Posts Tagged ‘condominium’

Hardwood Floors Installed but Not Allowed at this Condo

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

L.L. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The owner of the condo unit upstairs from mine has installed a wood floor in violation of the condo rules. The subfloor is also damaged and causes heavy squeaking. Neither the unit owner nor the property manager is interested in remedying this problem.

Mister Condo replies:

L.L., I am sorry that you were not successful in seeking relief from your upstairs neighbor’s flagrant violation of your condo’s policy against hardwood floors. I can imagine the noise created from folks walking around is quite loud in your unit. I can’t imagine why they aren’t willing to enforce the rules but all is not lost. You did not mention what action the Board will take on your behalf but I would write to them and state your case to see if they will order the property manager to take action. If that doesn’t work, you simply need to hire an attorney to seek remedy through the courts. If you cannot afford an attorney or you would prefer to represent yourself, I believe that it is as simple as suing your neighbor for an illegal flooring installation. You will need to provide a copy of your condo bylaws that state that wooden floors are not allowed. The judge will likely order the removal of the floor and/or the repair of the subfloor at your neighbor’s expense. Good luck!

Bigger Decks, Bigger Expense at this Condo

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

T.G. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Our condos are free-standing single home type units. As people were buying their units, some had the builder/developer extend their decks to wrap around their units. This was an extra charge. The standard deck was a 6×28 foot bolstered deck. When painting began a few years later, the price varied due to the various sizes of these improved decks. The Board at that time felt it was only equitable and fair for those who had a larger than standard deck pay for their prorated share of the paint or maintenance cost. The board voted to adopt this policy. Now we have one of those unit owners complaining and refusing to pay his share saying its common property although the bylaws state decks serving a single unit are limited common property. Can you give us your opinion?

Mister Condo replies:

T.G., how condominium associations treat common and limited common elements like decks vary by condominium so my opinion would be that however the bylaws are interpreted by the Board should be the rule of the land unless the Board has misinterpreted those bylaws and/or the bylaws are so poorly written that there is no clear answer. As a rule, limited common elements are the responsibility of the unit owner, even though the association may pay for the contractor to provide the service for the element. In this case, the different-sized decks are creating an inequitable distribution of paint and labor. If the bylaws state that the association is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the decks that may be the case. Everyone pays the same via common fees and the folks with the larger decks actually come out ahead. However, if the bylaws state that the maintenance and upkeep is the responsibility of the unit owner, then a schedule of fees should be drafted to account for the extra paint and labor required to upkeep the improved decks. It is entirely possible that your bylaws are silent on the subject, in which case the Board could have created a rule to address the inequity, which is what sounds like what has happened. Owners that are unhappy with the Board’s decision may choose to contest it in court but I don’t think they would prevail. Enjoy those decks!

Condo Property Manager Abuse Alleged

Monday, August 26th, 2013

L.R. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Property manager has requested some residents to nominate board members that he has chosen. He is controlling board members rather than doing what he is told. Past boards have continued to ignore the problems and stated off the record that he is not managing and the community has deteriorated but no one has been willing to terminate him. The newest board president was chosen by him and is now trying to stifle a board member who is raising ethical questions. He has begun requesting votes on issues via email to board members but is suppressing the replies so no one sees them.

Mister Condo replies:

L.R., sorry to learn of your community’s troubles. Deteriorating common elements are not pleasant to live with and it sounds like there are no positive plans being made to remedy the situation. If what you have stated about the property manager is true your Board really needs to take action sooner rather than later to remedy the situation. If you feel you can document and prove your allegations you might want to send a complaint to the State Attorney General’s office as the practice of voting by email and suppressing the replies is a questionable activity and may be illegal. Regardless of what path you and the Board take, I do have some practical advice you can use immediately.

Property managers are hired by the Board to conduct the day to day business of the Board. Their power is extended to them through the Board. If that power is abused, the Board needs to take action and remove that property manager which they can do in several ways. The easiest is to simply not renew the property manager’s contract and hire a new property manager. If the property manager has violated the terms of the contract the Board can terminate for just cause. If the property manager is breaking the law there is sufficient just cause to fire him.

Board members are volunteers from within the community. They need to behave ethically or they also need to be removed. Unlike a paid professional like your property manager, they are all volunteers, democratically elected by you and your fellow homeowners. If they need support or additional training they should seek out their local chapter of the Community Associations Institute which they can do online at http://www.caict.org. They should also be prepared to seek legal advice from a qualified community association attorney of which we have many in the state.  A complete list can be found at http://caict.org/vendor_directory.htm#attorneyslf. There is simply no excuse for a community to be bullied or taken advantage of by a property manager. However, if the community takes no action against this culprit, it can blame only itself for not taking action. All the best!

When Can I Hold a Yard Sale at my Condo?

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

H.S. from Windham County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is there a certain person I need to ask to have a yard sale, or am I allowed to have one whenever? The tenants next door and across the street have had yard sales a few months ago, and I would like to have one by the end of summer

Mister Condo replies:

H.S., while the rules vary by condo, generally speaking, condo associations don’t allow unit owners to hold their own yard sales. In fact, many condo associations don’t allow them at all. That may not be the case in your condominium so you should definitely seek permission before advertising or setting up for a yard sale. You mention that nearby neighbors held a yard sale a few months ago. You can ask them how it is that there yard sale came to be. My guess is that the entire community is allowed one weekend out of the year for such an event and you missed this year’s event. You should definitely inquire with a person of authority. Ideally, you should ask a property manager or someone on the Board of Directors. You might also wish to consult your condo docs as to what rules or prohibitions are in place regarding yard sales. Once you have the proper permission you can go ahead and plan your event. Without the proper permission, you could face fines and the disdain of neighbors and your community. Hardly worth it just to make a few bucks at a yard sale. Happy Selling!

Upstairs Unit Owner Flooding My Condo… Again!

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

D.D. from Middlesex County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My unit was damaged for the second time in 4 months from the unit above mine. I have water stains on my ceiling from water running out of the upstairs neighbor’s shower when they use it. The unit owner above me has caused serious water damage in the bathroom and refuses to repair it or my ceiling.

Mister Condo replies:

D.D., neighbor issues at condos can be quite trying and I certainly feel your pain. Whether it is noise from an adjoining unit or a small flood from above, getting your neighboring unit owner to behave properly can involve attorneys and lawsuits. It sounds to me like you have done the polite thing and asked the neighbor to pay for the damage, which he has refused. Your next step is to either file a claim in small claims court or hire an attorney to bring suit against your neighbor. Sometimes the very action of being sued will help the offending unit owner “see the light” and correct the behavior as well as pay for the damage already caused. If you seek the help of an attorney, be sure to ask if you can claim the attorney’s fees in your suit. There is no reason you should be out of pocket for this expense. Also, consider the possibility of mold remediation as part of the repair. Wet ceilings can often be the beginning of a much larger and potentially more dangerous mold problem. Be sure to get that addressed at the same time. All the best!

Bay State Condo Pet Conundrum

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

J.A. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in Massachusetts in a condo.  We have always been allowed dogs an able to take them anywhere on the property but get fined if you don’t pick up the feces.  Now they have demanded we all keep our dogs off the entire property and are only to walk them down the driveway to the street and that if I even let my dog pee on a telephone pole that is partly on the property I will be fined.  Is this legal that they can force us to take our dogs to the street and not provide us with any kind of dog area for the animals to do their business? It seems to me if they allow pets there should be some designated area?

Mister Condo replies:

Greetings from Connecticut, J.A.! I am not an attorney so I will give you only practical advice. For a true answer to your “Is this legal” question, I would ask that you speak with a qualified attorney in your area. You can find an excellent list at http://www.caine.org/_documents/ResourceDirectories/Attachment/ResourceDirectories_69.pdf which was recently published by the New England Chapter of the Community Associations Institute.

From a practical standpoint, your Board is likely interpreting your condo’s rules and regulations to state that allowing pets to be walked on the common grounds is not allowed. If that is the rule, then they are well within their rights to enforce the rule even if they have been lax on rule enforcement in the past. However, there is a big difference between Rover lifting a leg on a telephone pole and a giant mastiff defecating front and center of the common walkway. You state that the previously allowed activity was to allow for pet walking provided the owner picked up after the pet. That seems sensible to me. If you can convince your Board of the same, you may be able to have them revert to the old enforcement policy. However, if they don’t see it your way, you may need to mobilize with other pet owners to apply pressure to the Board and/or elect new Board members who see it your way. If neither of those options are feasible, you may have to live with the rules as they are. Unless your condo docs indicate that a pet walking area is provided, your association is not likely under any obligation to provide one even if your documents do allow for pets to be housed in the condos. Good luck!

Condo Window Covering Rules in the Windy City

Monday, August 19th, 2013

S.M. from Chicago writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

In Illinois, can a condo association limit the colors or type of window coverings (drapes or blinds)?  If they can limit colors would the association have to provide them?

Mister Condo replies:

S.M., thanks for writing from Chicago. I am not an attorney nor am I an expert in Illinois law on common interest communities in your state. However, as a general rule, condominiums have rules about what is and isn’t allowed for window decorations which can include drapes and/or blinds. The Board of Directors is responsible for all areas of architectural compliance which may include window treatments depending on your condo documents which you should refer to for a more detailed answer. When you purchased your condo you did agree to abide by the rules of the association which would appear to include your window treatments. I am unaware of any condominium that provides window coverings so my guess is that you are responsible for the cost whatever you decide to do. All the best!

Approval of Condo Board Minutes by Email?

Friday, August 16th, 2013

L.W. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We normally approve minutes at the subsequent board meeting and publish them with our newsletter about six weeks after the meeting. Owners naturally would like access to the minutes sooner. Could the board unanimously approve minutes within a few days of the meeting via email and then be able to publish them sooner?

Mister Condo replies:

L.W., thank you for your service to your community. I am happy to hear you are publishing a newsletter and sharing your meeting minutes with your homeowners in timely fashion. As far as I know, the only proper method of approving minutes is at the next Board meeting, where I assume they are generally accepted as presented. I would think using email to expedite the process would open you up to potential liability issues so I would not encourage that you change your policy. Also, the Board is under no obligation to release unapproved minutes that I am aware of. In other words, your homeowners will need to be patient while the bureaucracy works as planned. If you wanted to release unapproved minutes in advance with the caveat that they are not yet approved, I suppose you could do so but I don’t really see the need. Are there really such important matters going on that 6 weeks makes a difference? For most communities that I know, the minutes are not all that useful to homeowners unless there are major financial issues facing the community. If that is the case, I would suggest that other methods of communication (letters, notices, etc.) should be used to communicate items of an urgent nature. Other than that, I would stay the course. It sounds to me like you are operating without a bushel covering your light, which is exactly how it is supposed to be done. Good luck!

Should Association Pay to Clean Up Burst Washing Machine Water Line?

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

G.B. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

A neighbor’s water line to the washing machine broke and flooded her unit. The association is now paying to clean and fix her condo. Shouldn’t she use her home owners insurance?

Mister Condo replies:

G.B., the short answer is “it depends”. In my experience, unit owners generally rely on the condo association’s insurance policy first and their own homeowner’s policy second for just about any insured loss. If your association had insurance in place to cover the loss then I see no problem with using that policy to pay for the repairs. However, you didn’t mention any insurance. You just stated that the association is paying to clean and fix her condo, which I may take issue with. Was the water line that broke owned by the association? That is not very common but if so, they may have the responsibility for the repair. If not, then the repair should have likely been covered by the unit owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy. Typically, burst washing machine lines and subsequent damage are the homeowner’s responsibility. Many policies even limit the amount of damage they will cover if it is determined that the burst hose lines were not properly maintained or replaced within a certain time interval as their failure is imminent over time.

As you can imagine, insurance companies don’t like paying for claims they are not technically responsible for and it is not uncommon for lawsuits to become necessary for claims to be paid. Depending on the amount in question, it is possible that your association just thought it would be less expensive to pay for the repair than to fund a lawsuit against an insurance company. As a member of the association, you certainly have a right to know why the repair was handled the way it was. Send a nice letter off to the Board and ask for a clarification of what damage occurred, what if any insurance was used to pay for the clean-up, and what plans the Board has so that the problem doesn’t reoccur. After all, if association funds were used for the repair, a portion of that money came from your common fees.

Upset with Condo Neighbor’s Cigarette Butt Litter

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

D.N. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can my condo association, that I pay $170.00 monthly to, MAKE my neighbor stop throwing his cigarette butts on the property? Because if they can’t, I’ll call my lawyer.  Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

D.N., regardless of what your common fees are, your Board can only enforce the rules that are on the books of your condominium. Generally speaking, littering of any sort is prohibited on the common grounds of the association. That being said, enforcement of such provisions can prove quite challenging when owners flagrantly disobey the rules they agreed to live by when they purchased their unit. It is even more challenging when the unit is rented out and the tenant isn’t even aware of the regulations.

Since you have indicated that you are willing to contact an attorney to see what can be done, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so. You should also request, in writing, that your Board be aware of the problem and provide any evidence that you have to support your claim. Ideally, you would need a photo or video clip of your neighbor committing the violation so that your Board was armed to make a complaint. Keep in mind that all the Board can do is issue a warning at the first offense and request an appearance from the rule breaker before they issue a fine on subsequent offenses. Also be aware that your Board is under no obligation to take any action whatsoever so if they don’t act, don’t be surprised. The battle over smoking at condos in general has been heating up for years across Connecticut and across the country. As you can imagine, those who smoke want to be left alone to enjoy their smoking; those who don’t smoke would like to see smoking at condos banned completely. Only time will tell who will prevail. In the meantime, see what your attorney has to say about it. All the best!