R.M. from Michigan writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Forgive me, but I actually live in Michigan, but am desperate for an answer to my problem. I have a neighbor – actually the president of my condo association, who claims that my boyfriend, who stays with me on occasion, has been speeding through the parking lot. After the first written notice, my boyfriend contacted the association, apologized and has been following the rules. Last week, I received a call at work from the president claiming my boyfriend was still speeding through the parking lot and that I needed to control him otherwise I would be fined and a lien would be put on my house. Concerned, I called my boyfriend and told him what happened. He called the president to find out what was going on and needless to say, an inappropriate name-calling, threatening, screaming match ensued (on behalf of the president). It got so bad that we had to call the police and have someone call the president and tell him to leave us alone or a complaint would be filed for harassment. Now, I have received a notice in the mail for a fine demanding it be paid. After looking through my bylaws handbook, there is nothing about speeding AND there is no proof that either I or my boyfriend has sped through the parking lot after that first notice. I’m very concerned about my situation – what should I do? Thank you for your help!
Mister Condo replies:
R.M, you are right to be concerned for your situation and I am glad that you took the time to write. You are entitled to peaceable enjoyment of your condo and that does not include threats or verbal abuse from any fellow unit owner, let alone the Board president. I know there are two sides to every story but from what you have described but it sounds as if your Board president needs a crash course on proper community association governance. As a unit owner, the Board president has the same right as every other unit owner to bring complaints to the Board about fellow unit owners who violate rules. The Board then reviews these complaints and decides whether or not to take action. Actions may include summons to appear before the Board at the next Board meeting and then imposition of fines if the rule-breaking continues. Your documents very likely outline the system of fines and for what rules violations they apply. In your case, you claim there are no rules about speeding within the association, which is uncommon. There is usually something that states residents will abide by posted speed limits or that vehicles will not travel faster than 10 miles per hour while on association grounds. It may be worth another look. Regardless of what the rule was that was broken, there is still a procedure in place to protect both you and the association. It looks like the Board is now sending you a fine for a speeding violation. You can contest it or you can pay it. You need to deice what is easiest and most worth your time. If it’s $25 or less, I’d be inclined to pay it just so I didn’t have to deal with this issue further.
The much larger problem here is the behavior of the Board president. Under no circumstances should you be getting calls at work for potential rules infractions. You were right to call the police the first time and you would be well advised to call the police any time you are assaulted. You and your boyfriend can even get a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against him if necessary. The Board president presides over the business of the Board. He is not a sheriff, a judge, or a jailor. He is not the community enforcement officer. He is a volunteer citizen elected by you and your fellow condo owners to serve on the Board. Most likely he is well thought of by the other Board members who have elected him president. Your best course of action is to relieve him of his duties if his behavior does not improve. It sounds like he is in way over his head if this is how he thinks a condo is governed. It is very much a “hands off” position and no personal confrontation between unit owners is needed. Communication is done in writing and documented in a professional manner. Yelling or threatening fellow owners is a crime and he can be arrested for such. Also, because he is acting in the name of the association, he puts the whole association at risk of being sued as he oversteps his duties. For his own good and the good of the association he should really step down. Of course, replacing a volunteer requires someone else step up. If you are concerned for the well-being of your community, you might consider getting involved and volunteering your time. Running for the Board and serving can be challenging but it can also be rewarding. For starters, you can make sure that no other unit owners go through what you have gone through. By the way, you have an excellent resource in your own backyard. My friends at the Michigan Chapter of the Community Associations Institute have an excellent website at http://www.cai-michigan.org/. You will find a directory of local experts at that website who may be able to help you if you need them. All the best!