear her talking through my floor. Then this morning at 6:00 am the neighbor across the hall had a fight with an unknown woman on the landing outside my door and I was a bit frightened.

I told my landlord about their initial complaints. Should I tell him about the fight? He lied to me as to the reason the previous tenants left (he told me they broke the lease because they had financial troubles) when the real reason was the downstairs neighbor called the police on them four times and they were essentially forced out. I am in a year lease and I am thinking I made a mistake moving here. Advice?

Mister Condo replies:

A.B., I am sorry that your new rental is looking less than ideal. The reality is you are a new tenant and a new member of this close-knit community. They have already shown you some of their quirks and you may or may not fit in with this group of folks. The good news is that you will know in short order if you will want to stay there more than 12 months. If you enjoy your experience, you’re good to go. If you find it unenjoyable, there is no need to renew your lease. If you let your landlord know you aren’t planning on renewing your lease and that you are even willing to leave the lease early, your landlord can begin marketing the unit sooner and may find a renter to replace you before your lease ends, which sounds to me like that is what you want. If you voluntarily break your lease without your landlord’s agreement, you may still be on the hook for your rent and lose your security deposit. That isn’t what you want. My advice is to give it a try. If it doesn’t work out, try working with your landlord to end your lease early. If that doesn’t work out, don’t renew your lease and hope for a better group of neighbors next time. Good luck!

HOA Sues Owner for Trying to Rescue a Stray Cat

J.H. from Michigan writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My neighbor accused me of feeding a feral cat. HOA is taking me to court. I was not feeding a feral cat! This female cat was tame, but pregnant. I was feeding the cat in order to catch her. If I had not, there would now be 3 females pregnant by the 2 tomcats roaming the condo complex. I did these people a favor! I bought the food, sat outside with the woman from a rescue organization and caught the mother and two kittens. Can a HOA have ordinances to override the County, City and State laws?

Mister Condo replies:

J.H., I salute your efforts to help but I hope you can understand how dangerous feeding any wild animals can be and the potential risk it puts on the HOA. Your neighbor had no way of knowing what you were up to and reported the behavior to the Board, who took the appropriate action for your rules and by-laws. I cannot imagine that any of their rules override local laws and the answer to that question is “no”, they cannot have rules that conflict with local ordinances. I have to believe that the correct solution to this problem would have been for you to report the stray but tame cat to the association and let them take whatever steps they deem appropriate to remedy the situation. After all, this wasn’t your cat. The person from the rescue organization would have been their likely contact and the same end result could have been achieved without your personal involvement in rescuing the animal. I am sure you meant well and I am guessing you are an animal lover, which I certainly admire. However, in most HOAs, feeding stray or ferial animals, regardless of your intention or their tameness, is prohibited due to the risk of pestilence and/or animal attacks on residents. All the best!

Neighborly Pet Behavior Missing at this Condo!

A.S. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a neighbor who has gotten out of control with her little dog relieving its self on her deck. It stinks! I contacted the property manager and health department. They both told me to take photos, proof, so I did. There is a hearing for the owner of this unit. I was told by the police that I cannot take photos, the police told me the property manager needs to take the photos. Our decks are 12′ off the ground, no stairs to them, so what am I supposed to do? Call the property manager and wait for him to come out? By that time, it’s too late!

Mister Condo replies:

A.S., you have a series of unfortunate events to deal with here if you are going to curb your neighbor’s behavior. The violation of your condo rules is the purview of the Board and the Property Manager. The police are only involved if laws are being broken. If your neighbor allowing her pet to relieve itself on the deck is a rule violation (most likely, it is), then you document the violation as requested by the Property Manager and let the Board take action against the neighbor. If the police are involved (likely through a domestic complaint) you need to follow their rules so they can enforce the laws. You may wish to hire an attorney to get a better answer as to what you can and cannot do for law enforcement. Honestly, if the Board takes action against the neighbor (violation letters, fines) that is probably all it will take to get the neighbor to be a more responsible pet owner. If that doesn’t work and you do need to involve the police, you will have to follow their instructions, as difficult and improbable as they sound. Good luck!

HOA Board Ain’t Fixin’ Nuttin!

R.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

4 months ago, I purchased a duplex which has 3 buildings and 6 owners. I had a hard time getting documents during the sale and did not understand the dynamics involved. The first email I got from the treasurer was on the day the fees were due. Our first meeting when I met the other owners was a nightmare. The president has been in position for 20 years and has Alzheimer’s so her daughter had appointed herself to the position. The treasurer was appointed by her, not vote, and the secretary had been behind 6 months in fees which they were trying to cover up. When I brought up concerns about the outside of our building, I was yelled at by the President’s son-in-law and told “we ain’t fixing nuttin, we got no money!” Then my neighbor brought up a repair not done properly and he stood up screaming and swearing at her and everyone started fighting. I asked for the bylaws and I was told by the president to find them myself. She doesn’t have them.

A few weeks ago, the fascia that needed repair was hanging off of my roof. I called the president and son in law started screaming and threatening me and said we have no money to fix it. I mentioned the Reserves that we should have had when I moved in, and both him and the treasurer admitted it was fudged to make the sale happen and accused my realtor of fraud. I had her call them and the next day the son-in-law apologized and paid out of pocket to have the fascia repaired.

They had previously called a special meeting to discuss the budget so I told them I did not want the son-in-law there as he has no business there; they agreed. The meeting started off ok until we brought up questions about missing payments from a couple of owners. We started getting bullied again. When the argument was brought up about the fascia I defended myself telling what the son-in-law said to me. He came running down the stairs screaming and swearing and threatening me again and threw me out of his mother-in-law’s house. I called the police.

I want to have the President, Treasurer, and Secretary removed by law for keeping false books, hostile environment, favoritism, harassment and negligence. If I have solid proof (which I do), will I be able to charge the association for the attorney since it’s in the best interest of the owners? It’s the board who caused all of these problems.

Mister Condo replies:

R.M., your tale of woe reads like a comedy of errors. I am glad you got your fascia replaced but the rest of this tale is a nightmare! This is a small homeowner’s association (6 units if I understood your opening statement). Small associations face the same challenges as larger associations but have far fewer resources to handle the issues. A functioning Board is a good start but there are legal remedies available to you. I want to ask you about your own purchase into this association. Did you use an attorney? Did the attorney review the governance documents? They can’t go missing as they are part of the closing process. Of course, if you somehow waived your right to these critical documents in an eagerness to make the purchase, you are experiencing a major case of “Buyer Beware!” It sounds to me like there is awful lot of impropriety going on here. You need to speak with an attorney, which I am not. I offer friendly advice; an attorney will offer you legal advice. You may end up suing the association, individual officers, anyone else associated with these misdeeds in an attempt to get the association back on sound footing. By the way, 6 owners don’t guarantee deep enough pockets to do that. In fact, you may be throwing good money after bad in an attempt to correct this problem. Your attorney can better advise you if you can include your own legal fees in any litigation but winning the litigation is just the beginning. You need to collect from these folks, who clearly don’t have the money from what you have told me. If it were me, I think I would try to sell and cut my losses. Otherwise, be ready to deal with an ongoing problem for months and even years to come. Keep the police on speed dial because these folks clearly have no idea what they are supposed to be doing and will likely continue doing what they have always done. Good luck!