Archive for the ‘Rules Enforcement’ Category

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!

Condo Noise Rules?

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

M.L. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Are there examples of condominium noise by laws?

Mister Condo replies:

M.L., this column gets no shortage of questions dealing with noise issues in condominiums. See all of the noise related questions we’ve already answered here – http://caict.org/askmistercondo/tag/noise/.

I’d have to say noise control is a top issue for anyone who lives in such close proximity to other condo or apartment dwellers. I have seen noise restrictions worded in various ways but they all have basically the same intent and that is for unit owners and residents to voluntarily comply with the noise rules of the community so that everyone can peaceably enjoy their condo living experience.

The rules might look something like this:

Noise Rules

“Residents and guests are required to keep noise levels to a minimum at all times. For purposes of this discussion of rules, daytime hours are considered 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.. The hours between 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. are considered nighttime hours and extra attention to noise must be paid during nighttime hours.

Residents shall not play any musical instrument, radio, stereo, television, or cause any other noise at a level that would disturb any other residents. Noise levels must be kept below 80 dB (the sound of a typical vacuum cleaner) during daytime hours unless previously approved by the board of directors.
No one shall make any noises in the building or adjacent grounds that may disturb the occupants of other units during nighttime hours. Noise levels must be kept below 40 dB (the typical sound of human voice) during nighttime hours.”

Perhaps some readers would care to share their specific association rules regarding noise so you can get some more ideas. The bottom line is that it is important to have rules in place so that all residents know what to expect and when other residents are not following the rules. We’re all in this together. All the best!

Are There Sample Condo Rule Violation Letters?

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

D.L. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do you have any templates for writing letters of warning to owners who violate rules?

Mister Condo replies:

D.L., that is a great question. I do not know of a specific repository of condo rule violation letters and I suspect each condominium would have its own version based on their rules and regulations. They generally look something like this:

__________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Unit Owner Name,

Subject: Violation of Rules and Regulations – FIRST NOTICE

On XX/XX/20XX, it was observed that your dog was left unattended on association grounds. Leaving pets unattended on association grounds is not allowed per the association rules and regulations.

Please discontinue leaving your pet unattended on association grounds.

Thank you for your cooperation in making Main Street Condominiums a great place to live for all residents.

__________________________________________________________________________________

The goal is voluntary unit owner compliance. However, if the first letter didn’t work:

__________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Unit Owner Name,

Subject: Violation of Rules and Regulations – SECOND NOTICE

On XX/XX/20XX, it was observed that your dog was left unattended on association grounds. Leaving pets unattended on association grounds is not allowed per the association rules and regulations. You were previously warned of this rule violation on XX/XX/20XX. Per association rules you are now subject to appear before the Board of Directors and have a fine levied against you for the offense. The Board of Directors meets on XX/XX/20XX at X:XX at the Main Street Condominium Club House. You are expected to appear before the Board at that time.

Please discontinue leaving your pet unattended on association grounds.

Thank you for your cooperation in making Main Street Condominiums a great place to live for all residents.

__________________________________________________________________________________

If the violations continue, it may be time to involve the association’s attorney to take legal action against the unit owner. That may include a lawsuit, eviction of a tenant, a lien on the unit, or even foreclosure against the unit owner in the most severe of violations. I hope it doesn’t come to that. All the best!

Fined for Renting a Condo that Was Never Rented!

Monday, June 30th, 2014

M.B. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My son advertised short rental of my condo without my knowledge. The condo was never rented. The Board of Directors found the advertisement and without first warning with no penalties according to the bylaws, they are charging me a $2500 penalty for renting it although I’ve told them it has never been rented. Without my knowledge they took my last 2 maintenance payments and applied them to the fine and then wrote to me that I was delinquent on maintenance payment. I have told then to send me proof or I will make police report for harassment. What can I do? I did not want to go to appeal because there was nothing to appeal, it never happened.

Mister Condo replies:

M.B., this sounds like a series of unfortunate events to me and I am sorry that you and your Board didn’t find a better way to work out this misunderstanding before it came to this. That being said, let’s review what has happened and what you are likely to do next. First off, I am not an attorney so please consider this advice friendly, and not legal. For legal advice, I suggest you seek appropriate legal counsel in the form of an attorney.

If your association has rules about renting or advertising the rental of your condo it really makes no difference who placed the ad and whether it was with your knowledge or not. If the rule was broken and the Board wishes to take action they can. Is this the first time you have broken this rule? Have you ever been cited for breaking this rule before? If either of those scenarios is true then your Board may be acting within their rights to issue you a fine for the violation. If not, you are correct in that they should issue you a warning and request that you appear before the Board. If you do not appear before the Board, they can certainly go ahead and fine you. Even if you do appear before the Board, they have the right to fine you if they conclude that you violated the rule. From what you have stated you did not wish to appear before the Board. With a lack of any counter claim from you, guess what happened? They issued you a fine! Any time you are requested to appear before the Board, it is a good idea to do so. If you are uncomfortable or unsure about the appearance, it is a good investment to hire an attorney to advise you. Once the fine was issued, you were liable for the amount and they have the right to collect it from you before applying money to your common fees. That means you will accrue late fees on your common fees until the fine is settled. As you can see, it is in your best interest to get this matter taken care of as soon as possible.

From what you have stated, I would think you will want to hire an attorney to represent your interests any way. Clearly, there is a problem between you and the Board and communication seems to be severely lacking. Also at question is the legality of the measures the Board has taken against you. For starters, I have never heard of a $2500 fine! Fines are used to prevent improper behavior. At $2500, it sounds like the Board is using the fine to produce association income. An attorney can best advise you if your rights were violated and what legal recourse you may have. Typically, if you hire an attorney, the Board will do the same. Once the two attorneys sit down they can either reach a settlement or determine if a lawsuit is necessary. Keep in mind that a lawsuit can get expensive and even nasty so be ready for the long haul if needed. At some point, you may even need to evaluate if it is just less expensive to pay your fine than to sue your Board. Either way, be sure not to break any other rules of your association so you don’t find yourself in this type of predicament again. All the best!

Can the Board Tell Me What to Use Inside My Condo?

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

T.H. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Does the Board of Directors have the authority to mandate what type of materials a unit owner uses in their condo? Braided Washing Machine Hoses or Specific type of Building Materials, for example.

Mister Condo replies:

T.H., the short answer is “yes”! Most unit owners are aware that they cannot make any modifications to the exterior of their units due to architectural compliance issues, which the Board oversees. Insurance issues, also the purview of the Board, require that the association maintain certain standards so that the insurance can remain in place and claims can be honored. Washing machine hoses and water heaters are two very common wear items that quite often lead to insurance claims when failure results. Rather than continue to pay the claims that can be easily avoided with proper maintenance and materials, the insurance company dictates the materials that should be used and the useable life cycle of the products. If the product, such as the washing machine hose, is shown to be out of date r of the wrong material, the insurance company does not have to pay, which results in a financial hardship for the community. To avoid this, the Board simply mandates that the accepted materials are used and maintenance standards are met. This has the added advantage of protecting you, the unit owner, as well. All the best!

Too Much Partying Next To the Condo

Friday, June 20th, 2014

N.G. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a small shoreline condo that is surrounded by residential properties on three sides. The back of my unit is situated less than 100 feet from a 3 family home that is rented out to tenants that have very loud parties every weekend. I would love to open my windows and enjoy the sea breezes but there is always music and noise coming from the backyard of the neighboring property, not to mention the smells of whatever they are grilling. Can my Board do something to control the noise and odors so I can experience “peaceable enjoyment” of my unit as described in our by-laws?

Mister Condo replies:

N.G., I am sorry you are unable to enjoy your unit peaceably. However, there is nothing in any condo by-laws that governs the behaviors of people not specifically living in or visiting your condominium. What you are experiencing is an issue for your local municipal authorities. Your Board is powerless to enforce its own noise restrictions outside of your immediate association grounds. Unless your neighbors are breaking laws or violating city ordinances regarding noise or backyard barbeques there really isn’t too much that you can do. Since your back deck faces the offensive property, may I suggest that you get more use out of your front deck, which I assume faces your own property? Sorry for your inconvenience. Enjoy your summer!

Condo Owner Wants to Defend Neighbor

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

F.D. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Mr. Condo, how can I write a positive letter about one of my neighbors to defend him about a false accusation made by another neighbor?

Mister Condo replies:

F.D., you are a good neighbor to defend your fellow resident and share what you know about the accusation with the parties concerned. I assume you are looking to defend your neighbor to the condo association Board who has been alerted to a rule infraction or such by another unit owner. Typically, reports of rules violations are made to either the Property Manager (if you have one) or directly to the Board. Neighbor versus neighbor issues are the most common reports and the Board is tasked with reviewing the complaints and taking action if deemed necessary. You are free to write to the Board or Property Manager and tell your side of the story so that they may take your account of events into consideration when deciding what action to take against the unit owner who been accused of the rule violation. The actions that Boards should take include notification of your neighbor that a rule violation has been reported and an invitation to address the Board concerning the infraction. If your neighbor takes no action, the Board may issue a fine for the violation. If your neighbor wishes to address the Board and defend himself, your letter may be quite useful in bolstering his defense. Either way, the Board can choose to do nothing or they may issue a fine for the offense as outlined in your association’s by-laws. The Board is tasked with governing the association, which includes managing the budget and dealing with the larger issues of the community as a whole. Neighbor versus neighbor rules violations are quite often a nuisance that the Board must deal with but it takes them off task of truly managing the assets of the association. If you decide to send your letter, please keep it short and sweet. Ideally, the Board will simply review the complaint, your letter and decide to take no further action. All the best!

Treadmill for Migraine Gives Downstairs Condo Neighbors Headaches!

Monday, June 16th, 2014

M.A. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am on the board of a condo with stacked units. We received a complaint about a treadmill in the unit above. The treadmill user states her Doctor prescribed exercise to alleviate Migraine headaches, which it has done. She does not use it during sleep hours and has placed pads beneath it to help with noise. Can the condo further restrict the use of a treadmill within a unit if it’s ordered by the doctor? Would this be an ADA issue? Thanks!

Mister Condo replies:

M.A., thanks for your question. You have a bit of a sticky wicket here and I was torn on how to advise you so I reached out to an attorney friend of mine who practices in this area of law and posed your quandary. Here’s what the attorney had to say about it:

“There is no simple yes or no answer to this question.  Generally, the Board can adopt a uniform rule against making noise which disturbs other residents, but the Board must also make “reasonable accommodations” to such a rule for people suffering from certain medical conditions.  Whether or not this situation qualifies, and how far the Board could go to restrict use of the treadmill, would be difficult to determine without consulting with a knowledgeable attorney on all of the relevant details.  What is much more certain is that the Board is not obligated to get involved in what is really a dispute between two owners.”

That certainly sounds like good advice to me, M.A.. Consult with an attorney and get solid legal advice before proceeding. Good luck!