Archive for the ‘Rules Enforcement’ Category

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!

Wet, Overgrown, and Neglected in Hartford Condo

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

M.P. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have requested that our Condo Manager provide me with our insurance contact information as I have extensive ice damming damage and want to have an adjuster take a look. I also requested a copy of my account information because I have a concern that I was charged compounded late fees. I have made 4 written requests and have not received a response. This individual has been rude and sarcastic to me and to other unit owners. My adjoining neighbor and I have been writing and calling for over two years about having overgrown bushes trimmed or removed (they literally block our back entryway). I saw on your web page that property managers must be licensed by the state of CT. When I searched the state of CT web site using his name and company name, the site indicated that no records were found for that individual. Does the property manager need to be licensed in the state of CT? Do I have the right to request a copy of his license or license number? If he is, in fact, not licensed, what is my recourse? Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Mister Condo replies:

M.P., you’ve got a few issues going on here and I am sorry for your problems. Let me break it down and give you some advice I think will benefit you. I’ll work backwards if you don’t mind and start with the issue of Property Manager licensing. You can read all about the law that was passed in 2012 that requires ALL property managers to obtain licensure from the State of Connecticut. If your manager is practicing without a license all you need do is report him to the Department of Consumer Protection for doing so. You can get all the information you need at the Connecticut Chapter of Community Associations Institute Manager Licensing Page at http://caict.org/LAC_MGR_licensure.html. Please not that it is possible that your manager is in the process of obtaining a license or that the website you are checking isn’t updated but chances are if you couldn’t find them on the site, they are not managed. Your report could get things moving to get this manager licensed or get them out of the business if they choose not to license.

Rudeness from a Property Manager need not be tolerated by you or any other condominium unit owner. However, the nature of Property Management is often fast-paced due to the chaotic nature of all of the responsibilities that a Property Manager has to deal with. Ice dams, overgrown bushes, barking dogs, insurance claims, neighbor versus neighbor complaints, Board meetings several nights during the week… it goes on and on. Most of the Property Managers I know are very busy people that work long hours and deal with putting out a lot of fires during the course of their week. That is no excuse for being less than professional when dealing with a client such as yourself but please cut them some slack if they are just dealing with you as quickly as they can so they can get on to the next emergency, especially this time of the year when ice damming and the resulting water damage are pervasive.

Speaking of ice damming, I am sorry that you are yet another victim of this winters pile up of ice and damage on our state’s condominiums. I have had countless tales of water intrusion from all across the state and region. Just too much snow and too much freezing as it melted turning harmless run off into condo flood nightmares. Your own Homeowner’s insurance policy (HO-6) is your first line of defense. Notify the Board in writing of the damage and let your Homeowner’s insurance folks go after the Board for any damage that may be the association’s responsibility. If applicable, the association will submit a claim to their insurance. The reality is that the association insures only the common elements. Your damage is to your unit’s interior which the association’s insurance does not cover. From what I have seen of insurer’s reaction to the onslaught of claims I would not be surprised to learn that you end up hiring an attorney to protect your rights and get one or both of these insurers to pay.

You may very well have been billed compounded late fees. You didn’t tell me how you were initially billed late fees (missed a common fee payment I assume) but you need to review your by-laws to determine how the fees are determined and what you actually owe. Also, are we talking about a large amount of money here? Late fees are usually $25 or less. If you paid your late common fee but not the late fee, most by-laws would allow the association to bill you a late fee for not paying your late fee. Unless we are talking about hundreds of dollars I would recommend that you pay your late fees in full and keep your common fees current to avoid further late fees. If you feel you are right and the association is wrong and no one will discuss the matter with you, you can bring action in Small Claims Court. That sounds like an unwise use of your time and resources to me but it is an option for you.

The ultimate remedy to your bushes being improperly tended and your desire for the Board to hire a different Property Manager is in your hands. The Property Manager works for the Board. You elect the people who serve on the Board. If your Board isn’t getting the job done for you then you need to elect new Board members. Perhaps you would like to tackle the issues facing the Board and volunteer your time to serve?

I know this is a very frustrating series of events for you, M.P., and I don’t think there are easy answers here. Living in a community association can be challenging when things don’t go swimmingly. There is often a disconnect between the billboard image of idyllic, peaceful living and the reality of damaged units, insurance claims, overgrown hedges, and hassles when dealing with the folks who should be there to help. However, with a little perseverance and some strategic thinking, my guess is you will get through all of this just fine and with a better understanding of how difficult a job your Property Manager has and how challenging it can be to serve on the Board. I wish you all the best!

Small Condo; Big Problems!

Friday, February 28th, 2014

R.C. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a four unit condo.  We have no association and every owner wants to do their own things. The ongoing problem is the parking issue. Each owner has two legal parking space but all the other owners (3) except for me have more than two cars in the small parking space that we have. When the police are called because I cannot get in my space because the space is tight from all the extra cars I am told that “it is private property” and that I need to discuss the issue with my Association. That is exactly the problem! We don’t have an association! That is why the owners are not respecting each other and are only looking out for #1. I am bullied on a daily basis to accept whatever they do because I am outnumbered. Where can I go to get some legal results because talking to those owners is not an option? They do not want to work together. Any kind of good advice would be really appreciated.

Mister Condo replies:

R.C., that is quite a conundrum you have presented me with! Condominiums are a very specific type of real estate commodity and they come with a very specific group of rules and protocols that are outlined in very legal documents, namely, the covenant, the declaration, and the rules and by-laws. Collectively, these documents are more commonly referred to as the “condo docs” and that is where you have to begin to get to the bottom of this whole issue of whether or not you have an association. You should have been presented with a package of condo docs when you purchased your condo. Since your condo is less than 10 units, you may have some peculiar wording as to who makes up the Board but I am quite certain your association has a governing body of some sort. How else could you function as a condo and take care of common elements and common items like snow removal, landscaping, building maintenance, and so on? Who is paying the bills? Who do you send your common fee payments to? The answer to these questions will help you get to the bottom of your community’s governance.

If you are being bullied you may have a case to sue your Board for discrimination. Keep in mind that for you to claim bullying or discrimination you will have to document the incidences and make your case before a judge which will likely require you to get legal representation for yourself. No one should be bullied or discriminated against.

Once you get to the bottom of your association governance, you will likely see that there is a procedure for documenting your complaints and presenting them to the Board. From what you have told me, the Board is not likely to take action as the action would be against them. Again, you are likely left to the option of bringing suit against the Board for not enforcing rules and regulation of the condo.

Of course, I have another piece of advice that I strongly encourage you to consider. You live in a four unit condo where 2 or more of your fellow unit owners are unpleasant people who are abusive to you and the system. In such a small condo you cannot avoid these people. I would strongly consider selling your unit and moving to a more agreeable place. Perhaps a larger condo where the rules are far more likely to be enforced would be more to your liking? Your fellow owners sound like real miserable people to have for neighbors. Rather than spend so much time and effort on legal actions to make them behave better, why not just leave? These folks are going to do what they are going to do. You will always be in the minority with 3 of the 4 votes going against you.

Whatever you decide, R.C., I wish you all the best and a pleasant place to call home. Good luck!

Complaining About the Frequent Condo Complainer!

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

J.J. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi, Mr. Condo! Does a property manager or board have recourse against constant (three-plus weekly) complaints or inquiries from a unit owner?

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., that’s a lot of complaining! I am sorry that this unit owner is so dissatisfied with the condo living experience that they feel they must complain on so regular a basis. Honestly, I am not aware of any rule or regulation that limits the amount of complaints any unit owner can make. However, much like the boy in the Aesop fable who cried “wolf” so many times that the villagers stopped listening, this unit owner is very likely going to find that his or her complaints are falling on deaf ears. The property manager is most likely on the receiving end of these complaints and is tasked with keeping a log. Unfortunately, that is part of the job but they do get paid for it. The Board can simply acknowledge the complaints at their regularly scheduled meeting and take action only if they deem it necessary. Unless the complainer escalates by bringing legal action against the Board, that should be the end of it. If these complaints are baseless or unreasonable then no one has anything to worry about. Of course, if these complaints are legitimate, corrective action should be taken. There needs to be some level of diplomacy practiced so that the unit owner’s complaints are acknowledged even if they are not going to lead to any action. The boy who called “wolf” learned his lesson when the wolf really attacked and ate all of his sheep. Perhaps this unit owner will also learn that complaining about every little thing can lead to not being heard when a true complaint needs to be lodged. All the best!