S.C. from Fairfield County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I am the President of my HOA (our building has 55 units) and I have a question for you regarding combining two units into one residence. My wife and I have just about completed our project in which we combined our 2-bedroom condo with the adjacent 1-bedroom unit. The result is a 3- bedroom, 3-bath unit (one kitchen was converted to a bathroom).
I had a question nagging me in the back if my head as to how our new unit would be recorded going forward; is it one unit, or two units? Do we have 1 vote at meetings or 2? When I brought this question to our HOA attorney he said that we should have had to file for an Amendment to the Declaration stating that the new, combined residence would be 1 unit, with 1 vote. He also said that this should have been done at the outset, but that it can be done nonetheless now as well. When I asked why this is necessary, he said that it is done so as to prevent an owner from gaining more than 1 vote per property.
I don’t really have any issues with this, but in thinking about it, it occurred to me that it doesn’t really make any sense to me that someone who owns a 600 square foot studio should have the same voting power as someone who owns a 2500 square foot apartment, or a 1500 square foot unit for that matter.
Ultimately my question is twofold;
– Do we need to add an Amendment to the Declaration so as to register our unit as 1 unit?
– If our building has a 1 vote per unit rule in the Declaration, how difficult is it to amend that to a more weighted voting structure based on square footage as a percent of the building?
Mister Condo replies:
S.C., I am afraid that I am 100% in agreement with the association attorney on this one. To be honest, I am surprised that the association allowed you to make this modification although it is not unheard of. I have further questions about how you went about this process without having the amendment ahead of time. Did you simply buy the neighboring unit and remodel? Regardless of how all of this came to be, you have a governance issue now that would be painfully difficult to negotiate after the fact and would not be to the advantage of any unit owner other than yourself. If you were to have the voting powers amended, you would need to follow the rules of the association and the laws of the state to do so. You may need a supermajority of unit owners or you may need zero negative votes to do so. Both are challenging and, again, I agree with the attorney on the matter. My advice is to enjoy your new 3-bedroom unit and don’t rock the boat too hard. Because these things weren’t negotiated ahead of time, I would be afraid that someone who doesn’t like what you have done could challenge the way things have been handled to date and claim you had no authority to combine the two units as you have. That could result in you having to sperate them and put them back the way they were. You don’t want that. Good luck!