T.K. from outside of Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I own a unit in a small 12-unit building. The Management Company sent out a special assessment for snow removal this past winter. They said they would like us to pay it by a certain date. I was going to pay it but yesterday they sent a letter from a lawyer (who happens to be the wife of the owner of the Management Company) stating if I don’t pay it they will put a lien etc. on the property. I am going to pay it. My question is this: Is less than a month a reasonable request for owners to pay an assessment? Also, it is a small building with 3 steps out front and a small (probably 20-foot) sidewalk leading to the driveway in which only 6 of the units have parking spaces in back. No guest parking, etc. My unit DOES NOT have a parking space. On the assessment, because I have a 2 bedroom (with no parking space) I am paying more for the assessment than a unit that has a parking space. I understand we got a lot of snow this past winter but I guarantee most of the snow removal and salt went for the driveway and the 6 parking spaces. Is it fair that I have to pay the whole assessment? I am thinking of writing a letter suggesting that going forward the Management Company needs to come up with a better plan for dealing with the driveway seeing as I don’t believe that is a common Area (only 6 units have access to a space). Thank you in advance.
Mister Condo replies:
T.K., I am sorry you find yourself at odds with your association over this assessment. Your letter details a few grievances and I will do my best to address them one by one. For starters, the condo association, and not the Management Company, levies the special assessment. The Management Company simply acts upon the orders of the Board of Directors, who levied the assessment according to your association’s by-laws. Typically, special assessments have a levy date and a due-by date. Unless your governing documents or state law call for a specific period of time from levy date to due date, the Board can set the due date as they see fit. Further, whatever collection methods that are detailed in your governing documents entail can and should be enacted by the Board to assure the monies are collected in timely fashion. While it is unusual for the association’s attorney used for collections to be related to the Property Management company owner, as long as the Board has the final say on which attorney is used by the association, I don’t see a problem. I might suggest using a different attorney just to avoid the appearance of impropriety but unless you can prove there is collusion of some sort, I’d leave that to the Board. The issue of whether or not the driveway is common area should be covered in your governing documents. I’ll bet you it is common area and the association’s responsibility to maintain. As such, the cost of maintaining the common element is divided between all owners as outlined in the percentage of unit ownership formula, which is the only way most common expenses are divided in any association. It may not seem particularly fair but that is how the documents are worded for you and for all owners within your association. I wish you the best!