Ct Bill Would Permit Condo Budget Defeats With Simple Majority Vote

March 13, 2012
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A bill has been introduced in the General Assembly that would require only a simple majority of condo owners to defeat an annual budget.

The proposed bill – 5511 – eliminates the requirement that a majority of the actual owners are need to vote against a budget to defeat it.

It is expected to be a hotly debated bill.

Most condo boards and condo managers oppose it, fearing that a small vocal majority could defeat annual budgets if there is only a small turnout. Maintenance fees – just like town budgets – are a huge bone of contention in all condo complexes. There are those who believe that constantly improving their complex will raise the value of their homes, while others, especially those living on fixed incomes demand the fees be limited.

That is why condo lawyers and managers demanded two years ago that proposed legislation requiring condo owners to be able to vote on annual budgets include a stipulation that all unit owner who DON’T vote, automatically be considered a YES vote. Condo associations whose bylaws require annual votes by owners can follow either the state law or bylaws.

Southbury’s Heritage Village

The prime reason for the proposed revision comes after a controversial budget budget vote last October at Heritage Village in Southbury, the largest age-restricted condo complex in the state. The complex – for those 55 and older – has 2,580 units with an annual budget of $15 million, only slightly less than the town’s $18 million budget.

A pool at Heritage Village

The board of directors voted for a more than three percent fee increase. There was a huge turnout with 1,746 owners participating either in person or through valid proxies. Of that number 1,191 voted against the budget and  595 voted for it. But there were no votes cast from 754 units.

So under the state law, even though twice as many voted against the budget as those who voted in favor, the budget was adopted because the 754 non-votes were counted as YES votes.

“It is grotesque,” Dr. Salvatore Pace, a retired physician, said of the statute. “It is counterintuitive that a failure to vote should be anything but no vote  … especially when it comes to this complex. It’s not at all democratic. I know of no other instance where this occurs.”

“The average age here is 75,” he said in a telephone interview, explaining that many of the owners have dementia, are in hospitals, nursing homes, or living part of the year in Florida. Other units are in limbo because their owners have died while many others are owned by investors who aren’t interested in voting.

“My next door neighbor will be 100″ this year, Dr. Pace said. “He doesn’t care what the maintenance fee is and isn’t voting.”

Fed Up With Fee Increases

Dr. Pace and many others living on fixed incomes do care. “I have been here for four years and the fees have increased by 16 percent,” he said.

As a self-described “young dude at 69,” Dr. Pace is now president of the Concerned Residents Club Of Heritage Village, which was formed in the late 1990s when a group tried to pass a 15 percent fee increase.

Last month he invited two members of the General Assembly to hear complaints from condo owners who asked that the law be changed to permit budgets to be defeated in a more democratic manner.

The size of the maintenance fee is just one of many hot button issues where many condo owners feel they have less rights than association board of directors, who sometimes run complexes to benefit themselves and their friends.

A state-wide group of volunteers called Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition is asking the General Assembly to pass legislation this year to even the playing field so that condo owners could have more rights and more voice at how their complexes are managed.

While many condo owners may not be happy with the way their board of directors run their complexes, there are few proposals that would benefit all. The needs of owners of small, medium and large complexes are sometimes different. Those in large association with professional management, and active members, have less of a need for state protection.

But many in smaller condo complexes want the state to create a condo ombudsman who could mediate disputes between boards and unit owners. Without that, a condo owner who feels victimized has to hire an attorney to fight the board and may end up paying not only for his lawyer but the condo complex’s lawyer.

Dr. Pace said he is against the creation of another bureaucracy like an ombudsman because in all likelihood it would have to be funded by increasing all owners’ condo fees. He is more interested in getting the condo budget law changed.

David Kelman, a member of the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition steering committee, says his group is for the amendment. His group

www.wix.com/ctcondoowners/ccoc favors the state adding an office of ombudsman to help victims of  boards that fail to function ethically.

To read a copy of the proposed bill:

 

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4 Responses to Ct Bill Would Permit Condo Budget Defeats With Simple Majority Vote

  1. ctcondoowners@yahoo.com on March 13, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Great article, George.

    Attn: Condo Owners
    Join the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition to help level the playing field. We support legislation that helps protect individual unit owners.

    Visit us at http://www.wix.com/ctcondoowners/ccoc. JOIN US Today. Together, we condo owners are stronger!

    • Catherine Datre on March 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      PLEASE HELP. Does the ct.condo law regarding budget approval,which is horrible in regard to non-votes being ccounted as “yes”, apply to voting at annual meeting for electing new board members? Is there anything that restricts unit owners from independently declaring intentions to run and soliciting proxies prior to the meeting? Our meeting is March 29,2012. Our Board and management company failed to send out proper notification and proxies,so our meeting has been constantly postponed. They finally dispatched blank,ghost proxies listin no candidates asking voters to assign their vote to the board, and and candidates are to be revealed from the floor on the evening of the meeting. They finally set the date,etc. which is March 29,2012. However,they have excluded the names of the the candidates (Shea,Shepard & Dickson) who are the only legitimant candidates who have independently declared their intention to run.Want to make sure we don’t get slamed with an automatic “YES” of their choice, of non-voters.

      If possible please respond before our meeting. thanks much for all your good work. Incidentally I have posted the flyer from CCOC. Condos need all the help we can get instead of remarks like “if you don’t like it move to a senior center complex”.

      • Linda Sanford on March 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm

        General Assembly Raised Bill No. 5511

        Linda Sanford
        C-18 Surrey Lane
        Torrington, Connecticut 06790

        I am in favor of HB5511 concerning the Budget, Special Assessments and Assignments of future income approval process in common interest ownership communities to become effective October 1, 2012.

        This bill is essential to assure accountability for the actions of the Executive Board especially concerning the guarantee to fulfill such proposed promised maintenance. Such is stated in proposed Section 1. ( C) (3) The executive board may spend the funds paid on account of the emergency assessment only for the purposes described in the vote. It has been my experience that special assessments are imposed without following through, for example:

         My Issue of Special Assessments: (Assessments of 2006, 2007 and 2010) The implementation of “Special Assessments” without fruition of work promised needs dire attention. I have expressed my concern over assessments being applied without the promised maintenance issues being fulfilled to (then) Property Manager, of Vision Management Company. These assessments were to address “1/3 to roofs”, “1/3 roads” and “1/3 to funds for our capital reserve”. As of March 2012, I have not seen any such allocation of funds indicated in our yearly budget to date.

        This is a condensed version for your convenience but signifies the importance of assuring “qualified” persons be accountable for their actions with the monies of an entire Common Interest Community.

    • MARIA NOVAK on March 4, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      DID THIS BILL PASS, NULLIFYING THAT IF A CONDO OWNERS THAT DIDNT VOTE IT BECOMES AN AUTOMATIC YES. WE LIVE IN A COMMUNITY THAT HAS A VERY INTIMIDATING BOARD. THANK YOU

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