E.E. from Hartford County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I have been here for 15 years and dealing with corrupted Board of Directors of self-managed Condo Association past year who clearly overstepped and abused its powers led by the personal interests of its members. Without any warning, they changed the setup of our parking places, affecting the 11 unit owners of one building and benefiting the building (of the board members) that never had spaces on our parking lot. How are we affected? The parking places are shifted two places to the side, made smaller and we lost visitor spaces that were there for last 35 years. This decreased the value of our property because before we had spaces in front of our door, but not anymore. Traffic is increased and safety decreased. The paper with the new set up was just thrown at us, the evening before they painted the new spaces, telling us to put this in our By-laws. The manager conveniently left to vacation, so my 3 letters to the Board were left without response. Then we went to the unit owner meeting, and then spoke at the Board meeting about the issue and how we were not informed about the changes. We also went with a petition signed by all the owners in our building. Now the Board is hiding behind the lawyer who we ALL pay, by the way, against its own unit owners that they affected badly. Who to complain? This is self-managed Condo Association and is obviously out of control. We can’t complain to the Department of Consumer Protection because this is private, the lawyer would be too expensive when we school a college kid. What to do? Please give advice if you can. Thank you. I appreciate it very much.
Mister Condo replies:
E.E., I am sorry that you are having such issues with your Board of Directors and that you feel powerless to change the course of your condo association. Let me address a few of your issues here as best as I can, keeping in mind that I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. The very first issue I see here is one of trust between unit owners and the Board. The Board is elected entirely by the members of the association. If you and others feel they are overstepping and not doing a good job representing the best interests of the association, why would you continue to elect and reelect them to hold their offices? When the annual meeting comes around, are there no other hands that go up and offer to serve on the Board? If not, you have identified your primary problem. Condo associations are run by volunteer leaders. Your governance documents were designed to give each and every unit owner a say in who serves on the Board. It sounds to me like you need better volunteers. Perhaps you and some of the other unit owners who have signed this petition can either run for the Board or find candidates from within your ranks who will do a better job. It really is that easy to effect change. In extreme circumstances, your governance documents outline a procedure for recalling Board members. This is more involved but can bring about immediate change if the masses cannot wait until the next scheduled election.
As for the reassignment of parking spaces, it is quite possible that the Board was within their right to do so. I am not saying they should have done it or that their decisions to modify the parking spaces were sound but the parking lot is usually owned by the association and, as such, is under the purview of the Board to do with as they see fit. Promoting personal agendas as they seem to have done is usually a surefire formula for getting thrown out of office at the next election but you must replace them with right-thinking individuals.
If the unit owners are pursuing any legal remedy against the Board, i.e. a lawsuit, then the Board is quite correct in engaging with the association’s attorney. That is what the association attorney does – protects and defends the Board and the association from lawsuits. The attorney can also be used for legal advice, which the Board might benefit from if they are passing by-laws changes improperly. There really isn’t any one to complain to about issues like this. Yes, lawyers can be expensive but you can always represent yourself in court if you can point to a specific violation of your rights as a homeowner. Of course, you will face the association’s attorney if you do so and that attorney gets paid from the common fees that you contribute to so think twice before instituting a lawsuit. From what you have told me, there isn’t anything illegal going on here, just some poor judgment on the part of the Board. Your best bet is to replace the Board at the next election with better representatives of the unit owners. Good luck!