A.R. from New Haven County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
The condo association decided to stop providing snow removal services “to save money”. Our dues increased 25 percent a few months ago due to higher insurance costs. The budget approved by the board includes a substantial amount for snow and landscaping, yet the yard is not being landscaped, and now we received a notice that no snow removal services will be provided anymore. I contacted the management company and the treasurer, but they both ignored my questions. I explained that driveways and walkways are common areas and the association is responsible for them. I also asked about the money allocated to snow removal in the budget, since this service is not provided anymore. No answers. What are my options?
Mister Condo replies:
A.R., you are correct that the snow removal responsibility for common areas falls squarely upon the Board. When unit owners or guests slip and fall, the insurance company will push back before paying any claims if the area was not properly maintained. That could result in million-dollar lawsuits against the association. This is a “lose/lose” proposition for the injured, the association, and all unit owners. My million-dollar question to you and your Board is why isn’t there enough money to cover the snow removal? My guess is that not nearly enough money has been collected in common fees over the years. Unfortunately, this is an all too common occurrence in associations where the unit owners have consistently voted to keep fees artificially low. I would further posture that an analysis of the annual budget would show that a massive increase to common fees is needed to get the association back on track. As you can imagine, this is almost always an unpopular choice because no one wants to pay more in common fees. You asked what you can do, A.R.. My advice is that you and other like-minded unit owners run for the Board at the next election. Change will come at the Board level and it would appear that some of the current Board members aren’t willing to make that change happen. I am not saying it will be easy but I am telling you it is necessary. Good luck!