Board Condominium Governance Legal Voting

Deceased Majority Condo Unit Owner Creates Governance Issues

P.D. from Texas writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have 116 townhome units that fall under the Texas HOA Condo law, and 50 of those units were bought out years ago by a gentleman who has since died. His estate is tied up in court and with the IRS because he didn’t have a will (I know RIGHT)? Anyway, for years his ‘property management’ lady that rents and lives on property is always using her 50 votes to tilt outcomes in her favor.  

We are hoping one day if we take it to court and have a judge look at the unequal leverage that one person holds over us that isn’t even a homeowner, we are hoping that could change or that a judge would see it as not a true democracy. 

Wondering if you could give us any advice? We don’t get a full turn out of homeowners because many are elderly on our property, and she single handedly runs the show/votes/outcomes on how she wants it to happen (and even voting HERSELF on the board!) 

Thanks so much for all you do for us in sharing your knowledge 🙂

Mister Condo replies:

P.D., I am sorry that your association finds itself in such a predicament. The “property management lady” you refer to must have some arrangement/authority for the deceased seeing as she is living in one of his units and managing the others. You should look at your by-laws and even state law on the number of votes any one single unit owner can cast. Some limit to a percentage (15% of total votes cast, for instance), others limit to a set number of votes. If that is the case, you can simply impose those limits on here the next time there is a vote. The reality is that you have a single unit owner who owns almost half of all of the units. I would not personally wish to live in a condo with that kind of single ownership ratio because, as you can see, this can create exactly the kind of problems you are dealing with. What if all 50 units stopped paying common fees? What if the association had to take adverse possession (foreclosure action) against the deceased’s estate? The legal fees and glut of units could create a hardship for the other unit owners. You should really be thankful that the association doesn’t have far larger problems than what you have described.My advice is to speak with a locally qualified attorney who specializes in community association law. You can find a list of such attorneys by clicking on finding the CAI Chapter that services your part of Texas. Austin, Dallas/Fort Wort, Greater Houston, and San Antonio all feature many qualified attorneys who can guide your association through the proper steps to regain control of your association.Keep in mind that there may be little the association can do. After all, even though he is deceased, his estate still controls 50 of the 116 units in your association. The right to vote is part of what you purchase when you buy a condominium. You are a shareholder in a corporation and you most certainly have a right to vote. I wouldn’t easily give up my right any easier than you would. Good luck!

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