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St. Louis Condo With Unwritten Governance?

M.C. from St. Louis writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I really like your site, Mister Condo. I’m in St. Louis, but hope you may be able to provide some general advice. My wife and I just moved in to a four-unit condo building. There is an Association, but no board. This complex used to be a family home (all four units), and we are the second non-family to move in. Here is the issue: One of our neighbors has taken it upon herself to schedule all pool and property maintenance, landscaping and snow removal. There are no rules specifying when the pool should be opened or closed — she simply decides, calls the pool company and submits the bill to the property management company to pay. She’s done this for well over a year. We want the pool opened longer. We also want professional landscapers and maintenance people contracted. With no governing rules — and a very indifferent management company — we seem to be at a loss of what to do to resolve this issue. We feel that we should have a voice in how our association fee is spent — but the decisions are being made without discussion or notice. Sort an unwritten agreement by the tenants that were here before we moved in. How do you suggest we approach this?

Mister Condo replies:

Thank you for the kind words, M.C..When you purchased into your condominium you should have been provided a copy of the Declaration as well as the Rules and By-laws that define the condominium. The Declaration is the document filed with your municipal authority that establishes the property as a condominium and is required under Missouri State Law – My guess is that it is inside one of these documents where the governance of the Association is spelled out. It is most unusual for there to be no Board as the Board is the managing body for governance and any business that is conducted on behalf of the Association. Did you use an attorney when you purchased this unit? If so, now would be a great time to get back in touch with him or her to discuss this issue. The property management company is not usually indifferent. They usually perform the work they were hired to do by the Association’s Board. They are not part of the governance; they simply fulfill their contract to provide service as directed by the Board. It sounds like the unit owner calling the shots is treating you more like tenants than unit owners. Unless the governing documents state otherwise, you are very likely entitled to much more of a say at meetings in how your association is run. Small condos like yours are challenging in that each unit owner represents such a large portion of the ownership. Building consensus is almost impossible and all four unit owners live so closely together that it is hard to imagine everyone not agreeing to almost every aspect of how the Association will be run. Once you are fully aware of your rights, you will be better able to understand what is and isn’t being done properly at your condo. Of course, you may need to be prepared to take over many of the duties currently being handled by the unit owner who does it now. All the best!

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