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!