D.J. from New Haven County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I have lived in my condo for 20 years. The condos are approximately 30 years old. In my 20 years, I have not complained much, always paid my common fees on time, etc.. I feel the last 3-4 years have shown a decline in the appearance of the condo’s common area and an increase in neighbors who simply don’t care. I have asked for a few things to be done and the answer by the board always seems so be “no”.
Here is my question. The mailboxes for the condo are outdoors and quite weathered. I feel they are in need of some attention. There are times I cannot open my mailbox door, close it or turn the key. I have been advising the board of this for about three years. At first they were going to replace the boxes and then that faded away to a ‘what are you talking about’. I met with the board president and secretary yesterday at the mailboxes and they acted like I was being a problem. They said it wouldn’t be replaced. I asked about repair and they took out a hammer and started banging it. What is the board’s responsibility in ensuring I can safely get my mail?
Mister Condo replies:
D.J., the Board’s responsibility has nothing to do with getting out a hammer and banging on the mailbox, that’s for sure! On the upside, they didn’t apply the hammer to you, which is what I was afraid you were going to say!
First off, congratulations on your 20 years of successful condo living. It is no surprise that a 30 year-old condominium is showing signs of old age. Aren’t we all? However, unlike you and me, the condo has a Board of Directors to watch over it and keep it well maintained, protected, and enhanced. Sounds to me like your Board needs a refresher course in what their duties are so they can get the job done for you and all of your fellow unit owners.
At 30 years old, there aren’t too many common elements that haven’t been replaced. The useable life for most products is nowhere near that long so if your mailboxes are the original issue, you are well within your rights to ask if there is a plan in place to replace them. However, the Board is under no obligation to replace the mailboxes although you could complain about not having access to your mailbox. A simple lock replacement could fix that problem. Between broken locks and lost keys, there is no way that a mailbox lock hasn’t been replaced in the past 30 years. The Board likely has a local locksmith who has done the job for them before. Ask to have your lock changed or “lose” your mailbox lock key. You may have to pay for the lock change yourself but you’ll get the new lock you want.
My concern for your ongoing satisfaction with your condo is the bigger issue for me, D.J.. If the Board’s answer to a mailbox problem is to produce a hammer, how are they handling larger issues like parking lot maintenance, building exteriors, and common elements? Does your community have a healthy Reserve Fund and a plan in place to fund large projects? If not, you might consider electing officers who will address these issues. Replacing a mailbox lock can be paid for out of pocket change. Paying for a new parking lot without an adequate Reserve Fund could require a special assessment or community association loan that would increase common fees for years to come. As a long-time community member, you might be the right person for this job. Consider running for the Board or volunteering to serve on a committee. The community you save will be your own! Best Wishes!