S.H. from New London County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I had an issue with my HOA over an irrigation pipe a few years back. After much disagreement with the Board Members and inaction, they sued me because I would not turn the pipe on because they promised to fix the system and did not. I won the case and the irrigation system was moved out plus my legal fees were paid. Ever since, the Board has been trying to get me to move out. They are not repairing gutters, I had flooding from backup of mulch in my condenser pipe causing flooding into my home, no heat or air conditioning due to lack of access to my condenser unit and now have large potholes and water in my garage from lack of maintenance to the drive and I paid $5k for repairs. When I try to speak to Board members they refuse and the Maintenance Company is also trying to get by without repairs because the Board wants them to do as little as possible for my Unit. The only person I hear from is the HOA’s Attorney with threats. I do not want to go to the expense of hiring an Attorney each time these situations come up or have no action taken to protect my property. My question: is there any advice you can give me on how to deal with a difficult HOA and can they refuse to respond to a homeowner and work through their attorney? I do not feel I should have to pay for an attorney to work out every repair issue. Thank you, Frustrated
Mister Condo replies:
S.H., I am sorry that you and your Board aren’t able to work together more harmoniously. As you have pointed out, there is bad blood from the earlier lawsuit. An attorney friend of mine once said that was life was easier during prehistoric times, we would just beat each other over the head until there was a victor. In modern times, we hit each other over the head with high-priced attorneys to accomplish pretty much the same thing. Joking aside, you have a serious problem here and since the Board isn’t willing to speak to you without an attorney, my best advice to you is to arm yourself with the same, even though it can get expensive. The last time you did so, not only did you prevail, but you also got the association to pay for your legal fees, effectively costing you nothing for the advice of the attorney. The association can certainly use an attorney whenever they see fit. It is expensive and likely unnecessary but they have been down this road before and lost so they may think they are best off using the attorney to protect themselves. You have the right to proper maintenance as outlined in your governing documents. If the association is falling short of their responsibilities, you may have little choice but to sue them again. As last time, be sure to have your attorney include any legal fees in the suit so you are not out of pocket at the end of the process. Other than that, your only other option is to get more reasonable Board members elected. These folks are all volunteer leaders from within your community. As long as your fellow unit owners continue to elect them, I wouldn’t expect much to change. Good luck!