Posts Tagged ‘condominium’

Upstairs Splash, Downstairs Nightmare for this HOA Resident

Friday, September 27th, 2013

P.M. writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a multi-story condo. In June of 2012, I noticed a warp on the upper corner of my shower walls. I was almost certain that it was caused by a water spill from the unit above mine. A similar incident had occurred a few years ago when there was a gush of water that came from the above unit. At that time, I spoke with the upstairs unit owner and in a few days she had the problem taken care of. The problem was the overflow of her bathtub was broken. With this in mind, I spoke with the new owner of the above unit and advised them to fix the problem and the damaged wall. He did nothing about it. I then notified our condo manager who made several attempts to have the unit owner fix the damaged shower wall and the leak as well. The damage was not repaired and, in fact, has grown worse.

The condo manager who was trying to help me has retired and a new condo manager is now in place. The new condo manager decided to involve the President of the HOA. All parties, including the upstairs unit owner came to my unit to inspect the damage with the unit owner of the unit above mine agreeing to repair the damage. Several months have now gone by and the repairs have not been made by the upstairs unit owner. I am often away for long periods of time as I travel quite frequently. However, I have no problem providing access to my unit for the repair as I have a nephew who lives nearby and I have even authorized the building manager to allow repair workers into my unit while I am gone.

Please give me governmental referral help and or a good lawyer. HELP…PLEASE HELP ME.

Mister Condo replies:

P.M., I am sorry for your problems and the fact that as time goes by your problems, especially with the growth of mold, seem to be multiplying. As you know, mold is not a problem to be taken lightly. There can be severe health risks associated with mold damage that is not remediated. You close your question with a request for a governmental referral and/or a good lawyer. The damage you have described was not caused by your HOA; it was clearly caused by your upstairs neighbor. Depending on the dollar amount of the repair, this is a matter that might be cleared up by simply suing your neighbor in Small Claims court. That is to say if you call a mold remediation contractor and someone to repair your damaged drywall and find the dollar amount is less than $2500, you might be better off simply hiring the contractor yourself, making the needed repairs, and bringing suit against your neighbor for the amount of the repairs. If the amount is over the threshold for Small Claims in your area, you may need to bring a civil suit against your neighbor. Either way, you can either do that yourself or hire an attorney to assist you. You may even be able to claim the cost of the attorney in your suit which would be ideal for you. Any competent attorney with real estate or small claims experience should be able to assist you but if you need an expert with HOA experience, I suggest you contact your local chapter of the Community Associations Institute (http://caionline.org) and see if they don’t have member attorneys who specialize in HOA law. From what you have described to me, this should be a pretty simple solution that will solve your problem. All the best!

Ups and Downs Of Special Assessments for Condo Garage Doors

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

P.H. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I have a question regarding special assessments and when they can, or should, be levied. The Executive Board of my association is preparing the budget for our next fiscal year. As part of the discussions that I have heard, they are considering approving a special assessment for new garage doors for each unit. Their reasoning behind a special assessment is that they do not want to include it in the annual budget since they expect that it would cause the common charge to increase to a point where the membership would vote down the budget. Now, the Association reserves have adequate funds that could cover the replacement of the garage doors. Since there are funds available, can the Board still choose to levy a special assessment?

Mister Condo replies:

P.H., just like garage doors, there are ups and downs for special assessments versus drawing down the association’s reserves. The bigger question to me is why any assessment is needed at all if the garage doors were part of the Reserve Fund plan from years ago. According to your information, the Reserve Fund was funded for their replacement so why not just draw the money from there? My guess is that your Reserve Fund is not as well-funded as you may think it is and that the Board is trying to keep a certain percentage of money in the Reserve Fund which may be necessary for FHA mortgage compliance or just good fiscal shepherding of the association’s resources. Whatever their reasoning, the Board is well within their rights to purchase the garage doors for the units and they are well within their rights to decide how to fund the purchase. I don’t like special assessments but there are times when they are needed. The good news is that you and your neighbors will have some shiny, new garage doors to enjoy for years to come. All of you will benefit from the increased curb appeal and enjoyment of new garage doors, even if you are stinging a bit from having to pay for them. Good luck!

Uh-Oh! Condo Board Meeting Without Advising Unit Owners!

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

F.M. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a board meet to discuss non-confidential issues without advising the unit owners prior to the meeting?

Mister Condo replies:

F.M., the short answer is “no” with the exception of emergency meetings of the Board which need to be used only in the truest sense of the word “emergency”. If the condo was on fire or was in eminent danger of a sinkhole or mudslide, the Board may need to take emergency actions to save lives or property. A Board can call for an Executive Session during a regularly scheduled meeting whereby they can meet to discuss whatever executive matters they see fit. Your condo documents most likely spell out the terms for when and how the Board can meet and what type of notice and agenda must be offered to all unit owners in advance of such meeting. Further, most common interest communities in our state are bound by the Common Interest Ownership Act, better known as CIOA, which clearly spells out the rules for how and when a Board can meet and what type of disclosure must be made to unit owners about the Board’s meeting and governance practices. The intent of this law is to bring openness to how community associations are governed. A complete discussion of CIOA and associated laws for community associations in our state can be found at http://caict.org/LAC_CIOAChanges.html. All the best!

Formal Charges Sought Against the Association Board

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

F.P. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

How does an owner file a formal charge against an association board? Who can I contact? Thanks.

Mister Condo replies:

F.P., while I am not clear what you mean by a formal charge I am sorry to learn that you feel your Board has behaved in such a manner that they deserve to have charges, formal or other, brought against them. If they have done something illegal like stolen association funds, you may wish to call the police and report a theft. If it something less egregious, you may wish to consult with an attorney to see what actions you can bring against them in a court of law. Depending on the dollar amount in questions, Small Claims court might work. If it is a civil matter like discrimination then Civil Court may be the way to go. If the Board is simply not performing to the expectations of you and your fellow residents, I would recommend you vote them out of office at the next Annual Meeting when the election of Board members occurs. Good luck.

Whose Insurance is Responsible for the Interior Repair of my Condo?

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

B.Y. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am getting ready to close on an owner-occupied condo purchase. In shopping around for Homeowners/Condo insurance I have been quoted “dwelling coverage” from $5k to $100k in the quotes I have received. What portion of the interior of the unit would be my responsibility or my homeowner’s insurance’s responsibility to reconstruct in the event of some type of disaster? Thanks!

Mister Condo replies:

B.Y., all insurance policies are not created equal and the definition of unit interiors can be quite broad when it comes to what’s covered and what’s not in the event of disaster or any type of claim. Your best bet is to have your insurance professional request a copy of the association’s policy and then recommend the best type of coverage for your peace of mind. Typically, the association’s policy covers the original building materials in the event of a disaster. However, if the roof was to leak and the contents of your unit were damaged, you may find a leaky roof is not considered a disaster and none of your interior contents are covered. The association’s insurance may fix the roof but your furniture and belongings would typically be covered by your homeowner’s policy. If you can afford a more inclusive policy (for instance the $100K coverage you mentioned) I’d wholeheartedly recommend you purchase a policy that would cover as much of your interior as possible. That way, in the event of a true disaster, you would have your own insurance to fall back on should the association’s insurance prove to be deficient for your rebuilding needs. All the best and stay safe!

Unwarranted Condo Noise Complaint Levied

Friday, September 20th, 2013

B.D. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What are my rights as a unit owner against unwarranted noise complaints?

Mister Condo replies:

B.D., if you find yourself on the receiving end of a noise complaint, or any other complaint for that matter, you do have the right for due process before your association takes action against you in the form of a fine. Your condo documents should outline the rules for “peaceable enjoyment” of your unit. This is to protect you, as well as your neighbors, from outlandish sounds coming from a neighboring unit at all hours of the day or night. When someone is disturbed by noise enough to make a complaint, the Board should review the complaint and issue a notice of warning against the unit owner who is alleged to have been the cause of the noise. If the offense continues, the Board should summon the unit owner to appear before the Board at its next meeting to discuss what further action will be taken. Generally speaking, this is a formality that gives the offender an opportunity to say “it wasn’t me” or “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again”. Then the Board can decide to issue a fine or let it slide. Of course, repeat offenders are routinely fined as that is the only remedy available to the Board.

Since you didn’t describe the complaint that was filed against you I can only assume it came from a neighbor who you wither don’t know or mistakenly identified you as the unit owner with the loud noise. A friendly discussion with this neighbor might clear up the situation or you might just have someone who has a different definition of “noise”. Either way, it is best to get this situation cleared up before it mushrooms into something bigger. You and your neighbors are all deserving of peaceable unit enjoyment. Good luck!

What Should Be Allowed on the Condo Back Deck?

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

K.H. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do you have a general guideline for what associations use as to what is and is not allowed on back decks? Need this for suggestion only. Thanks.

Mister Condo replies:

K.H., back decks seem to have it all, don’t they? In some communities, they look like pristine sanctuaries with well-cared for deck furniture, patio sets, and more. In other communities, I’ve seen trash cans, children’s toys strewn about, rusty old grills, and other eyesores. It all comes down to the community, its by-laws, and whether or not the Board and/or Property Manager are willing to enforce the rules.

Start with your condo documents. If your units were built with attached back decks, there is likely some language describing the use of the decks and what items can or can’t be used or stored on the decks. There is routinely language forbidding growing of fruits and vegetables on the deck to stop attracting animals. There are generally rules not allowing garbage of any kind on the deck. I have seen rules that forbid any type of storage (including deck boxes) on back decks. Some cities and towns have local ordinances that trump the condo rules. For instance, if the city rules forbid the use of open-flame cooking within a certain distance form a housing structure it is very likely that grills would be forbidden from the back decks.

If your condo docs are silent on the use of back decks, I would encourage you to bring the matter to the Board so that a discussion and preparation of rules could be put in place. Without these guidelines I fear you will likely have everything from tomatoes to jungle gyms littering your back decks. With the proper rules and enforcement in place, you may find years of outside enjoyment for you and your fellow unit owners. All the best!

My Condo Board Doesn’t Like Me!

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

M.P. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Pretty simple, my condo board doesn’t like me. I’m often vocal of inconsistencies and tend to highlight their neglect of owners in our area. They often ask for input in written form and NEVER write anything back. My unit sustained damage from an outside leak (Association’s responsibility per bylaws) and they authorized the cheapest possible fix which was a nasty looking patch in my ceiling. I have requested that they come back and fix my unit so that no patch is visible. Apparently, they denied my request, and the only way I found out was skimming through the minutes. I never received a written notice and even ASKED for one. On several occasions I have written to them asking for information on pending projects yet I have never received a written response. Any suggestions? These people are incredulous. They demand everything in writing, modification requests, repair work, etc. and then NEVER respond. How should I handle a situation like this? I think my insurance company will subrogate the repairs to the association but the non responsiveness is utterly disrespectful.

Mister Condo replies:

M.P., thank you for taking the time to write to me. I will, respectfully, write back to you here. From what you have told me, your Board is functioning within their limits but not doing a good job of communicating their actions and decisions which you are finding quite bothersome, and rightfully so. The Board is correct in asking for all requests and damage claims from you in writing. While they are under no obligation to respond to you in writing, you would think common courtesy would call for the Board Secretary or other member to write you a response. You are correct in reading the minutes of the meeting to see what action, if any, the Board has taken. As far as your satisfaction with the level of repair provided to your unit, that is a matter that you may need to take further action on. If your insurance company is willing to pay for a repair above and beyond what the association has provided, then, by all means I would encourage you to seek that remedy. However, if the repair did not return your unit to its original condition you may wish to consult an attorney to see if you can seek remedy through the courts. (It is interesting how a letter from an attorney always seems to be answered by the Board.) Honestly, unless we are talking about a lot of money, I think I would just get the repair done on my own or through my own insurance money.

One of the great things about Boards is that they are composed of elected volunteers from within your community. If you are not happy with the level of service these volunteers are providing you can always rally the troops against them and elect new community leaders at election time. Perhaps you would consider volunteering your time to lead your community? It can be a thankless job but it is important for the vitality of the community. Clearly, you would do a better job of communicating with fellow unit owners whenever a request was sent to the Board. Go for it!

Devilish Details in Condo Deck Approval (Part Two)

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

P.E. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

(Editor’s Note – This post references a previous question. You can read the original question and response here: http://caict.org/askmistercondo/devil-is-in-the-details-of-this-condo-deck-addition/)

Thank you for your response in regards to my recent letter about white posts on my deck. I am probably going to have to consult an attorney, but I had a couple more concerns in regards to this situation.

One is that the board is now saying they do not like the darker accent color that was added to the deck as well. The aluminum, no maintenance, rail that we put on the deck did not come in the lighter brown color so I picked the closest color I could. I feel it still falls within their guidelines of a “similar” color and feel that their guidelines were very vague. How can they provide such vague guidelines and expect such a specific outcome? I made it very clear that I was using Trex decking material and that I wasn’t sure if it came in a similar color. In addition all the steps that they have taken seem to be done incorrectly.

First they invited me to a meeting, but provided no agenda as to what was being discussed. That is when they told me I had to remove the white posts. Secondly, they had a hearing at the next meeting and provided me no advance notice that the hearing was taking place. I thought we were having a meeting to further discuss. Supposedly, the letter was mailed to me from their attorney, but I never received it until the actual night of the hearing meeting, when the board handed it to me. They are acting like they are moving forward with legal proceedings, but seemed to have skipped over a bunch of steps in between.

I have written up a petition which I plan on asking the other condo owners to sign, basically saying they do not support what the board is doing and that it is not in the best interest of the association to continue to pursue me legally.

Lastly, as a clarification, I am the owner of the condo, but my mother resides there. I inquired about getting a position on the board, but was told I could not be on the board as a non resident owner. The Vice President of the board (who clearly runs the show) has his car registered in AZ, where he resides 6 months and a day. I asked if he was a resident of AZ how could he be on the Board? The question was completely ignored. Thanks!

Mister Condo replies:

P.E., you are welcome for my previous response. Clearly there has been a breakdown in communications here: incomplete plans for improvements, letters from the Board not being received by you, meetings being called without agendas, questions about who is eligible to serve on the Board. It all needs to stop.

It sounds to me like your Board would benefit from some education about the dos and don’ts of running a common interest community in our state. From what you have described they are not functioning properly within the laws as set forth by the Connecticut Common Interest Ownership Act (commonly referred to as “CIOA”). You would do well to speak with a qualified attorney and present your side of the story and the actions taken by the Board. Some actions may be nullified just because proper procedure was not followed. That won’t make your issues go away but it may delay the process until a better solution can be reached.

If all that you state is true, the Board would likely hire their own attorney who would advise them to either bring suit against you or make some type of settlement offer to you by which you agreed to abide by the original permission to install the deck to your submitted specifications. The abundant grey area (deck post colors, new stain colors, etc.) should not have been left off of the original request and certainly shouldn’t have been approved as submitted. This should be a learning experience for both you and the Board should a similar request ever come up again. Stories like this serve to remind the rest of us why Boards so often simply reject requests for additions or improvements. A group of volunteer leaders trying to serve their community are placed between a rock and a hard place. Do they allow the improvements and keep the requesting unit owner happy or do they simply reject the request and keep the association in its current state of architectural compliance?

As for who is or isn’t eligible to serve on the Board, that answer is as close at hand as your condo documents. In most cases, unit ownership is all that is required. If that is the case, you are as eligible to run as the current Vice President. If residency is a requirement as well, you may not be eligible. If you are eligible and interested, I encourage you to run for office. This experience alone should make you quite sympathetic to the needs of your fellow unit owners. Just remember that as a Board Member you may be asked to make the same difficult decisions that your current Board members have been asked to make. My guess is that you won’t be approving too many additions or improvements without knowing all of the details before doing so. All the best!

Ice Dam Causes Uninsured Damage at Windham County Condo Complex

Monday, September 16th, 2013

J.L. from Windham County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

An ice dam resulted in my fascia boards rotting. The insurance company says I have no coverage, what should I do?

Thanks!

Mister Condo replies:

J.L., I am sorry for your non-covered insurance damage. Rotted fascia boards may or may not be a sign of underlying damage but are usually a simple repair. As for insurance coverage, it can be tricky as to who is exactly responsible. If you have not already done so, alert your association via mail that you have had damage to your unit caused by an ice dam. Document the damage with photos and include any letter of denial of coverage from your own insurance claim. If the association has a Master policy that covers the damage caused by an ice dam, they may be able to submit a claim to cover the cost of repair. If they do not have such coverage and your by-laws do not address damage caused by ice dams, you may be on the hook for the cost of the repair, which is really no different than any other homeowner with similar insurance. The difference for you is that you may need to allow the association to select the contractor who will handle the repair and replace the damaged fascia with similar material and color so as to maintain the association’s architectural compliance. Good luck!