Archive for the ‘Rules Enforcement’ Category

Aluminum Wiring at Condo Unit of a Hoarder

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

P.D. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a hoarder compounded with aluminum wiring.  Is there a precedent for how to deal with this problem?

Mister Condo replies:

P.D., my short answer is “Yikes”! You have two very different and potentially very serious issues here. I am not sure which one should be tackled first but my instinct is that a lot of this will boil down to the association’s right to access the unit for inspection and/or remediation. As you know, I am not an attorney but this is a situation where you are very likely going to want to seek the advice of qualified counsel as you may find yourself in need of assistance from the courts in dealing with the hoarding issue, especially if you require access to the unit to remediate the aluminum wiring issue.

Hoarding, as such, is often not addressed in association governing documents. However, access to unit for safety purposes often is allowed provided adequate notice is served. Boards can generally take action against unit owners who create an unsafe environment within their unit. Hoarding can usually be demonstrated to create a fire hazard and/or a general health and safety concern. The Board may be able to order the unit cleared of debris to create a safe environment for all unit owners.

Aluminum wiring remediation is necessary to avoid potential electrical problems and fire hazards associated with the wiring. Obviously, you will need access to the unit to perform this repair. My guess is that you will need to get the unit in reasonable order so that workers can get the job done.

Neither of these projects will be simple and correcting the hoarding issue could even be quite costly from a legal perspective. You asked about precedents and there are several I have read about online. Search for “Hoarding and condominiums” and you will see what I saw. There is an excellent article at this website – http://www.meeb.com/more-condominium-communities-are-struggling-with-hoarders-and-the-problems-they-create/ which I highly recommend.

This is a difficult problem and I do not envy you your task. Speak with association counsel before you begin and be prepared for lots of little setbacks along the way. However, with patience and proper procedure followed I am confident that you will correct both problems. All the best!

Condo Owner in Arrears Seeks Seat on Board

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

T.G. from New London County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have a Unit Owner who owed more than $2,000 in condo fees. Through legal representation, the Board of Directors agreed to a payment plan for him to bring his account current. This Unit Owner wants to be on the Board of Directors, but it is our understanding that he is not eligible until he has paid all of the back fees and brought his account up to date. Is there a Connecticut Condo Law or Statute covering this issue? We had previously found a statement covering it, but cannot seem to find it again. Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

T.G., eligibility to serve on the Board is often dictated in the by-laws of the condominium association. I suspect that it is contained quite specifically in the section of the rules outlining the community’s governance. Alternatively, if there is a section on delinquencies and how rights of delinquent unit owners are affected, you may find the answer for your situation there. However, I think there is a bigger issue to consider, regardless of what the by-laws or even state laws have to say about the matter.

If a unit owner is elected to serve on the Board, the unit owners electing him or her have an expectation that this unit owner will act in the best interests of the entire association. If he has gotten himself into arrears through questionable financial management of his own assets, I think you really have to ask if this is the kind of person you want so close to the association’s assets. Will he be able to separate his situation from the community’s best interests? What if he ends up in further arrears? Will he use his position to influence the Board to not take further collection actions against him? Will he be responsible for deciding how and when the Board will execute their collection plan? I don’t feel that this is an issue of legality as much as it is an issue of integrity.

That being said, if he has satisfied his arrears to the Board’s satisfaction and he is interested in running for the Board there may be little anyone can do to prevent him from doing so. If he is elected and serves honorably, there is no problem. However, if his eligibility to run is forbidden in the by-laws, the community would be well-advised to adhere to those rules. I imagine that if he honors his repayment plan, he will be perfectly eligible in a year’s time. For me, that would suffice. All the best!

Noisy Workout Equipment Creates Problems for Downstairs Condo Neighbor

Friday, April 4th, 2014

J.J. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am unhappy with the level of noise from my upstairs neighbor.  This mostly happens between 3:00 PM to 8:00 PM and each session lasts for half and hour or more.  They use treadmill or other exercise tools.  As soon as they start exercise over the machine, my ceiling and sidewalls starts shaking up with loud noise.  The ceiling fan dance all the time during these sessions.  I have an infant of 7-month old who is not able to sleep while all this activities are in practice.  I am afraid that it might lead to my infant child ill-health who has been deprived of mostly needed sound sleep.

I can handle infrequent loud noise, but this has become too much to handle.  It has interfered with my family sleeping habits, and contributed to migraine headaches. I requested my Condo management to talk to my upstairs neighbor but instead of talking to that neighbor the management responded to my email as follows:

Prior to sending a violation notice from the Association, you will need to try the neighborly approach first and try to work this out on your own. Most likely, they have no idea this is causing a loud noise beneath them. Please touch base with them the next time you hear the noise. Usually, neighbors can come to a friendly agreement. If for some reason, this approach does not work, please send me an email and with the outcome of your discussion with the neighbor and the details (days/times) of the noise.”

I don’t want to go in discussion with my neighbor just in case he is not tolerant or polite. What should I do?  My management has thrown the ball back to my court.  I would like my management to point out to them that perhaps they do not realize that they make so much noise and disturb others.

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., neighbor versus neighbor complaints at condominiums are always a difficult issue for everyone involved. At the heart of the matter is who can do what to get the neighbor to behave better. The Property Manager can only do what the rules allow and what the Board of Directors will enforce. The Board of Directors can only enforce what is in the condo documents. Sometimes, the police are called. They don’t enjoy these issues either because there is usually a question as to whether or not any laws have been broken. It becomes a situation where the ideal solution is for the neighbors to work it out and a figure a way to peacefully coexist.

I actually agree with what your Property Manager is telling you. However, you do not need to physically confront your neighbor if that makes you uncomfortable. You can send a letter instead and use the exact words of the email that was sent to you. Also include a heartfelt note about what you have told me here. Offer to meet with the neighbor to settle this in a neighborly fashion but explain that a meeting is not necessary. You just want to find a way for each of you to enjoy your unit and not drive each other crazy with noise.

Take a look at your condo’s rules about peaceable enjoyment. Noisy activities are likely limited to certain times of day. You can ask the Board to enforce any provision that bans a particular type of behavior. However, the times you have mentioned aren’t likely to fall into that category. How about the weight of the equipment and the type of flooring material on which it rests? A treadmill on hardwood would make a lot more noise than a treadmill on a carpet and rubberized floor mat.

The bottom line is that it takes patience and resolve to straighten out a situation like this. The Board and the Property Manager have very limited powers, especially if no specific rules are being broken. I have seen situations like this escalate to minor warfare with neighbors blasting TVs and stereos at each other at all hours. Please don’t let this happen to you. I hope your neighbor is as reasonable about this issue as you seem to be. Good luck!

Furniture Delivery Men Damage Condo Fire Sensor; Who Pays?

Monday, March 31st, 2014

R.G. from South Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo is Miami. While a delivery company was delivering my new furniture, a fire sensor was broken. The association is charging me $300.00 for the repair. I didn’t break it but the association said I am responsible because I was receiving the furniture. The association didn’t tell me in which statute this is based on. I read the association by-laws and it doesn’t say anything about this. Can they do this? Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

R.G., congratulations on the new furniture! I am sorry you have been cited with a bill for the damaged fire sensor. I am not an attorney nor am I an expert in Florida state law but I am happy to provide a common sense opinion of your Board’s action. Since the fire sensor was working just fine before your furniture delivery men accidentally damaged it, you are the most likely to be expected to pay for the repair. I doubt you will find anything in your bylaws or state law specifically addressing this situation but the general principal of “fair is fair” comes into play here. To be honest with you, the delivery company should reimburse you for any damage they caused. They are very likely insured for such a loss or will simply reimburse you for the damage so as to avoid making a claim with their own insurance company. You have the reasonable expectation that they will deliver your furniture without creating damage to your property. Have you contacted them about the cost of the damage they caused? It may be as simple as that! All the best!

Condo Unit Owner Threatened with Towing for Backing In

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

B.A. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I got a warning on my car with a threat of being towed because I back into my parking space so I can pull straight out in the morning. Nowhere in my rules does it say I can’t do this. Is this legal? My tags and parking sticker are up to date.

Mister Condo replies:

B.A., no one likes to get a warning on their car with the threat of being towed, especially when parked in their own parking space. I am not an attorney but I can tell you that towing your car without proper warning would very likely result in you being able to sue your association for taking such drastic action without following proper procedure which is as follows. If you are parking your car in your own space but against the rules of the community (even if you are not aware of the rule, it may exist), you should receive a mailed warning to your home; not a threat attached to the car! The warning should inform you of what rule you have violated and offer you the opportunity to appear before the Board to discuss the offense. If the Board then decides to issue you a violation for breaking the rule they may then do so and they may also fine you if the rules allow for issuing fines for such an offense. They may also tow your vehicle upon repeated offenses provided the rules of the association state that they can do so. As you can see, it all really comes down to the rules. If the rule exists, you should comply to avoid further problems. If no rule exists, as you claim, they have no right to come after you and, in fact, you might be well advised to seek counsel and go after them for harassment. For the record, I do know of many associations that do not allow owners to back into parking spaces because when a car is started the noise and exhaust heads towards the buildings. This can create a lot of noise and create noxious and hazardous fumes for residents who are trying to enjoy their units with windows open. Don’t be surprised if your association has such a rule. Of course, if the rule exists, be a good neighbor and head into your parking space. Happy parking!

Sitting on a Brick Wall Overlooking the Canal at the Florida Condo: Yes or No?

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

E.V. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi! Because of recent complaints I filed with the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation, the President of the condo is retaliating against me. Due to a back condition, I sit on a brick wall by the canal which is about 4 feet high so I can receive the sun’s rays. I have a physical disability. The Presidents says that when I sit over there I am risking a fall that would result in me suing the association. I have been doing this for about two months. If I was looking to do something like this, I would have done it already. He put a sign by the wall which says “Caution: Do Not Seat”. Does he have the authority to do this? If I keep on sitting there, what could he legally do about it? I called the police and they said they cannot make me move from there. So far, he has not given me a written warning.

Mister Condo replies:

E.V., I am sorry for your back condition. I am sure your physical disability is a great burden to deal with. However, you really can’t blame someone who is trying to prevent you from injuring yourself with a fall from a wall. Further, the association president has to think about all of the other unit owners, not just you, with regards to the liability of the association in the event you did fall and get hurt. I am not certain what legal authority the Board President has to place a sign on a wall or what authority he has to enforce the “Do Not Seat” activity he is trying to prevent but I need to ask you is this a fight you really want to have? Is there no place else you can sit where you wouldn’t put yourself in danger of falling and the association in danger of being sued if you do? From the tone of your letter and the fact that you have already filed a complaint against the president of the condo, I am guessing that you and he are going to continue to lock horns regardless of what advice I give you but here it goes: Stop sitting on the brick wall. Walls are not for sitting. Get yourself a nice outdoor chair that you can sit in. You’ll enjoy the sun and your Board president won’t have to worry about you getting hurt and suing the association. Seems easy enough, doesn’t it? Good luck!

What to Do About Bikes and Scooters at the Condo?

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

M.R. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What is your suggestion on handling kids riding their bikes, scooters, and electric cars into oncoming cars in the community? Kids in most cases are unsupervised.

Mister Condo replies:

M.R., my suggestion is to get the situation under control and quickly! Most associations have rules against such activity and for good reason. Loss of human life or significant injury of a child is a tragedy at many levels. The monetary risk to the association that such a loss or injury can bring is tremendous. You would think that common sense would prevent parents from allowing their children to do such things on the association grounds but I think it is fair to say that you cannot teach common sense. You can, however, enforce the rules and make it financially costly for the behavior to continue.

Almost all condos have rules about what can and cannot be done on association grounds. Most recreational activities are forbidden except for areas designated for recreation. Unless you have a bike path, scooter park, or other recreational venue as part of your common grounds your association probably has these rules as well. Check your by-laws to confirm. If you don’t have the rules, adopt then at your next Board meeting. Also, check with your insurer to see what coverage you have for such activity. You may be surprised to learn that your insurer doesn’t want any of these things going on at your property either. It’s all about liability.

Once the rules are in place and known, it is time to take action against the offenders. You will notice that your by-laws do not refer to “kids” as this is a discriminatory term. The rules are against the activity, not the age or type of person performing the activity. If you have a property manager, you can ask them to document the offenses as reported by unit owners. You can hire a security company to come document the offenses. Offenders must be notified in writing that they have committed a violation and invited to speak to the Board about the offense. If the Board is satisfied that the offense occurred, they can then issue a fine as outlined in the by-laws. Fines usually get the offenders attention and the behavior should stop.

At the same time, why not try and use some Public Relation skills to help alleviate the problem? Send out notices about insurance premiums that will skyrocket if someone is injured on association property. Send out safety literature about proper places to use bikes and scooters. Perhaps there is a skate park nearby? Many towns now provide these for recreation. Speed bumps, permanent or temporary, may also decrease the unwanted activity as they pose a physical barrier to bikers and skaters.

The bottom line is safety. As a volunteer leader of your community you want your residents to be safe. You want to protect your association from liability and you want residents to have a positive experience living in your community. No one wants to play condo cop and issue offense letters and fines to residents but you do need to correct the behavior. My guess is that if you employ some of these tactics, you’ll do just that. Good luck!

Condo Dog Battle Has This Owner Howling!

Monday, March 17th, 2014

J.B. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi! I have lived in a condo association for 12 years in New Haven. For 11 of those years I have had 2 dogs. I have unknowingly been in violation of the bylaws for these 11 years. Our by-laws state that we can only have 1 dog and 2 cats. I have 2 dogs, 0 cats. Just recently we received notification that they would be enforcing the pet regulations, and if we do not comply we will be hit with progressively increasing fines. I have tried to research this with regard to a grandfather clause. I understand that Florida has a law that after 5 years of unenforced regulation, they cannot require a person to give up their pet but they can enforce from any new owners/pets from a point forward. The notification went to all unit owners. I am not being singled out, but after 11 years of owning my dogs, without enforcement – knowing several other owners also have 2+ dogs, I would think I would be grandfathered. Could I get your thoughts?

Mister Condo replies:

J.B., as a fellow dog lover my thoughts are that this is a difficult situation for you, for the Board of your condo, and certainly for your pets. When you moved into your condo 12 years ago you were provided a complete set of condo documents that included, among other things, your by-laws. May I ask why the Board has had a change of heart with regards to enforcing these rules now? Are unit owners demanding that these rules be followed now? It seems awfully cruel to enforce a rule like this after 11 years of not doing so. Whatever their reason, there is no law that I am aware of that grandfathers in your pets or makes the Board’s action unenforceable. If other owners of multiple dogs are not also cited and fined for violating the one dog rule, you would have a case for discrimination.

I might suggest you propose your own version of a grandfathering rule that your Board may be amenable to. Why not allow those unit owners who currently have two dogs the opportunity to keep their existing dogs as long as they agree that they will not bring any additional dogs into the association until their current pets pass? While dogs can live a long time, they don’t live forever and the problem should take care of itself in just a few years time. The Board gets to enforce the association’s one dog per unit rule and the current unit owners don’t have to find new homes for one of their beloved pets.

As for their enforcement of the rule, you may be able to challenge the association in court if it comes to that. The Board does need to follow a series of steps as outlined in the Common Interest Ownership Act before they issue fines, escalating or otherwise. They must first provide written notice to any unit owner accused of violating the rule. They must invite any accused unit owner to a Board meeting to tell their side of the story. They can then issue a fine if they are satisfied that a rule was broken and a violation has occurred. The schedule of fines is also documented in your condo docs. They cannot simply escalate fines at their desire. They have to follow the rules, too.

I hope it doesn’t come to that, J.B.. I have one other thought for you to consider. If there are enough unit owners who feel as you do and the Board is not receptive to your idea of allowing the existing dogs to live out their natural lives in the condo, it may be time to vote some new Board people into office that will see it your way. Board members are democratically elected volunteers. They need to serve the best interest of the community and maintain the popular vote to do so. Be ready to answer the call yourself if necessary. I wish you all the best!

Does Medical Pet Count as My One Pet at the Condo?

Monday, March 10th, 2014

L.K. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If my condo complex has a one pet rule, does my medical pet count as that one pet or may I have another?

Mister Condo replies:

L.K., medical pets are still pets and my guess is that your condo association would prefer it if you would observe the one pet rule, if for no other reason than to prevent other residents from doing the same. It would be a much larger issue if your association had a “no pets” rule, which is not that uncommon. In that case, you would need to petition the dog to have any pet on the grounds although certain medical pets (seeing eye dogs, assistance dogs, dogs that alert to seizures, and such) are almost always allowed, there is a new type of doctor-recommended stress relief pet that some associations are challenging as medical pets. The bottom line is that where you live you do not face such a challenge and you should be fine as long as your total pet count, medical or other, does not exceed the association’s one pet rule. All the best!

Why Can’t I Long Term Park in the General Use Condo Parking Area?

Friday, March 7th, 2014

M.M. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is there a definition of “long-term” parking in CT? I travel a lot and have leases on my unit. I have one deeded space that is included in the tenant’s lease, and I park my vehicle in the general spots with my second parking pass. I have received a tow notice for violating the no “long-term” parking provision in the rules. I do use the car, but not daily. It’s more like every week or two. I feel I’m being singled out by the condo manager.

Mister Condo replies:

M.M., my guess is that you are not being singled out by the condo manager but that you have, in fact, violated your community’s rules about use of the general spots. Most community associations I am familiar with limit their guest parking areas to 24 or 48 contiguous hours. They do this so they don’t end up with unsightly cars abandoned in their parking lots. There is no definition of “long-term” parking as it applies to private property which is what the general parking lot of your community association is. In some ways you have answered your own question by alluding to the rules. You should review them and determine what your long-term parking options are. One thing you might consider is using your dedicated spot for your own use. There are no restrictions on how long you can park your own car in your own space. Then you could simply have your tenant use the general lot, being sure to advise your tenant of the parking rules so they don’t inadvertently violate the rules and end up having their car towed while they went away for a week’s vacation. One other solution may be to rent a permanent space from a unit owner who is not using their dedicated space. That may or may not be convenient but it may solve your dilemma. Good luck!