W.B. from Litchfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Hello, Mr. Condo. I live in a community with 60 units. Condo fees have always been split evenly; all 60 units pay the same fee. Unfortunately, almost every unit has a different square footage. Someone on the board continually brings up that she should be paying less as she has less square footage and keeps proposing the fees be changed to include this. My question is, in order to change what condo fees are based on does there have to be a unanimous vote among owners legally? I believe this to be the case but am unsure. I see nothing in the docs that help with this issue. Is something of this nature covered by CT condo law or is it still within each association’s bylaws differing between communities? Thank you for your time and insight.
Mister Condo replies:
W.B., I am not an attorney so please consider my advice as friendly and not legal. If, in fact, your association decides to revise its common fee schedule, I strongly encourage you to seek guidance from an attorney who specializes in community association law because the consequences of doing it improperly could be disastrous. Common fees are typically determined by the “percentage of unit ownership” formula. It is unusual for units of varying square footage to all pay the same common fee and I can see where folks with smaller units feel that they are being slighted while the folks with larger units are benefitting from the arrangement. However, the percentage of unit ownership formula is not based solely on square footage. Items like unit desirability (water views, ground level entrance, etc.) can all go into the formula. The documents clearly spell out this formula. Even something as simple as all units paying the same, as is the case in your condo, can be the rule of the land.
Changing the formula is most unusual and will certainly require a vote of all unit owners. Again, your documents should spell out what is required but there are several scenarios to consider. It may require a 100%, unanimous vote of all unit owners and even third-parties who hold interest in the property, i.e. mortgage firms. After all, they based their decision to lend money based on the common fee structure in place at the time. It may require a majority or supermajority of unit owners to agree to the change.
A change to the common fee structure will require a good bit of documentation and will undoubtedly cost the association a substantial amount of money. I can see where owners of units with less square footage seem slighted but my advice is to leave well enough alone. Unit owners knew exactly what they were getting into when they purchased into the community. There should be no expectation that their share of common fees should change, regardless of the square footage of their unit. The difficulty and expense of making the change is very likely not going to be worth the cost and effort. All the best!