F.W. from Middlesex County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I live in a community where the unit owners initially voted and agreed to a special assessment in 2017 for a contracted deck project scheduled to end in 2017. At this time, the project is still not finished and over 60% of the project is left to be completed. During this time, in June 2019, several unit owners with 2 decks were charged an additional special assessment for the same project, even though the cost of the 2 decks were in the initial contract. The board explained it was due to the 2nd deck is a limited common element, which is not covered by the association. The unit owners that have been paying both of the special assessments still have not had any construction on their decks.
The board’s true intentions were later revealed that additional costs were added to the project associated with the buildings that were complete and had nothing to do with the double decks. These additional costs led to the 2nd special assessment. Also, since the payment plan of the special assessment was for 3 years, meaning the amount of money to pay for the project wouldn’t be received for another 2 years. The board planned on stalling the contractors with building until 2022.
Is it correct for an association to charge a second special assessment for the same project when the contracted amount has been applied to the entire association? Also, at what point in time is it considered untimely fashion for repairs/replacement?
Mister Condo replies:
F.W., I am sorry you and your fellow homeowners are struggling with the timeframe and details of the deck replacement project. It is clear to me that the communications from the Board to the homeowners is the real culprit here. As I have said many times, the Board consists of democratically elected volunteers from within your community. If they aren’t performing to the expectations of the association members, they can be voted out and/or recalled. Of course, that requires new volunteers to serve in their place and therein lies the rub, especially when communities are going through such large capital expenditures. It is hard to be popular and spend unit owner’s monies at the same time. As long as you suspect no foul play (none mentioned or implied from what you have told me), my advice is to encourage better communication from the Board. They are likely holding monthly meetings and keeping Minutes, which are association records. At the very least, they should make these Minutes available once approved. Ideally, a Board Member (usually the President) would publish monthly or quarterly updates while this project is ongoing to keep homeowners up to speed on delays or setbacks as the project progresses. As for the timing and allocation of the Special Assessment, I would say that is a matter for the association attorney to review. There are very specific rules about how Special Assessment monies are raised and spent. The Board may not have as much discretion as they have taken. That being said, as long as the monies have not been mishandled, reallocated, or used in way other than what they were raised for, I suspect there is “no foul, no harm” at this time. Your final question about “…at what point in time is it considered untimely fashion for repairs/replacement?” is really completely subjective and not definitive. The repairs are ongoing. That makes them timely even if it takes years for the final repairs to be made. Thanks for the question!