Legislation Protecting Condo Owners Introduced In Ct General Assembly

Some of the most serious and unsolvable complaints I get as a consumer columnist is from condo owners in Connecticut and throughout the country.

The complaints range from secretive boards of directors who use their position to have work done on their units at the expense of other owners to targeting unit owners they don’t like with fines and legal actions.

Other boards have been accused of handing out sweetheart contracts to friends of board members at inflated prices.

Hundreds of complaints are received each year by the state Attorney General’s office and by consumer protection officials that cite not only abuse but corruption and fraud. Neither office has the power to take action on most of these complaints.

This is a crucial issue as about 250,000 families in Connecticut live in condominiums, most likely the largest investment they have. Many condo owners are elderly.

For years, groups of condo owners have attempted to level the playing field by asking the Connecticut General Assembly to pass legislation to protect condo owners from renegade boards of directors.

Last year a small victory was achieved with passage of a bill that requires condo boards to inform all owners of their meetings and to let the owners at least attend and speak at the sessions.

While many boards comply with this law, others – according to many complaints I have received – are still either unaware or thumb their noses at it knowing that the law has no teeth.

This year a concerted effort is being made to finally put some teeth into the law and to have state oversight to protect condo owners who are being victimized.

Condo associations, through their lawyers, said such laws are unnecessary and costly to the state at a time when budgets need to be cut. By fully participating and voting out members who they don’t want, unit owners can protect themselves, they say.

Besides, they said, owners can turn to the courts and sue. Of course it costs money to hire a lawyer and the condo association has no problem raising money to defend itself – or to sue an owner – since it can force unit owners to pay the legal tab.

Several condo bills were introduced this year to protect owners. The bills range from requiring more transparent financial reporting by condo boards, to licensing and testing condo management companies, to the creation of an Office of Ombudsman where complaints could be investigated and resolved.

“While some legislators may be reluctant to interfere in what they feel is the democratic process within common interest communities, Connecticut statutes and some homeowner association bylaws are too vague and not enforceable,” says Ann Diamond of New Haven, a member of the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition, which claims membership in 95 towns and cities.

David Kelman of West Hartford, a coalition member, has an additional suggestion of getting the Attorney General’s office more involved in these types of problems.

Kelman is one of a dozen volunteers who works in the Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Unit sorting complaints and attempting to mediate solutions between businesses and consumers.

“Consumers send in letters to the Attorney General and thoughtful volunteers come in weekly to address the complainants. Letters are sent to respondents asking them to respond in 10 days. Oftentimes, when both parties are willing to come to the table, we are able to work out a resolution. This is all handled by phone, fax and U.S. Mail. There are no actual meetings where the parties are physically present,” he said.

Kelman suggests that a similar unit can be set up to focus solely on condo issues. He said he would gladly serve on such a unit which could have representatives from all sides of the issue, including condo board members, management companies and attorneys who specialize in condo cases.

While such a mediation process would be voluntary, public pressure could be used by listing all unresolved cases on a public website where everyone can see which condo associations have serious issues and can act as a warning to those who might want to buy a condo in those units.

“I suspect parties will soon act more respectfully and lawfully as their complaint resolution records becomes public,” Kelman said. I agree. Transparency is wonderful.

I would add one other suggestion and that is to require real estate attorneys and real estate agents to warn their clients in WRITING that they need to fully check out the condo association they are considering buying into before making an offer on a unit. Buying a condo should take more investigation by a prospective owner than buying a single family home.

For more information or to join the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition, email ctcondoowners@yahoo.com.

[ad#uconn468]

Similar Posts:

Share

23 Comments on "Legislation Protecting Condo Owners Introduced In Ct General Assembly"

  1. This legislation that is being proposed is desperately needed by condo owners. For many reasons, even well-intended board members often are not effective or fair. After all, few have any training in personnel or facilities management and conflict resolution. Condos can be a wonderful lifestyle, but like all good relationships they require work, attention and sometimes impartial mediation. The current condo laws do not provide for equal protection of all parties in these relationships. The fact that lawyers are willing to represent and to protect the practices of boards and not members, actually is very telling in itself. The lawyers are looking out for themselves and not for the health and well being of the condo communities as a whole. We need to even-out the playing field….

    • how can a board justify losing 1 whole year of association records???could it be because those were the records that showed how a loan was spent???

  2. Robert Megna | March 6, 2011 at 7:25 am |

    While we can not assure the brightest and most democratic people will be on the boards of directors nor can we make sure that all community association managers are bright and ethical,We can however as a legislature create law to encourage a better democratic process and laws that enable unethical or incompetent community association managers to have their registrations revoked.

  3. Concerned Condo Owner | March 6, 2011 at 9:41 am |

    I agree with George Gombossy and State Representative Megna (New Haven). The legislature has been asked over a number of years by the Attorney General to enact laws that to help protect the rights of condo owners statewide. We need an enforcement mechanism so that rogue condo boards and unethical property managers are held accountable.

    Legislators:
    Read through the hundreds of complaints filed with the Attorney General’s Office and the Dept. of Consumer Protection. Read the emails sent to you by condo owners statewide. The problems are real. Many are serious, very serious and violate state law, yet people cannot afford to hire an attorney to enforce their rights. We need the legislature to vote in favor of all condo bills that provide enforcement and accountability.

  4. It is bad enough that condo Boards can lack ethics, common sense, and/or good business practices. When the property manager (typically an agent of a property management firm) exhibits the same bad behavior, it is a recipe for disaster. Unit owners lose. Forcing unit owners to sue to seek redress is unreasonable. Gambling on the existing expensive legal system crap shoot is unacceptable. An Office of Condominium Ombudsman is sorely needed to level the playing field.

  5. These laws are desperately needed to protect consumers/unit owners from fraud, abuse and harassment from autocratic boards.

    The state of Connecticut sanctions law breaking, fraud, misappropriation of funds and lets this type of highly unlawful activity to occur.

    When will the law makers in CT begin to protect unit owners- instead of allowing unscrupulous and dishonest individuals be protected by their attorneys.

  6. Board members who are also unit owners frequently enjoy a nice social club experience. They get a nice, all expenses paid Christmas dinner as well as monthly pizza dinners provided by the property manager. Thus, when conflicts arise from unit owners, board members side with the property manager. Board members suddenly become authoritarian in resolving/ not resolving condo owner complaints since they are volunteers and have no training in conflict resolution or facilities management.. Unit owners should not have to pay their own legal defense costs while board members and the property manager enjoy free, unlimited legal defense courtesy of the unit owner condo fees.

    Board members and property managers frequently don’t uphold or implement their own rules and find excuses for not doing so.

    State laws are sorely needed to protect the rights of condo owners.

    • This business of boards’ being able to pass off all legal fees to condos, I suspect is not founded in law. I do think there are many incidents in which they are personally liable for their actions and decision–especially when they are intentional and willful. The recent amendments to the CT condo statute (Chapter 828) have two statements about liability insurance for condo boards and neither gives them the right to pass off any and all legal expenses to their associations. Those two portions of the law are:

      (13) [Provide] May provide for the indemnification of its officers and executive board and maintain directors’ and officers’ liability insurance;

      and

      (3) commercial general liability insurance, including medical payments insurance, in an amount determined by the executive board but not less than any amount specified in the declaration, covering all occurrences commonly insured against for [death,] bodily injury and property damage arising out of or in connection with the use, ownership or maintenance of the common elements and, in cooperatives, also of all units; and (4) fidelity insurance.

      “Commercial general liability insurance” is really quite limited and fidelity is also very specific. I think more owners should be asking their attorneys about whom they should be suing….

  7. Board members do no take an all inclusive, everybody-can -win approach to decision-making or problems solving. They are more prone to protect the management rather than unit owners; in fact, unit owners are frequently seen as the enemy. Board members and property managers smugly say “take us to court” because they know unit owners will have to pay court expenses while they do not since legal expenses are covered in the condo budget by unit owner fees.

    Board member elections are frequently rigged while the same members miraculously get reelected even when there have been multiple candidates. No minutes are kept at monthly board meetings.

    Unit owners are often at the mercy of condo boards and property managers who do not uphold bylaws, rules or regulations.

    State laws are long overdue to protect the rights of condo owners

  8. I was a member of a condo Board, and the last thing we ever thought about doing was a xmas dinner or pizza at our meetings. My current condo board (at a different property), of which I am a member, doesn’t do that either. More more unit owners need to get involved (at both properties, only a handful of residents attended the annual meetings). I moved from a 50/50 owner occupied, blue collar-ish complex in a city, to a 80/20 owner occupied complex in the suburbs and thought there might be more unit owner involvement. Only three owners, including myself, attended the annual meeting.

    As for “require real estate attorneys and real estate agents to warn their clients in WRITING that they need to fully check out the condo association they are considering buying into before making an offer on a unit”. This, I believe, is already addressed in the statute (CIOA) enacted in the 80’s. The buyer is to be given the condo docs, including the Resale Certificate, within five days of signing the contract and then has three days to review the documents and back out of the deal if they so choose. Unless an attorney is drafting the contract due to no real estate agents being involved, the onus should be on the realtor. If there’s a realtor involved, by the time an attorney gets the contract, the statutory time has usually passed.

  9. Luther Weeks | March 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm |

    Unlike legislators who passed the CIOA law and town officials, condo board members can be voted out of office, at anytime by owners in about a month, initiated by a petition from a percentage of owners.

    How many of the of the commenters here have tried that since the law went into effect in July, 2010?

    • As a condo owner, and Board President, I have seen both sides of this issue. I would like to read the hundreds of complaints that the Attorney General has received over the last two years that have ignited this firestorm.

      How does one get permission to read these complaints? Can we come in during business hours and look over the folders? Does one file an FOI?and at what cost? I probably consider the cost of a FOI inquiry, to be as daunting as a condominium homeowner taking on a board and it’s paid for lawyer.

      I would like to be sure that the number and severity of complaints has not been embellished, before we pass this law. Has everyone who is sponsoring this bill read all the complaints filed with the attorney general?

      The biggest problem with condominium communites, no one wants to get involved, thats what they have a management company for. You can’t legislate responsibility.

      I am not in favor of another state beauracracy being formed.

      • margaret brantley | March 27, 2011 at 4:59 pm |

        Talk to condo owners if you really want to hear complaints.
        God forbid you and your bard members ha someone to answer to.

    • Ruth Van Anden | March 12, 2011 at 10:39 am |

      In our case we have a logistical and self-interest split between the voting units –with the majority always carrying the vote. Condos came into being to make home ownership easier by sharing the burden of same shared costs- costs that are clearly not same at this association . The majority here always wins.

    • In my condo, there are 14 units, thus 14 votes. We only have 2 unit owners who are interested in voting the Board members out. The Board paid for a repair of a limited common element, never wrote any Minutes, had 3 Annual Meetings out of 10 years that I own this unit, didn’t hold an election last year and still sitting on the Board, etc. We can’t vote the Board out if only two unit owners want to do so. The rest of the owners wants to stay out of it all. Ever occurred to you that these people are scared? Old widows, in particular? Just because we are a minority, it doesn’t justify that the Board can keep breaking the laws and run the association as it is fit. You are wrong to think that all condo can vote the Board members out. The only way we can stop illegal activities is to sue. The judge doesn’t care whether how many people want to support illegal activities. He/she only cares whether such activities violates the State laws. That is why, we need an Ombudsman.

      • It does seem so immoral to me that a when unit owners don’t vote it’s an automatic vote in favor of whats being proposed. So if NO condo owners vote.. they could say 100% voted in favor of this proposal … let’s reflect.. is this misleading? ALL condo owners need to really pay attention.

  10. Concerned Condo Owner | March 11, 2011 at 11:04 pm |

    The following are examples of serious Connecticut condo owner complaints I have heard:

    Board authorizing multi-million dollar loans without owner approval resulting in significant owner debt.

    Mold issues not addressed by condo board or property management. I have had to vacate due to severe water damage and mold from leaks in the new roof, which has also damaged other units as well.

    Tampering with board elections and not holding elections as required; property manager mailed out letters to owners strongly suggesting that we keep two current board members on for another term.

    Ballots with envelopes were sent out. Instead of counting ballots because property manager claimed they were running out of time at the annual meeting, property manager said he would simply announce the winners who, by the way, were
    the very same people he had strongly recommended. No count or any kind of validation.

    Board members that have sat on the board in some cases for 10 years or more playing the proxy game to keep the same people together and keep out any newcomers; These proxies have allowed the Board to control a majority vote at the annual meetings.

    Neither board nor property manager providing owner access to association records (in violation of state law).

    Not publishing meeting minutes, not distributing them to owners (in violation of state law).

    Tacking a four year roofing project and turning it into a 10-year project costing unit owners an additional $1.1M

    Not engaging in a formal or equitable bidding process for major capital expenditures over $100,000.

    Board not disclosing detailed accounting for project cost overruns.

    Board and managing agent refusing to hear owner concerns or complaints.

    Board refusing services or repairs to unit owners who express dissenting concerns or questions relating to association matters.

    Board does not following bylaws or state law.

    Board holds meetings without unit owner notice, and abusing the use of Executive Sessions.

    Board president eliminating the Building and Grounds Committee because he had a personality conflict with the committee chairman.

    Board, without notifying all the owners or obtaining a vote of approval from the owners, filed a lawsuit against the
    developer, the builder, and the Building Department. The Board has spent in excess of $250,000 on this matter before going to trial.

    Board failed to respond (twice) to written questions concerning the Budget.

    We are a freestanding unit with no other condos. The declarant cannot find anybody to help him build any other units so he trying to fine us to death and make us pay unreasonable lawyer fees.

    In an association meeting in December, we were informed that the association broke a contract that they had with the landscapers, and thus the landscapers turned around and filed an intent to sue the association costing owners $15,000 to work out the problem. Owners had to pay a $1,000 special assessment fee.

    President of the Board is a tyrant. She took out a $2 million dollar loan and we were accessed, even the elderly owners who don’t know how they will pay. She did improvements that weren’t needed and didn’t do those that were needed. She paid a contractor in full up front and he never showed up. She fired members of the Board that didn’t agree with her and replaced them with people that would. We were finally able to elect a new Board member that was able to get enough votes to vote her off. It took hiring a lawyer and asking a policeman to attend the meeting.

    I have been a time-share owner since 1986. I attend as many of the annual owners meetings as I can. These meetings are a joke! The board does what it wants to do, and the owners have nobody that can help them.

    This timeshare development ownership and board of directors (many of whom own the facility) are looking to eliminate our access to the property. This has been done even though numerous timeshare owners have voiced their opposition.

    My husband is the president of a condo association and had experienced problems of misappropriated funds from three property managers.

    It is nearly impossible for owners to get a new issue onto the agenda for discussion.

    Currently, there is no agency in the State of Connecticut responsible for enforcing the condominium statutes. An Ombudsman for common interest communities could be a critical selling feature for future S.M.A.R.T. housing development and attract new residents to Connecticut, which would benefit Connecticut’s tax roles. The S.M.A.R.T. program provides strong incentives for high-quality, affordable housing, and gives developers access to an efficient, fast, and consistent development process.

    Any condo owner who has written a reply here in support of condo legislation to help protect condo owners or feels similarly to those in support of George Gombossy’s column who is presently not a member of the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition, Visit us at http://www.ctcondonews.com

  11. Ruth Van Anden | March 12, 2011 at 8:48 am |

    We need to have condo laws ENFORCED by a neutral agency. The Condominium Act came about because regulation became necessary to protect owners of these ‘new communities’. However, because the state cannot directly enforce the law, associations have managed to circumvent it.

    Our Association is in clear violation of the “Condominium Act 825 Sec.
    47-74 Rights of unit owners” which states, “(b) (1) Each unit owner shall own an undivided interest in the common elements, in the percentage expressed in the declaration. Such percentage shall be computed on any of the following bases, or a combination thereof, provided that the declaration shall fully set forth the manner in which the percentage appertaining to each unit is ascertained: (A) The fair value of each unit at the date of the declaration in relation to the fair value of all the units having an interest in the common elements; (B) the size of each unit, as shown in the plans filed with the condominium instruments, in relation to the size of all of the units having any interest in the common elements; or (C) that the percentage appertaining to each unit, or to each unit within separate classifications, is to be identical.

    But guess what? Our condo association lawyer is also a lawyer for a group fighting the proposed legislation.

    • Ruth Van Anden | March 12, 2011 at 10:32 am |

      Cla;rification of recent post:

      Existing condo law must be ENFORCED by a neutral agency. The Condominium Act came about because it became necessary to protect owners of these ‘new communities’. However, because the state cannot directly enforce the law, associations have managed to circumvent it.

      Our association is comprised of 32 units that now pay equal common fees. 24 units are townhouses, with awnings, fireplace chimneys, basements, extensive brick sidewallks with railings, trellises, and lawn sprinklers. The other 8 units are ranch style units that have none of the mentioned items of the other 24 units.

      The 24 can out vote the 8 on almost everything. The common fees used to be fractional but because the intent of fractional common fees and voting was misunderstood and/or hard to cipher by the once owner-management, ‘equal’ common fees were instituted. The eight essentially subsidize non-shared amenities for the 24.

      The association is in clear violation of the “Condominium Act 825 Sec. 47-74 Rights of unit owners” which states, “(b) (1) Each unit owner shall own an undivided interest in the common elements, in the percentage expressed in the declaration. Such percentage shall be computed on any of the following bases, or a combination thereof, provided that the declaration shall fully set forth the manner in which the percentage appertaining to each unit is ascertained: (A) The fair value of each unit at the date of the declaration in relation to the fair value of all the units having an interest in the common elements; (B) the size of each unit, as shown in the plans filed with the condominium instruments, in relation to the size of all of the units having any interest in the common elements; or (C) that the percentage appertaining to each unit, or to each unit within separate classifications, is to be identical.

      Even if the eight owners had the money to fight, we’d be paying for both the association lawyer and our own. If the eight water thier lawn, they pay for that water plus the water for the sprinkler system across the street for the 24 units over there. In effect, a minority is subsidizing the majority. The fact that none of this is made clear when purchasing a unit is deplorable.

      The kicker? Our condo association lawyer is also a lawyer for a group fighting the proposed legislation.

  12. Dr Rungta (DMD) | March 13, 2011 at 8:36 pm |

    I have been a victim of harassment by condo board. Waterside office park in Windsor locks Connecticut.

    My roof leaks and they refused to fix it or let me pay to fix it.

    They have violated the bylaws several times. This legislation is desperately needed by all
    condo owners.

    Their should be a government body that can address conflicts and discipline condo boards.
    I know from personal experience how traumatic it is to have water pouring in your office
    and the condo association stops you from fixing the problem.
    Dr Rungta
    DMD

  13. I’m on the fence regarding legislation to protect homeowners. I have lived in a condo environment for over 30 years in 3 different condos. Have served on boards and I am currently a board member.

    What seems to be lacking is enforcement of legislation requiring board members to avail themselves to some basic knowledge of laws governing condo associations. It’s hard enough to get homeowners to volunteer for board positions let alone require them to obtain some basic knowledge. And boards seem to be reluctant to budget for educational seminars.

    Maybe instead of assessing assoc. to pay into a state panel to oversee complaints, there should be an assessment required to pay for education. then it’s a case of use it or lose it.

  14. I have a question and I hope someone has an answer. While I was on my condo Board for quite a while, I’m still not sure how I legally stand on this point: some of our condos have fireplaces and a few do not. The Board wants to assess ALL the condos a blanket fee built into common charges to have fireplaces inspected and cleaned, if necessary. It previously was, per Maintenance Standards, that whoever owned a fireplace had to have it inspected and cleaned, if necessary, at their own expense. Can the Board legally make individual unit owners who do not have a fireplace underwrite the cost of those who do own fireplaces? Needless to say, ALL Board members have fireplaces.

  15. Maynard Turow | June 30, 2012 at 2:18 pm |

    As a Real Estate Agent, recently had a major lender turn down a loan because the condo had a combination unit that was individually deeded and listed on condo declaration as two units. Lender said government ruling states “combo” units must be deeded and listed as “one” unit. Can you verify?

Comments are closed.