Tag Archives: Voting

Condo Developer Transition Turmoil

S.C. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our Board does nothing. No communication, they don’t respond to our questions very well, they are not transparent when they communicate among each other (which is not too often) and my biggest beef, they refuse to fix our crumbling infrastructure (roads, outside siding, fascia boards, etc.). It’s one delay, one excuse after another and this has been going on for almost 3 years. Money is tight, they do not properly fund our community yet they are raising the dues and still operating with a negative balance. No one on the board lives here full-time and the president and one other member work for the developer. Clearly, their priorities are not in sync with the homeowners. Most residents will not say a word for fear of being the bad one or simply a case of extreme apathy. I want to round up the troops and have all the board members (well, 3 out of 4) removed. Having been the president of the association and property manager, I have plenty of experience.  I do not know what kind of reaction I will get but I do know there will be some support. Any response from you would be great and I look forward to it. Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

S.C., I am sorry that your condo Board is not performing to your expectations. However, from what you have told me, the association is still under developer control so the Board truly has limited power during this time period. Once control is handed over to the association, things will change because no one will be beholden to the developer. The association governs itself and many of the items you discuss can be addressed through democratic elections of interested and able volunteers. Now, if the developer has broken covenants with the owners and you think a lawsuit is in order, you might want to discuss your situation with an attorney. However, new owners like you describe may not go along with spending money to sue the developer so you may just need to wait until the developer transition period is complete. If I have misread your letter and the developer transition is already complete, you simply need to elect new leaders for your community. You will need volunteers ready, able, and willing to serve. They will need training and support. You should also consider hiring a community association attorney verse in developer transition, and accountant, and a property manager if needed. The developer’s team was there to support the developer, not the community association. Getting the right folks in place is vitally important to your association’s success. Your local CAI Chapter can help you find the resources you need. Visit http://caict.org to learn more. Good luck!

Complacent Condo Owners Liable for Board’s Poor Performance

F.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I joined the board a year ago. The other board members are there for decades, not by vote but because we never reached the minimum quorum to carry out an election. After investigation, I found several flubs in the past decisions that led us to severe loss to our condominium. One of them, amounts to almost $300,000 in losses with the cost of irrigation water. The association has been paying the local utility company by the highest water rate when it should be 70% lower if they had applied with the utility company for a lower rate based on the size of our property. The lower rate was available since 2008 and it was very easy to learn about. Another issue is the roofs of our buildings. The wooden shakes were replaced in 2004 after damages caused by a hurricane. However, as I learned, the wooden shakes replacement was not done by Standard Building Code. The association did not hire an architect or engineer to guide them in the reconstruction process. As a consequence, the roofs were replaced by local contractors and are now in very bad shape, will not last much longer and the overall aspect is detrimental to our property values. Another issue is the most recent, and involves the resurfacing of our tennis court that had been in bad shape and useless for years. The association knew that the ground soil was sinking and that the soil needed to be addressed beforehand. Instead, they approved a cheap painting for $7,000. The tennis court is visibly off level. Considering the way decisions are made by the board, I am afraid that our condominium will suffer further downgrades if action is not taken to remove and replace the board members. Because of the last recession, more than 50% of our units are now rental units. It will not be an easy task to obtain signatures of 75% of all property owners to remove the board members. My question is whether a legal action to compel them to leave is a valid option.

Mister Condo replies:

F.M., I am sorry for the situation you find yourself in. I am not an attorney so I cannot offer you legal advice as to whether a legal action to compel the Board to vacate their office is a valid option. However, I will tell you that, in my opinion, it is not a valid option for the following reasons. Your association is a privately held, not for profit, corporation. The corporation was founded to govern the association and unless you can cite an explicitly illegal activity, the Board has done nothing legally incorrect. In fact, for decades, the unit owners of your association have returned them to office at Annual Meetings, where democratic elections have been held. Lack of quorum only shows that unit owners didn’t care enough to participate in the governance of their association. Shame on them for doing so as all unit owners have paid the price over and over again for their lack of attendance. If it were me, I would sell my unit and get out before any further financial damage occurred. That is an option available to you. If you wish to remain and try to effect change, you will need to seek other like-minded unit owners to run for election to the Board and get enough votes to win. If you think you have the votes/signatures to force a recall election prior to the Annual Meeting, you can certainly follow the steps on your governing documents to do so. However, with so many absentee owners, I agree with you that would be unlikely. Annual Meetings are typically your best bet for a changing of the guard. You will need to campaign for new Board Members and be sure they are ready to serve. You should reach out to resident unit owners ahead of time and write to absentee unit owners to encourage them to support these new candidates with a proxy vote. Change to association governance comes from within the association. Simply doing an inadequate job of managing the association resources isn’t enough to have Board members removed. It takes a fresh batch of candidates to unseat incumbent Board Members. And guess what? If your fellow unit owners don’t support that change, it isn’t going to happen. Good Luck!

If the Condo Keeps Doing What It Has Always Done…

K.G. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are fairly new to our three-unit condo community. Two of the units, the ones where the Secretary and the Treasurer reside, are reasonable and interested in a positive and well-governed board with productive meetings. The other unit, in which the long time President resides, there is dysfunction and a constant need to have its residents (not board members) take over the meetings and highjack the agenda so that nothing is ever accomplished. It appears we need help. I have two questions that I am hoping you can assist me with. The first, is where can one enlist a mediator or someone to monitor these meetings more effectively? You have suggested to us before that the President should be voted out. It won’t happen as no one else is willing to take over. We could hire an attorney but it seems quite costly. Do mediators exist in Connecticut that could only act as moderators and run the meetings and keep them on task? My second question is that I have scanned the webinars on the CAI website for the Connecticut chapter and there are several that look like they might help. Can you suggest one that would be beneficial to a new board member who does not have any legal experience or real experience on a board? I saw several for resolving conflict and behaviors. Also, would my husband and I benefit from becoming members? We are a small condo Association with only five people residing here. We would appreciate any guidance as we would like to move forward in a more positive manner.

Mister Condo replies:

K.G., thank you for writing back. Many attorneys that specialize in community association law can also serve as mediators. However, mediation is only an option when there are two parties looking to reach a settlement. From what you have described to me here, that really isn’t the case. Let me quote your question here: “You have suggested to us before that the President should be voted out. It won’t happen as no one else is willing to take over.” Really? No one else is willing to volunteer their time to fix this problem? Then, guess what? The problem is likely to persist. If no one is willing to volunteer their time to serve then the association is getting what it deserves. I know that sounds harsh but let’s face reality here. People are willing to invest a hundred thousand dollars and much more in their unit but then aren’t willing to step up and serve? That is short-sighted and a formula for many long-term problems. My original response is here: http://askmistercondo.com/grumpy-old-condo-president-needs-to-go/

The local chapter of the CAI offers several excellent and local training programs. Among the very best is a program called “Condo, Inc. 1”. The next session is right around the corner on September 16th. You can learn more and/or register here – http://www.caict.org/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=862691&group I cannot recommend this program strongly enough for an association like yours. I think you (and other interested unit owners and Board Members) need to hear from local experts on how best to run your association. This program fits the bill perfectly. I hope you attend. All the best!

Last Resort at a Resort Condo

M.M. from Texas writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a resort condo in Texas. About 5 months ago board hired managers. The GM quit for some unknown reason after some questions a few of us asked. Now, the president of HOA has given the job to someone seemingly to be unqualified. A former member of the board asked to see her resume. I was shocked when president said he talked with an attorney and he didn’t have to show this person’s resume. OK, weird, and I sat in on board meetings. She reported to Board what was being done and gave credit to a favorite supervisor/friend she hired. Well he wasn’t the employee that deserved credit and I know there are things she hasn’t done. I live here. 96% of the owners use it as vacation home or do short-term rental. I know and see what goes on and what the GM isn’t doing.

There is no leadership anymore, barely a schedule, no time clock, no work logs, no evaluation of housekeeping after they have finished. There is no inventory of tools and nothing is being checked by anyone. She has filled the staff with good friends. The president of HOA seems like he is protecting her. How can we get rid of her before we are all bankrupt? What can I do as owner of condo and co-owner of the building.

Mister Condo replies:

M.M., I am sorry for your troubles. I am sure it is very disheartening to see all of this unfold under your very eyes. I am guessing you already know what I am going to tell you. Regardless of how you perceive the association is being run and governed, it is the duty of the Board to protect the association from financial ruin. In a resort community such as the one where you live, the owners rarely get together. Many cast their vote by proxy and simply look at the bottom line when making decisions on who will serve on the Board and as officers. Are the other unit owners content with the way things are? If yes, things aren’t likely to change. If you were to shed light on what you are seeing and experiencing, they may be inclined to vote some new blood on to the Board and leadership positions. Perhaps you would make a good candidate for the role? Other than that, unless you witness some criminal activity, the Board hires the manager and has a say in who the manager hires but that is about it. Unless you are in a leadership position within this association, there isn’t too much you can do. If your rights as a unit owner have been violated and you wish to take action against the association, you might want to speak with a locally qualified attorney. Based on what you have expressed here, I don’t see where that is necessary. The Board has been democratically elected by the unit owners. Unless those unit owners are prepared to remove the Board members, nothing is likely to change. Good luck!

Condo Management Company Influencing Board and Unit Owners

L.B. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a management company interfere with the board? Specifically, by asking to have a member resign or complain to only a few of the 5-member board about another member? And allow statements to be used and passed to unit owners in an effort to get the required signatures for special meeting to remove said board member?

Mister Condo replies:

L.B., the function of the management company is to assist the Board as outlined in the management company contract. This is typically handling all things financial and accounting such as collection of dues and assessments, payment of vendors, and collection efforts, budget preparation and so on. Governance of the association is strictly the duty of the Board. However, due to the nature of Boards being served by volunteers, it is not uncommon for a Board to rely upon the knowledge and expertise of a management company to help them make good decisions and keep the community association and Board on track. That being said, you have described a campaign to remove a Board member led by the management company. This is not a common practice although I am not sure it is illegal. You would need to review the laws for your state to see if that is the case. Other than that, the management company can only suggest things to the Board that the Board can either ignore or take action upon. In this case, it would appear that the Board is in agreement with the management company. The Board can always select another management company if the existing management company isn’t serving their best interests. If the Board is pleased with the performance, that isn’t likely to happen. Regardless of the source of information, if a Board member is recalled by the unit owners, there isn’t too much the Board Member can do. After all, this is an elected, volunteer position. It is not like they are being fired from a paying job. It is politics and being voted out is always a possibility. Good luck!

Little Pink Condos for You and Me!

S.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I bought my condo about five years ago and since then they’ve decided to renovate it. I didn’t find out about the plans until the last annual meeting when the paint colors and all the details were rolled out. The condo board member who’s in charge of the redecoration had a meeting with other unit owners to decide on the decoration details and didn’t include me. Each floor of the building is going to be a different color and the color chosen for mine is bright pink. I objected to the color at the last meeting and asked if I could change it. I was told no. The decision had been made. I decided to just stick with it but, honestly, it’s bugged me since then. Is there anything I can do?

Mister Condo replies:

S.B., John Cougar Mellencamp sang about “Pink Houses” but he never mentioned who chose the color! I think your association needs to get their act together about proper notice when they hold meetings. There should never be a meeting of the association that “didn’t include you”. Proper notice needs to be mailed (or emailed if you agree and your bylaws allow it) so that you never miss a meeting because you didn’t know about it. If you decide not to attend, that is your business. If you are not properly noticed, you can contest any decisions that are made in the meeting and even sue the association for not serving proper notice of their meetings. While it is unlikely that your attendance at this meeting would have changed anything, you did have the right to be there, to speak in opposition to the painting choice and even vote on the measure if that is what was done. Your question is about what can you do now. That really depends on how much it is bugging you and how much you are willing to do about it. If the color is something you can live with, I would likely do nothing. If you were truly incensed or this is part of a larger problem, you might wish to consult with an attorney to review your rights under your state’s laws and your governing documents. You might want to run for the Board to volunteer your time to help make decisions that are in the best interest of the community. After all, your Board is comprised of volunteers from your association who have done just that. Sometimes, it is better to join them than to fight them. Other than that, I might suggest putting on some John Cougar Mellencamp music and smiling about the Pink House? Your only other option may be to “fight authority” but as John Cougar will tell you, “Authority always wins”… Good luck!

Small Condo Governance Issues

R.G. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We live in a three-unit condo. One unit is held in a Trust and the President resides in this unit along with his adult son. Our governing documents dictate that one person from each unit is the “director” and is allowed one vote. My spouse is the secretary and we are told by the President that, therefore, I am not allowed to vote, only my spouse is. My first question is does this right to vote change from meeting to meeting? Or does the same person always vote? The son, who is a resident only, conducts the meetings, directs the contractors, is rude at meetings and also makes impromptu decisions that everyone is afraid to challenge. My second question is what rights does he have as a resident? Can he speak up at meetings? Can he tell other unit owners what to do? How would one go about this situation without hiring an attorney? Our personal situation does not allow us to move, although it is an obvious solution.

Mister Condo replies:

R.G., smaller associations like yours have all of the same rules and regulations found inside their governing documents as larger associations have. Without hiring an attorney, you should give a good read to your documents and pay particular attention to rules on voting and representation at meetings. One vote per unit is common but many times any owner of a unit can speak, just not vote. If your wife is acting as Secretary and therefore a voting Board member, you may be limited to attendance only at these meetings as she is the voting party for your unit. Whatever the documents dictate is what should be followed. It shouldn’t change meeting to meeting although there may be times when a souse cannot attend so the other spouse would have the duty and ability to vote. The same is true for your directors. Do the governing documents dictate who can serve on the Board? Unit owners only? If so, the son cannot run the meetings or serve as President. If not, no harm, no foul. If you don’t challenge any of his decisions, guess what? He will keep making those decisions. Rudeness says more about him than you but that can be pretty annoying. If his momma didn’t teach him to be polite, there isn’t too much you or I can do to help him. I realize that hiring an attorney may seem too expensive and I don’t think that you will need to if you study your documents and arm yourself with information. Sometimes the threat of a lawsuit is as powerful as a lawsuit. If he does anything too outrageous, let him know you are consulting with an attorney to question his decisions. If that doesn’t get his attention, then it may be time to actually hire the attorney. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Good luck!

Change Needed in Condo Leadership

C.C. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do you know of any condominium law in the state of NJ that would limit a single person holding the same position on the board as president for many, many years? The power is being monopolized and we need a change!!

Mister Condo replies:

C.C., the power to change the Board is in your hands! Board members, including the President, are elected by the unit owners. You simply need to vote new people in to office and the old ones go away. What happens far too many times is that the association is unable to produce new volunteers to serve on the Board. Guess what happens then? The folks who have been serving continue to serve, regardless of whether they do a great job or a terrible job! If you want to see a change in leadership, you need to take action. You may need to volunteer your own time to serve on the Board. You will certainly need to convince your fellow unit owners to also serve and to support new candidates in elections. Otherwise, you will keep getting what you’ve been getting. Good luck!

Condo Cleaning Contractor Petitions Unit Owners

B.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hello Mister Condo! Our Condo Board has a service contract with a cleaning contractor to provide cleaning services for our condo properties. The service contract has been uncontested for 15 years. One full-time on-site contract employee has been the same person for 15 years, the other part-time employee has not served as long. There has been an increase in complaints about the cleanliness of the properties, and after requesting a copy of the service agreement from the Property Manager, the Board realized the staff is not addressing all the tasks included on their contracted weekly schedule. The lead staff person is a nice person, and the President of the Board makes excuses for his not addressing his weekly schedule, by using snow, heavy rains, equipment breakdowns, unit owner issues, etc. as the reason. Complaints about housekeeping started to be mentioned at the monthly Board Meetings, and letters were written to the Property Management Office, which prompted a Housekeeping Committee to be created and a walk-through to be conducted of the properties. A revised cleaning schedule was recommended.

The President of the Board and Property Manager do not wish to change vendors as it would disrupt their schedules, and the Property Manager would be required to be on-site more often. The cleaning staff have become an extension of property management, and share responsibilities with the sole part-time maintenance employee, with maintenance tasks, plumbing, heating, issuance of parking passes, passing out flyers, etc. All the while, the properties are not being cleaned. Somehow, after much debate, we are now at a point where we are now entertaining new proposals from competitive cleaning contractors, of which the President of the Board is trying to diminish or do away with. The existing contractor has also been given the opportunity to revise their contract to put together a more realistic job description for their staff.

One week before the Board is to review the competitive bids for a revised or new cleaning service, the contract cleaning staff took it upon themselves to go door to door and camp out in the building lobbies, requesting signatures from unit owners to retain their services! What Unit Owner would feel comfortable not signing this petition? In the meantime, they are still not fulfilling their cleaning contract work schedule and their effort is minimal at best. Five Board Members have signed their petition, which means they are settling for mediocre services because they don’t want these employees to lose their jobs. In the meantime, the employees are stubbornly refusing to fulfill their work contract because they feel they have the support of the President of the Board and the Property Manager.

What does one do in this situation? What do you recommend? Some Board Members will not challenge the existing President, who is a bully. The cleaning staff are taking their lead from the President of the Board. They feel they have his support. This is more than frustrating. All we want is a clean building with staff that respect their positions and do their work. Property Management work is much more appealing than the actual cleaning that is required. Thank you for your time.

Mister Condo replies:

B.B., this is an unfortunate situation but not uncommon. Ultimately, the Property Manager and the cleaning service report to the Board. If the Board is unwilling to correct their behavior then nothing is going to change. Unit owners control who serves on the Board, including the President. If the Board is underperforming, it is time to vote in some fresh blood who will act in the best interest of the unit owners, and the unit owners only. A new Board may also wish to select a new Property Manager when the contract comes up for renewal, especially if the current Property Manager is underperforming as you have suggested. Of course, all this takes a willingness to serve from folks like yourself who are fed up with how thing s are being handled. If no new volunteers come forward, things are unlikely to change. Good luck!

New Jersey Condo Board Not Holding Elections

J.B. from New Jersey writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

  1. Our Condo Board meets in a conference room in local town hall. The meeting is open to all condo owners. Is it possible to have the Board Meeting in Skype or conference call instead of meeting in person? Will it meet the NJ Condominium Act requirement of “All meetings at which a board takes a binding vote are required by law to be open to all owners and advance written notice of such meetings must be given as provided by law.”
  2. Some of our Condo Association Board Members have continued without any election for years. Is that legally allowed? No election notices were sent out, they just continued on for years. Can other members who got elected request for an election? If yes, how do we do it?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., “without any election for years”!!! I have never heard of that in a functioning condominium. Surely, your governance documents call for an Annual Meeting and a proper election process for Board members. Adding Skype to your Board meetings is the least of your worries right now!

I am not an attorney nor am I an expert in New Jersey Community Association Law, J.B., so please accept my advice as friendly. If you require a legal opinion, you will need to seek out a local attorney. That being said, let’s start with your governance documents with regards to election of officers. Typically, the condo docs require a minimum of one Annual Meeting per year. This is also done to satisfy most states’ Corporation laws that require an Annual Meeting of Shareholders be held to conduct corporation business. Your condo is a corporation, albeit a non-profit one, but a corporation nonetheless. At the Annual Meeting, a few pieces of business must happen. Perhaps the single most important is the adoption of the Annual Budget for the upcoming year. The second is to hold the election for officers. Now if there are no new candidates to select from, it is quite possible that a single vote is cast returning the Board members up for reelection to another term. Terms can vary but are typically one, two, or three years. The Board also has the ability to appoint Board members in the case of vacancy. However, it is done, there needs to be Minutes of the meeting to reflect the action. As a unit owner, you have the right to inspect Minutes once they are approved by the Board. In other words, you can go back and look at the election records for your association. If you can’t find any, you have a problem. My guess is that these folks have run unopposed for many election cycles and have simply continued to serve. If that is not the case, you would be wise to insist that elections are held at the next Annual Meeting or sooner if the situation merits it.

Whether a meeting is held in person or via conference call or Skype, the same rules apply as if the meeting were held in the real world. I know of many associations that have adopted technology advances like Skype to their meetings. However, just like any meeting of the Board, there must be minutes and the meeting must be made available to all unit owners, even if they are required to be muted during the meeting, they have the right to observe. The use of technology does not dissolve the burden of advance notice and all unit owners should be given notice of upcoming meetings in accordance with law.

Hope that helps. All the best!