K.B. from New Haven County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I am having problems with my condo board. The place seems to be falling apart with little attention to serious problems like buckled sidewalks, growing potholes, mold on buildings and more. Now, I get a notice that the common fees are going up. I don’t know what they are using the money for but it certainly isn’t for upkeep of the property. What can I do?
Mister Condo replies:
K.B., you have mentioned several serious issues in your letter and I imagine there is a bigger problem lying beneath the surface of what you have described. Aging condominiums are the norm these days with most of the condominiums in the region being in the 20 to 30 years old state of age. These communities were built a long time ago and the effects of aging are evident in those associations that are not actively managing the problem. Sidewalks, parking lots, roofs, decks, fences, and more begin aging the moment they are installed. These common elements will all need to be replaced over time and that is where the association’s Reserve Fund comes into the picture. Have you seen yours? If not, ask to see how much money is set aside for these repairs. If the Reserve Fund is not enough or not existent then you may have found the underlying cause of the problems. There simply isn’t enough money to make the necessary repairs. Many associations refer to this as deferred maintenance and it is an ugly beast for many associations.
As for what you can do it is really quite simple. You need to get involved. You need to take an active role in your association and volunteer your time and effort to serve on committees or run for office and serve on the Board. You need to learn as much as you can about what ails your community and you need to help guide the Board to take corrective measures to straighten things out. That may require special assessments. That may require raising the common fees significantly. That may require the community borrowing money to make the needed repairs and get back on track. The bottom line is that the Board is comprised of volunteers. No one gets paid for their service. All community members have a vested interest in the fiscal strength of the association. The problem will not fix itself but you can take steps today to make sure the community has a brighter tomorrow. Good luck!