Headlines

Communication Issues May Lead to Condo Foreclosure

How Many Lawsuits Against HOAs and Condominium Associations?

Condo Unit Mortgages and the Board’s Right to Know

Condo Nosey Neighbor Strikes Again!

Communication Issues May Lead to Condo Foreclosure

Posted in: Board, Common Fees, Communications, Condominium, Financial, Foreclosure, Legal | Comments (4)

B.L. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I was sent to 2 foreclosures for inaccuracies by the Property Management Company yet I have never owed one dollar for common expenses. The property manager and Board took my parking space. In more than 20 years living in my condo, my unit door has never been painted. They towed my car from the parking space in front of the building (common spaces) the same week. I was parked there for 10 minutes. They did not give me any notification, warning or hearing. Without parking space I had to park on front of the building, but got more than 2 thousand dollars in tickets from the Property Manager. There have been many abuses and harassment so I sued. I am a plaintiff on a docket and I need a good attorney. I have proof of everything. Could you recommended an attorney and give me advice? Thank you for understanding my English.

Mister Condo replies:

B.L., from what you have told me, you were right to bring suit against those who have wronged you. I am not an attorney so please consider my advice as friendly and not legal. You most certainly should seek competent legal advice and quickly. Most certainly, the folks you have named in the suit will do the same and you want to make sure the justice system works correctly for you.

As friendly advice, let me start by saying there is clearly a major communication problem here. Property Managers rarely take measures as drastic as foreclosures without good reason. Even if the reason is an accounting inaccuracy as you allege, you should have been given ample opportunity to present evidence (copies of checks, bank statements) that showed you were not delinquent in your common fee or assessment payments. Do you live in the condominium unit and receive mail from there? Has there never been any attempt prior to this to collect the monies the association felt it was owed? My guess is that these requests for documentation went unanswered leaving the association and property manager with no choice but to take legal action against you. Fear not, all is not lost.

First and foremost, get the financial end of this problem taken care of as quickly as possible. An attorney may be the best resource to guide you through this process. Please understand that the association does have the right to foreclose on your unit for the reason of unpaid assessments. If you have a first or second mortgage on the property, your mortgage company may also foreclose against you or, at the very least, be a part of the foreclosure action so that they get as much of their money back during the foreclosure process as possible. Additionally, the foreclosure may appear on your credit report which could be a burden for you to carry for years to come. Please, get this taken care of immediately.

Next, comes the issue of abuse and harassment. Again, you need to speak with an attorney about these issues but, once again, it would appear that there has been a communication problem on top of some governance issues. You have rights as outlined in your condominium documents, as well as State, and Federal law. Your lawsuit against the association should include all of these issues and you may be entitled to financial relief or a judgment against the association. Your attorney will best advise you of these rights.

As for which attorney will best serve your needs, I have a few suggestions. Attorneys that specialize in community association law can be found at the CAI Connecticut website at http://caict.org/vendor_directory.htm#attorneysid. I would definitely start there. As for the harassment charges, you may wish to seek out a local attorney with expertise in such areas. A quick internet search on Google brought up several likely candidates but I have no personal recommendation for you. I do wish you the best of luck in clearing up this matter and getting back to enjoying your condominium in peaceable fashion. Good luck!

Mister Condo @ July 23, 2014

How Many Lawsuits Against HOAs and Condominium Associations?

Posted in: Condominium, Legal | Comments (4)

K.B. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What is the number of lawsuits filed against HOAs and condominium associations?

Mister Condo replies:

K.B., I am not sure that there is a place to get that exact information, whether it is for our state or for the entire country. That is because not all lawsuits make it to trial; many are settled beforehand. It is also a difficult subject to quantify because there are far more cases of HOAs or condominium association suing individual unit owners, usually for non-payment of common fees or assessments. Suffice it to say, the courts see more than their fair share of condominium and HOA related lawsuits every year. I am guessing that your question has a little more to do with governance issues where an individual or group of individual unit owners brings a suit against the Board of Directors for questionable or illegal activities. I have not seen specific numbers but I know there are quite a few but not so many as to make the news on a regular basis. They usually happen when there is a significant disagreement in costs (insurance claims, for instance) where a unit owner is on the short end of an unexpected expense. True lawsuits of abuse against the unit owners by a tyrannical Board of Directors are rare and the typical remedy is to simply vote the offensive Board members out of office and replace them with volunteer leaders who will do a better job. The other lawsuit which is not uncommon is when the newly formed association finds itself at odds with the developer of the new condominium. It is not uncommon for construction defects and missed deadlines to occur which result in lawsuits. I hope you do not find yourself involved in a condominium association or HOA lawsuit but if you do, you will find a list of expert attorneys who specialize in community association law at http://caict.org/vendor_directory.htm#attorneysid. All the best!

Mister Condo @ July 22, 2014

Condo Unit Mortgages and the Board’s Right to Know

Posted in: Board, Condominium, Financial, Governance, Legal, Mortgage | Comments (6)

M.M. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do owners that carry a mortgage have to give that information to the board? Several people are objecting to releasing private information.

Mister Condo replies:

M.M., most condominium associations that I know of do have provisions that allow or require unit owners to divulge first and second mortgages on the units within the association. There is good reason for this. Since the mortgage company has a lien on the title they also have a legal right to be notified of actions taken against the unit. For instance, if a unit owner falls behind in common fees or fails to pay a special assessment, the association may need to take foreclosure action or place a lien against the unit. As a mortgage holder, the lending institution must be notified of such an action. The only way for the association to notify the lien holder is for the unit owner to provide that information. While I can certainly understand the concern for privacy this is a business and legal issue and has nothing to do with the Board wanting to know. The law says they need to know so it is in everyone’s best interest that the unit owners comply with the request to divulge the information. All the best!

Mister Condo @ July 21, 2014

Condo Nosey Neighbor Strikes Again!

Posted in: Board, Condominium, Governance, Neighbor Issues, Parking, Rules Enforcement | Comments (5)

J.W. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi, Mr. Condo! I am staying with a friend temporarily at her condo and recently she was told we weren’t allowed to park in the driveway? She owns the condo. LOL. The driveway is 2 cars wide and goes to her garage. Can her local HOA enforcement nosey neighbor make this sensationalist claim? Thanks!

Mister Condo replies:

Hi, J.W.! Welcome to the condo world where your nosey neighbors can act as condo cops when they want to. The upside is that there is always someone watching over the place which deters crime and unwanted activity. The downside, as you have seen, is that you can also run into folks who are overzealous in reporting perceived violations. Let’s see which one you have here.

Have you or the friend you are living with reviewed the condo rules about parking? Most condo driveways are only wide enough for one car but it is possible that your driveway accommodates 2. Some condos allow garage parking and only one other car parked in the driveway. If that is the case and you are violating the rule then it really doesn’t matter that they both fit; the rules should be followed by you just as they are by everyone else who lives there.

On the flip side, if the rules are silent on the number of cars allowed in the driveway you probably needn’t worry. Nosey neighbors come with the territory when you get into any high density housing situation like a condo. As long as you are not breaking the rules, you have nothing to worry about. If you are breaking the rules, correct the behavior (i.e. – park in a visitor’s space, garage one of the cars, whatever it takes) and let the nosey neighbor worry about something else. Perhaps a neighbor will walk a pet off leash or carelessly litter. So many rules to break, so little time… All the best!

Mister Condo @ July 18, 2014

Tandem Parking Allowed at Condo!

Posted in: Board, Condominium, Governance, Neighbor Issues, Parking, Rules Enforcement | Comments (3)

C.P. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 24-unit building and each unit was sold with one assigned garage parking. The issue is some owners have room if they park outside the designated yellow lines to tandem park 2 cars. It has become an issue and the folks never paid extra for this right or pay higher condo fees just do it. In the by-laws it states one (1) parking stall so that is how they feel they can get around it. But again they have to park outside the yellow lines and block other owner’s access to their storage units, etc. The trustees are stating they are going to have this issue voted on to continue to allow. I am considering legal action since this is detrimental to the value of my unit since I do not have the room in my parking stall. I also have one of the largest units and thus highest monthly common fee.

Mister Condo replies:

C.P., I feel your pain. Parking is a top complaint from condo owners here in Connecticut and across the nation. It is the end result of too many cars per unit. Add in a lack of visitor parking and you have a formula for angry residents and disappointed visitors when it comes to parking. Clearly, the designated lines are used for demarcation purposes and people who are parking outside of those lines are doing so incorrectly. However, rules are open to interpretation and it would appear that your trustees are in favor of this incorrect method of parking. If it is voted upon following the proper procedure that tandem parking is allowed, I suppose you would have little ground to oppose it. Legal action may be your only alternative and I would certainly consider it. Also, I would strongly consider getting out of a community run by trustees who don’t understand a concept as simple as parking between the lines. There is a reason the lines were put in place and you have adequately described it. People have the right to unfettered access to their storage areas and to have a safe and orderly parking area. What’s next? Parking on the common area grass? How about blocking a sidewalk or fire lane? This is foolishness of the highest order. Good luck!

Mister Condo @ July 17, 2014

Rebuilding the Condo After a Fire

Posted in: Board, Common Fees, Communications, Condominium, Disaster, Financial, Insurance, Legal | Comments (5)

J.R. from Brockton, Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How long can the Board take to rebuild an entire condominium building after a fire?

Mister Condo replies:

J.R., I am sorry for the loss of your condo building due to fire. Rebuilding after a fire is a potential nightmare for both unit owners and the association as it is not unusual for there to be severe damage to multiple units, supporting structures, and even building infrastructure. Utility services like electric, HVAC, and even water are often damaged as well. To further complicate the repair process is the process of insurance claims and adjustments that can go on for months (and even years in severe cases).

The Board has very little power to control how long things take to happen. It is in all parties’ best interests to get things repaired and back to normal but there also needs to be readily available monies to pay for the repairs and restore the building. During the rebuilding time, common fees and even special assessments are still due and payable to the association even though the units remain uninhabitable. In the best case scenario, all unit owners had personal homeowner’s insurance policies that cover some or all of the expenses of temporary housing while the repairs are made. Even the best policy will eventually run out of housing money so, again, it is in everyone’s best interest to make the units habitable again as soon as possible.

My advice is to keep in touch with the Board or the Property Manager to get updates on what is being done and when repairs are expected to be complete. If the insurance proceeds are not coming in fast enough, you might ask the Board to consider a short-term loan to free up the funds needed for the repairs with all of the insurance money eventually collected being used to retire the debt. It is an unfortunate situation to say the least. Hang in there, J.R., and know that it will get better eventually. All the best!

Mister Condo @ July 16, 2014

Automated Condo Entry Door isn’t Automatic

Posted in: Board, Condominium, Governance, Legal | Comments (3)

J.W. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a degenerative nerve disease that is called Chargot Matie Tooth disease. It effects my walking and my hands are losing strength. Consequently, I am having difficulty opening the entrance way door to the condo main floor. Recently, the condo association purchased a golf cart to transport some of our seniors down to the beach. Apparently, some had handicaps. In addition, one renter was allowed to have a treadmill in her condo for migraine headaches. Since the association has already set the precedents of allowing for some handicaps would it be feasible to request that the main condo door have a handicap button that allows it to open automatically? I sense that since the precedents have already been set, my request would not be out of the ordinary. Thanks for your response.

Mister Condo replies:

J.W., I am sorry for your medical condition. I understand that it is a degenerative disease and can be quite painful. I wish you all the help and strength you need to cope with the condition. It certainly sounds like the community you live in is not averse to making accommodations for folks with mobility issues and health issues. I am not sure that a precedent has been set seeing as a golf cart purchase can be used by all owners and the treadmill was actually purchased by the unit owner and was of no cost to the association. That being said, an automatic door opener would, in theory, benefit all unit owners and may not be that expensive to install and maintain. My advice would be for you to contact the Board with your request and explain the difficulty that the current entry system is causing you. If the Board replies that it is too expensive or that they are unwilling, you may wish to seek counsel from an attorney to see if you have any rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act to allow the door. This may not mean the association will have to pay for the door; that expense may still be yours. It really depends on the expense and whether or not the Board is amenable to your suggestions. So, ask nice and hope for the best. Good luck!

Mister Condo @ July 15, 2014

Problems with the Board, Problems with the Condo

Posted in: Assessment, Beautification, Board, Common Fees, Condominium, Financial, Governance, Reserve Fund | Comments (5)

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!

Mister Condo @ July 14, 2014

Shortage of Condominium Handicapped Parking Spaces

Posted in: Board, Condominium, Governance, Parking | Comments (4)

K.V. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

There is a shortage of handicapped parking at my condo. Can I make the Board add more spaces so I do not have to park so far away from my unit?

Mister Condo replies:

K.V., I am sorry that you have to park further away from your unit than you would have to if there were more handicapped spaces at your condominium. I am sure it can be quite the challenge when you have to park far away. The short answer is that your Board is not under any obligation to provide additional handicapped parking but it has been my experience that a well-worded request can carry great results with the right Board. My advice is for you to write a heart-felt letter to the Board explaining the difficulty you are having and how you and other unit owners would benefit from having additional handicapped parking made available. Please understand that your Board may be unable to grant the request due to parking restrictions or currently deeded spaces to other unit owners but my guess is that they will at least give your request the serious consideration it deserves. All the best!

Mister Condo @ July 11, 2014

Insurance for Condo Renters

Posted in: Condominium, Insurance | Comments (3)

P.M. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If I am renting my condo, what type of insurance do I need since the master policy seems to cover most things?

Mister Condo replies:

P.M., that’s a great question! Insurance needs vary by individuals but, for the most part, renters here in Connecticut need to purchase apartment and homeowner’s insurance, more commonly known as HO-6. You’ll want to work with an insurance professional to determine the right amount but you want to insure everything on the inside of your unit that could get damaged or stolen in the event of a catastrophe or theft. The premiums shouldn’t be that heavy and you’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing that your valuables are well-insured. Thanks for the question!

Mister Condo @ July 10, 2014