S.F. from Middlesex County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
A fellow owner is in violation of several of our association rules, including renting out her parking spots, storing furniture in common spaces and renting to more than 3 non-related tenants. She ignores me and the other owner’s requests to change these actions. Is legal action our only other option?
Mister Condo replies:
S.F., when fellow unit owners refuse to follow the rules, legal action is the final option a community has to exercise to protect itself. However, there are several steps to take before hiring an attorney and heading off to court. You did not mention to me the procedure in place to deal with rule breakers. While a “request” sounds polite, it may be time to stop being so polite and change from “request” to “demand” and “fine”. Let me share with you what you will likely need before bringing a lawsuit against the owner in question.
Documentation is key to making your case in court and should be collected immediately. Verbal admonishments carry almost no weight and are easily dismissed. Take photos of the alleged rules infractions and document all of the communication efforts between the Board and the unit owner. Be sure to follow the procedures as outlined in the Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA), namely, that letters are sent inviting the owner to appear before the Board to discuss the offenses and that the Board intends to levy fines against the owner before actually issuing the fines. In most cases, letters and fines will cause the rule-breaking to stop. However, if the owner persists and the Board feels it has done all it can do, it may be time to hire an attorney and take more drastic action. This can include eviction of tenants and even foreclosure on the unit in question if fines and common fees are not paid in timely fashion. Consult with an experienced community association attorney for best results.