M.D. from Fairfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
What is the best way to get our property manager fired and a new one hired? I am convinced that the manager is in cahoots with a crooked Board! Most of the residents of this small 26-unit complex have had issues with repairs (mostly water leaks inside our units) that go unaddressed/ignored for years. The Property Manager acts like he is our landlord and I found out that he is also a slumlord himself. The Board does nothing to control this. The physical plant of this complex is deteriorating and needs some major safety repairs and the manager never fixes anything (just says he will), yet he gets renewed and gets a raise every year. I doubt he even has a written contract, and there is no formal policy in place to review his performance. If I ask for a copy of the contract, they will probably draw up a fake one. I was thinking of calling a Special Unit Owners’ meeting and not inviting the Board Members. I have a quote from a well-run Property Management company that will not cost too much more per month. I already drew up a petition for owners to sign to have this man and his company fired, and I’m sure I will be able to get most of the unit owners to sign. Any better suggestions? I am also considering complaining to the CT Department of Consumer Protection and the better Business Bureau (other complexes have done so) because he is negligent and should not have a license, but I’m more concerned with our complex at the moment. Thanks.
Mister Condo replies:
M.D., I am sorry for all of the issues facing your association. You certainly have your work cut out for you in making things right. I think you are on the right path although I would ask you to consider all of the ramifications of your actions before you move forward. Please understand that I am not an attorney and offer only friendly advice in this column. You should very likely consult with an attorney to discuss the legal implications of all that you are proposing.
For starters, in a small association like yours, finding volunteers to serve on the Board of Directors can be challenging. You allege you have a crooked Board. Your Board consists of 5 to 7 members, which represents one quarter of all unit owners. If they are corrupt, how did they get on the Board in the first place? Why haven’t they been voted out of office? If you do decide to call a Special Unit Owners meeting, they have rights as unit owners and would have to be informed. Otherwise, your meeting will not be valid. It might be easier to simply vote them out at your Annual meeting if, in fact, they are all corrupt.
The ultimate responsibility for repairing the damage to your units lies with the association itself. That means the Board needs to address the damages and unit owners need to make sure they weren’t responsible for any of these repairs. Often times, the association’s responsibility ends once the damage reaches the unit’s interior. Do all unit owners have HO-6 insurance in place? There are times when the homeowner’s individual unit insurance comes into play to cover such damage or deductibles. If unit owners are uninsured they may be out of luck getting their repairs covered by insurance.
Your Property Manager works for the Board. There should be a management contract detailing the duties and responsibilities of the Property Manager and the financial compensation offered in return. This is a record of the association and, as such, can be requested to be viewed by you or any other unit owner. Keep in mind there may be a fee for the record request but you do have a right to see it. You should also have an annual budget that details the fee so you may be able to see what is spent on management fees that way as well. As a non-Board Member unit owner, you may complain to your Board about the Property Manager’s performance but only the Board has the ability to terminate the Property Manager and replace him with a new one. Keep in mind that the Property Manager’s contract may provide he be paid even if terminated, especially without cause. Tread lightly here, M.D.. You could end up paying him and still having to pay another Property Manager to do his job. Yikes!
You are free to contact the Department of Consumer Protection, as they are the oversight body in our state for Property Managers and their licensing. The Better Business Bureau is not a particularly helpful resource for you to solve your problem but you may wish to alert others about this Property Manager’s methods. Just be sure not to slander the Property Manager or you could end up being sued. If you have solid evidence of wrongdoing, you may wish to consult with an attorney to see if a lawsuit is in order.