Condo Owners Playing Russian Roulette By Withholding Disputed Common Charges

Standing on principle is an admirable trait. But it’s a losing strategy when you use it as the reason to withhold payment of your condo maintenance fee or fine.

Let’s just say it’s like playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded revolver.

Just ask  Tom Savoca of Madison, Mary of Eastern Connecticut, and Josie Harrison of Naugatuck of how it worked out for them when they stood their ground on their principle and refused to pay either their maintenance fees and/or fines because they felt they had been wronged by their boards of directors.

Tom and Mary were taken to court and would have lost thousands of dollars. They were going to be foreclosed on.  Josie was going to be sued.

In each case – as well as a half dozen others -that I and Brian Harte, president of the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition, and Gail Egan, chairwoman of the CCOC investigations committee, told the condo owners to immediately pay their fines and maintenance fees and try to settle their court cases. The CCOC provides information to condo owners and attempts to protect them from unscrupulous board members or property managers.

It is true that withholding condominium fees in protest is a losing strategy.

Connecticut courts have clearly stated that the failure to maintain common elements or to follow the bylaws are not defenses to the Association’s action to foreclosure the unit.

They can and will foreclose your unit. You will not only have to pay the amounts that you withheld and attorneys’ fees and costs.

 What to do to make your voice heard?

Attorney Patricia A. Ayars of Glastonbury is volunteering her legal assistance to the Connecticut Condo Owners Association and to the Connecticut Condo News to help condo owners preserve their rights. She can be contacted at pattylaw50@sbcglobal.net. CCOC members who send their complaints to us will receive a discount for her legal assistance.

Section 47-278 of the Connecticut General Statutes may offer some options. Subsection (a) of Section 47-278 creates a cause of action for the enforcement of the provisions of the Common Interest Ownership Act, the Declaration and the Bylaws.

Subsection (a) also permits the Court to award attorney’s fees if you prevail.

 Hiring a lawyer and bringing a case to Superior Court is expensive. The Court filing fee alone is presently $325 and that does not include the service fee charged by the marshal. Small claims court can only award damages up to $5000 and can not order the Association to take or to stop actions.

If your dispute involves the payment of assessments, fines, or penalties demanded by the Association, you can pay the disputed amount and then try to recovery the amount in Small Claims Court using Section 47-278. You can also demand attorneys’ fees and recover the costs of filing the action in Small Claims Court. It will be up to the judge to decide if you deserve reimbursement.

 Subsection (d ) (1) of Section 47-278, which became effective last year, gives a unit owner the right to request a hearing before the Executive Board seeking the enforcement of the provisions of the Common Interest Ownership Act, the Declaration and the Bylaws.

So, if the Association is violating the provision’s of the documents or the Association is not addressing unit owner violations, you can request a hearing as to the violations. The Association has to hold a hearing and make a decision regarding your request.

If the Association does not, you have a clear violation of the Statute and a case under Section 47-278 (a). You are more likely to win and get your attorneys’ fees and costs back. In the same case, you can raise the problems that initiated your original request, even if that issue is not as clear.

And, even if the Association holds a hearing and you lose, you will still have the right to bring an action under Section 47-278 (a) and the hearing will provide evidence that you can use in Court.

Attorney Patricia A. Ayars of Glastonbury is volunteering her legal assistance to the Connecticut Condo Owners Association and to the Connecticut Condo News to help condo owners preserve their rights. She can be contacted at pattylaw50@sbcglobal.net. CCOC members who send their complaints to us will receive a discount for her legal assistance.
 

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2 Comments on "Condo Owners Playing Russian Roulette By Withholding Disputed Common Charges"

  1. Bill Nolan | August 8, 2012 at 8:42 am |

    My daughter is scheduled to close on a condo unit Aug 10, 2012. That’s this coming Friday. But it has come to her attention the seller has not as yet vacated the property and does not close on her new home until the 17th of this month. A contract has been signed by both parties and my daughter’s attorney says there is nothing to worry about. What happens if the closing proceeds without issue but the previous owner has not vacated the condo? Can the current owner file for an injunction? What might my daughter expect?

    • George Gombossy | August 8, 2012 at 8:45 am |

      These are great questions for your daughter to ask her attorney. For my money I would demand a payment for late delivery of the house and demand an escrow to make sure house if totally clean and in proper shape.

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