Tag Archives: Neighbor Issues

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!

Neighbor Versus Neighbor Over Condo Common Walkway Use

P.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

On a common walkway, I have had a small table and 2 chairs to sit outside of my condo of 25 years. My new neighbor of 2 months, who rents at a highly discounted rate, wants my spot because it is in front of his living room windows and the absentee owner is threatening me with the police. Help! (My door is one foot from the table) it is a corner area.

Mister Condo replies:

P.C., I am sorry for your situation. Without knowing more about the particulars, let me focus on what I do know from what you have told me. Common walkways in most community association are just that, common. That means they are for the entire community’s use, not just any one member. Regardless of how long you have had a table and chair set up in this location, it wasn’t “yours” to begin with. The association, not the neighbor’s tenant or absentee neighbor, is the only entity that can ask you to remove your table and chair as the association is the owner of the common walkway. The fact that the neighbor rents at a highly discounted rate and that the owner is absent does not come into play at all here. The police will have no interest in where you set up your table and chair because you are on private property and aren’t breaking any laws. If the neighbor continues to harass you in such manner, you may be the one calling the police as they are harassing you and have no right to do so. If the neighbor has a complaint against your improper use of the common walkway, he should complain to the Board or Property Manager. It is then up to the Board to take action against you (they would likely ask you to remove your table and chair). Once you comply, you would be well within your rights to complain to the Board if anyone else set up in your previous area. The bottom line is that common walkways are not owned by unit owners; they are the property of the association and, as such, are under direct control of the Board; not other unit owners. My guess is that unless the Board is willing to implement an association-wide enforcement of the rule, nothing is going to happen. If the neighboring unit owner or renter threatens you in any way, call the police. Harassment is illegal. Good luck!

Nosy Neighbors Spying on Condo Owner so Owner Spies Back!

M.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

 

An older couple (70ish) that lives on the same floor as me (but we share no common wall) is loitering next to my front door multiple times a day. I suspected that they had an issue with me for a while now as a few times I saw them in the hallway in close proximity to my door and they look really flustered. I’ve said ‘Good Morning” and they just look down and shuffle off.

If I see them in person they typically avoid me. If they go out of their door to go to the elevator around the same time as I do and they hear me coming down the hall they will go back in to their condo. Could be coincidence but has happened a few too many times for me to feel that way.

So, they obviously have an issue with me but I’m unsure what they hope to get by listening to my door which I have video evidence of them doing multiple times a day (I bought a wifi door peephole camera after suspecting this happening for weeks).

The camera has motion detection and only records when it senses activity. They walk past my door sloooowly in one direction and then 30 seconds later pass by again in the direction back to their condo, and on occasion they’ll pause in front of my door and act like they are looking for something on their phone and stand there for about 30 seconds. They even look intently at the door as one tends to do when you are trying to listen for something. This happens during the middle of the day and later at night around 10 and sometimes even after midnight when I’ve usually gone to sleep.

My gut tells me they have an issue with me and would prefer it if I were no longer their neighbor and want to catch me breaking some HOA rule. However, I don’t know what rule I could be breaking that they could hear through the door at 4 pm, can’t get a noise violation at that time. Especially if they have to loiter in front of the door and listen intently to hear anything. Also, I own my condo so even if I did get a noise complaint it’s not going to get me thrown out of the building.

I guess my question is what do I do with this evidence? How do I get this annoying activity to stop? I’m reluctant to go to Security with it because they too do the slow minute walk past my door and loiter routine. So, it feels like I’m the bad kid on the block that everyone hates.

Full Disclosure: I’m in my 30s and the majority of the tenants seem to be in their 70’s and up. I did not know this when I bought the place or I might have reconsidered. When I first moved in I wanted to enjoy my nice new condo and had a ‘few’ parties. However, I never got noise complaints from those absolutely bonkers parties and I got tired of things breaking in my new condo and gave up that practice. I also got a girlfriend in November and haven’t had anyone over accept her since. All we do is make dinners and watch Netflix.

Mister Condo replies:

 

M.S., you’ll pardon me if I tell you this story made me grin and chuckle. The idea of neighbors loitering outside of your front door is amusing. The fact that you have added a video security doorbell system that records them doing so is also amusing. I have a similar video doorbell myself and I have videos of neighbors inspecting the unit which features giant pictures of their faces as they place their eyes within inches of the unit. As long as neither you nor your neighbors are violating and/or reporting any violations of association rules, I really don’t see that anything needs to be done. Nosy neighbors are often part of living in a high-density housing community. You may have found the ultimate in nosy neighbors and I think you have deduced what their “issue” is with having you as a neighbor. Neither you or they are under any obligation to like each other. If you find the complexion of the community is not desirable to you, you may think about selling and buying somewhere with more folks your age. Other than that, enjoy your condominium if not your neighbors. Their antics are likely to keep you entertained for months to come. One serious note: you might want to check to make sure that video recording of folks in the HOA common area (the front hall of your shared entrance condominium) isn’t considered an invasion of privacy issue and that your condo doesn’t have rules against such a device. That could put you at odds with your association and could lead to fines. Other than that, I wish you all the best!

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!

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!