L.N. from outside of Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Our condo has put in reserves $25,000 for staining our condos next year. We were to be assessed for $35,000. The board is now pushing for vinyl siding instead of staining. This would cost $364,000. They are asking owners to vote if they want this instead. Some of us do not have the funds for this. Could a Board be held responsible for not setting up reserves and planning for this? If 75 percent want the vinyl siding and the rest of us cannot afford it do we have any recourse?
Mister Condo replies:
L.N., I am sorry that your condo association has been lax about saving properly over the years. A proper Reserve Study and adherence to building a proper reserve Fund would have prevented this predictable Special Assessment. The siding, on the other hand, is an improvement. Unless the improvement had been discussed many years prior, the current Board would not have had any way to prepare for the cost of siding. If you take a look at your governing documents you will likely find that the Board can propose such an improvement and that there is a certain percentage of unit owners that most vote in favor of the expense before the improvement can be made and the Special Assessment levied. 75% seems like a reasonable number for the improvement to be made but you really need to check your documents to see if you have any recourse. There are some associations that have wording that requires “100% of unit owners to vote in favor of” or that “no unit owners vote against the measure” but that is uncommon. You should also look at any state laws that may protect you. Since I am not an attorney, my best advice is that you contact a local attorney who is knowledgeable of community association law in your state and that you inquire if you have any additional rights to protect yourself. Finally, you might want to ask the Board to consider financing the improvement with an HOA loan. That would increase your common fees to service the loan but it would prevent you from having to shoulder the burden of the improvement all at once. Good luck!