Archive for the ‘Rules Enforcement’ Category

Association’s Right to Know Who Is Living in the Condo

Friday, August 29th, 2014

R.W. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Does the association have the right to know who lives with me?

Mister Condo replies:

R.W., that is a very interesting question. My instinct is to say “Yes” but the part of me concerned with citizen privacy says “No”. And then there is part of me that says let’s ask an attorney. So that’s what I did. Here’s what the attorney had to say:

“Associations have the right to regulate the occupancy of units consistent with their declaration, bylaws, and rules.  This can include reasonable restrictions on tenants, borders, guests, and other people who occupy a unit to ensure compliance with the association’s rules as well as town ordinances and security policies.  If your board has determined that your unit may be occupied by a person whose residency violates a provision of the governing documents, the association does have the power to take action which can include monetary fines, litigation, or both.”

Hope that helps, R.W.!

Not Renting the Condo by the Rules

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

F.K. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Owners are renting for less than the required time period. How can we enforce the condo rules?

Mister Condo replies:

F.K., well this one might seem kind of obvious but your by-laws and rules should spell out what happens when a unit owner doesn’t follow the rules. There is usually a summons to appear before the Board, followed by a fine, followed by legal action for repeated offenses. This is where your association attorney can step in and be a real help to the Board. Once the attorney reviews the case, a lawsuit against the offending owner will likely be drawn up and filed with the courts. The association will seek a cease and desist order against the unit owner making the improper rental agreements and the Board should seek legal damages from the unit owner who isn’t following the rules. The underlying question is what is the Association’s goal in bringing this action? It should be to halt the improper rental of the unit. If you go into the suit just seeking damages without trying to halt the improper rental of the unit, you are likely to see this offense repeated again. My advice is to consult with a community association attorney and take action against the offending unit owner. My guess is the association will prevail and the unit owner will play fairly moving forward. Good luck!

AirBnB? Not at this Condo!

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

D.W. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I recently heard about the website, AirBnB.com, which allows people to rent out their condo or apartment unit for short periods of time, usually a few days. I had not yet rented out my condo unit when I was notified by the condo board that I was in violation of the by-laws. I have since removed my listing on the website, but I still have a reservation pending for later in the month. What actions could the board take against me if I decide to allow my reservation to go through? Thanks!

Mister Condo replies:

D.W., your condo is not alone in banning the use of AirBnB and similar services. There are a variety of reasons why they ban this activity but it usually boils down to wear and tear on the common elements and too many temporary users unfamiliar with the rules of the community who may also place an extra burden on the use of common elements like swimming pools, tennis courts, parking lots, etc.. It is unfortunate that you were not aware of these rules before you offered your unit for rent using one of these services. I am not an attorney so please take the following advice as friendly and not legal. For legal advice, I strongly recommend that you consult with an attorney.

There are a variety of actions the Board can take against you, and just as importantly, your AirBnB renters (who, in turn, would likely also take action against you). They can ban the AirBnB renters from the property. They can get the local police involved if they are deemed trespassers (they do not hold a legitimate lease or rental agreement). They can come after you for violating your use of the property as outlined in the condo documents. They may hit you with fines, legal fees, and whatever else the association attorney is likely to implement on their behalf. Most Boards will not be sympathetic to your cause in the least as you have violated the most basic principle of common interest ownership and that is to “play by the rules”. Of course, it could be that no one will even notice they are there but is it really worth the potential downside for a few days of rental income? My advice is to withdraw your property from the AirBnB rental service and hope these short-term renters find someplace else to stay. All the best!

Condo Fire Pit Rules and Restrictions

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

G.C. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do most associations in Connecticut have rules against fire pits? Or rules about whether they can be on decks or on ground level? Is there any reason why an association could not have a rule prohibiting fire pits?

Mister Condo replies:

G.C., many towns and cities have rules against grills and fire pits in high density housing areas like condos and apartments and for good reason. One need only turn on the morning news to see the devastation that fire brings to any home but especially homes that are built so closely together as condos often are. That being said, rules and enforcement of rules about fire pits vary widely from condo to condo. There is no reason that I can think of that an association could not ban the use of fire pits. Of course, it is a political issue if the community is split on their desire to use a fire pit. The easy decision is to forbid their use due to the possibility of fire and loss of property and life to association members. However, fire pit enthusiasts may argue that as long as the fire pit is attended and properly maintained there is no issue. The ultimate decision is that of the Board and unit owners who should hold a vote to either ban or allow fire pits although local law trumps any association rule. If the law is being broken, local authorities will take action if alerted. It is a tricky issue and I wish you good luck in resolving it for your association.

15 Years in the Wrong Condo Parking Space?

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

S.M. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What should I do if I am forced to move my car because of a misprint on the Association’s file regarding my assigned parking space? I’ve been parking in the same assigned spot for about fifteen years. Recently, I was told that I have to move to the next space over, which happens to be used by my neighbor, who is also a friend. I have told her about this parking issue. She said it is ridiculous because the spot they are referring to is her parking space. Tonight, I was told by another association member that we can share a space with her until we figure out what to do. I find it all unfair as well as unlawful to my rights. Can you give me some advice of what to do about this mind-boggling issue?

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., well that is a mind-boggling issue to say the least! I am not aware of any statute of limitations for a condo association to enforce car parking rules but fifteen years is a very long time for the association to not comment about the parking arrangement and then take action that effects several unit owners. As usual, you need to start with your purchase and sale agreement and see what it says about your assigned parking. My guess is that it states you are assigned one or two parking spaces for your exclusive use. If you have a garage this may be the space in front of your garage. If there is just a parking lot, it is probably the numbered and assigned spot(s). If there is a misprint on any documentation you certainly have the right to challenge it. Of course, this could turn into a big brouhaha about nothing. May I ask what brought this about? Did someone question the parking arrangement after fifteen years? Have you seen the misprint and are sure it was a misprint and not just a long-term misunderstanding of where your and your neighbor’s assigned parking spaces are? I’d hate to see you have to spend money on an attorney to protect yourself here but if the Board is going to insist on making you change parking spaces over a misprint and you and your neighbor feel they are wrong to do so then you may wish to consult with an attorney just to make sure you don’t have legal recourse. I’d also ask the attorney if you can sue for the attorney’s cost if it comes to a lawsuit. I hope it doesn’t come to that. All the best!

Is A Lawyer Needed for Condo Rule Changes?

Monday, August 11th, 2014

D.U. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a small association that is thinking of making rule changes. Do we need to retain a lawyer to draft them or can we do them ourselves?

Mister Condo replies:

D.U., the short answer is that it depends on exactly what kinds of changes you are considering. I am not an attorney so please consider this advice as friendly and not legal. If you truly need legal advice you should contact a qualified attorney. Condo associations are governed by federal, state, and local laws as well as their own rules of governance as outlined in the condo docs. If you are doing something as simple as changing rules about noise or hours of use for a facility like a pool or tennis courts, you very likely just need to follow the proper procedures for creating or modifying rules. Here in Connecticut, that would include proper notification to unit owners that rule changes are on the agenda for the next Board meeting, the Board meeting, itself, where the rule changes were introduced and voted upon, and then proper notification to all unit owners and residents of what these new rules or modification were. The Minutes from that meeting are in the permanent record of the Association and the new rules should be published and made a part of all future condo documents. If you are uncertain as to the proper wording of a rule or are unsure if your rule violates any federal, state, or local law then you would be wise to invest in attorney consultation. Better to pay for the attorney’s advice now than need to hire one to defend against a lawsuit if your new rules are in violation of any laws. All the best!

Like Father, Like Daughter at this Condo

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

D.S. and his daughter from New Haven County write:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hello. Is the board required to know your medical condition? I need my 53 year-old daughter to live with me in my 55+ over community. I have a doctor’s letter stating that I need my daughter to live with me for medical purposes. Does the condo board have the right to make me disclose my personal medical information? Thank you.

Dear Mister Condo,

My father lives in a 55+ community. I am his 53 year-old daughter who now lives with him due to his medical condition. The Board is trying to kick me out because I’m not 55. He supplied the board with a doctor’s note explaining that my dad needed me to live with him due to medical conditions. Does the board have a right to ask what the medical conditions are? Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

D.S. and daughter, thank you both for writing. For the life of me I cannot understand why the Board of Directors at a 55+ over community would make such a big deal about a 53 year-old woman living with her father under the advice of a physician. Even with no underlying medical condition there is only 24 months at maximum separating a 53 year-old from living in the community with no provisions allowed! Even if you provided no reason for living there and the association were to take legal action against you for doing so, my guess is that you would be of legal age by the time the case made it to court and the point would be moot! That being said, let’s see if we can’t get you an answer that makes everyone happy.

First off, I am not an attorney and cannot give you legal advice. My advice is friendly so please treat it as such. If you find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit from your association, please hire an attorney to represent your best interests. 55+ over communities routinely take action against anyone moving into their community who does not fit the age guidelines as agreed to when the units were built and sold. They do this to protect the integrity of the community and because their by-laws require that they do so. That being said, you will find many folks under the required age living in community associations for many reasons. Live-in companionship is chief among them and producing a doctor’s note without disclosing the actual illness should suffice the Board. If they wish to question the veracity of the doctor’s note, they are free to do so. That is an issue between the Board and your doctor and is usually handled by a letter from the association to the doctor requesting that the doctor verify the note. And that is usually the end of the story. The Board has no more right to know your medical condition than they do the color of your eyes. It doesn’t concern them. Enforcing the association’s covenants is their job and they are right to request documentation for why someone under the age of 55 is living on the property. Their concern is that if they do not enforce the rule with everyone, they will not be able to enforce the rule for any one. That being said, you would think that common sense would enter the picture and they would be a little more tolerant of a 53 year-old entering their community. This isn’t like a young family has moved in; this is just a loving family member moving in to care for a father who requires her attention. I am guessing you have enough on your plate to not have to deal with this foolishness. Send them the required doctor’s note. If they persist in trying to force either of you out of the community, hire a good attorney and bring forth a substantial lawsuit. This is exactly the type of villainous behavior that gives condo associations a bad reputation. I hope they see the error of their ways and leave you be. Good luck!

Can Dog-Free Condo Deny Residency to Guide Dog Trainer?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

E.D. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can condo associations deny a Fidelco dog trainer the purchase of a condo if there is an existing rule prohibiting dogs?

Mister Condo replies:

E.D., that is a loaded question with lots of possible outcomes. Let me break it down as best as I can so you and the Board understand what is being asked and what your options are. First off, a person’s occupation as a dog trainer does not disqualify them from purchasing a condo. Denying the opportunity to purchase a unit to anyone could be seen as discrimination so I would avoid using that language altogether. The condo has established rules about dogs not being allowed on the property and that rule needs to be communicated to all “would be” buyers and they should take that rule into consideration before they purchase into an association. The Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation is well known and well respected for providing outstanding guide dogs for blind and visually impaired individuals. My understanding of the raising and training of Fidelco guide dogs is that they are foster parented from the time they are pups to a little over a year old at which time they are returned to the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation where the dogs are trained to become the amazing service animals they become. It is unclear to me whether or not the Fidelco trainers bring these animals home with them or if the animals are housed at Fidelco during the training period. If the trainer will be bringing a dog or dogs onto the condo property that is where there will be a conflict between the rules of the community and the occupation of the new owner. If the unit owner were vision-impaired and required the guide dog to live a better life, the association would have little choice but to allow the dog as the individual would have certain rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) but since this trainer is assumedly not vision-impaired but simply performing job-related duties, I do not see where the ADA would protect their right to house a dog in a community which has rules against doing so.

There is another consideration for the Board to think about. Nothing travels faster than bad news. If the Board were to hold its ground and make a big issue out of denying the sale of a unit to a trainer with the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, it had also best get ready for the potential media bashing and villainous name calling that is likely to ensue. You can probably picture the headlines and news trucks covering the story right now pointing fingers at the condo Board as mean-spirited for depriving the trainer the opportunity to train these much-needed and highly respected service dogs on the association grounds. It is not a question of who is wrong and who is right; it is a question of how the event will be perceived from those living outside of the association who don’t agree that the service dog should be banned from living there while it is being trained. If the trainer does decide to purchase a unit within the association, my advice would be to allow the service animal to be housed at the unit and make an exception to the rule for service animals only. The reality is that a Fidelco guide dog is likely to be an incredibly well-behaved dog and will only be with the community a short while before it is placed for permanent service with a needy recipient. The community gets a new resident and a good image within the city or region where the condo is located. You might even get some good press out of it to boot. All the best!

Condo Nosey Neighbor Strikes Again!

Friday, July 18th, 2014

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!

Tandem Parking Allowed at Condo!

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

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!