J.S. from Cape May, New Jersey writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Bought in 2004, 3 townhouses originally built for three family members, only one remaining. That one is in charge and critical of anything they think you must do. Example: my neighbor had stone walls installed to replace the rotting wood in front for landscaping but never planted. At meeting, original owner told her she did not like the appearance. She also told me to pull the little weeds that grow between the cracks in the side walk. I pulled out condo documents and pointed out that they have completely changed the front of the house. Divided the yards when the documents say this is not allowed and never collected dues and now I am left with paying expensive fees for roof, driveways, etc. and even though I am an interior unit they want me to pay 1/3 of all expenses. They have 5 additional windows that they want to change. ADVICE?
Mister Condo replies:
J.S., I am sorry for your unfortunate predicament. I am also sorry that you are not going to like my answer very much either. Condominiums can be just about any size. They could be hundreds of units or more. They could be 20 units or less. In your case, it is three townhouses. My guess is that there was some tax advantage that the family who created the condominium sought to take advantage of all those years ago. That was all fine and dandy when the only unit owners were family members. Fast forward to today and you see that this not for profit “business” has been run as anything but. There are governance documents that describe in detail who is responsible for what, who pays for what, what the process is for architectural changes, and so on. Without this document being adhered to, the association has fallen apart, almost to the point where dissolution of the condominium may be a viable option. You asked my advice. I would look at all of my legal options and even consider selling my interest to get out before this condominium implodes on itself and becomes a serious money pit. I love the scenic beauty of Cape May, New Jersey and have seen some of the beautiful homes and condos in the area. This one has been weathering since 2004 without any money being set aside for repairs, which are now here. If the condominium declaration and by-laws simply state that expenses are split evenly between the three units, you are going to have to pay for one third of the repair bills. It isn’t a question of fairness; it is a question of what you have legally obligated yourself to when you purchased into this condominium association. The idea that the lone original owner is the boss and can dictate who does what or who pays for what is ludicrous. Review the documents, talk to an attorney and take the necessary steps to protect yourself. All the best!