News Detail

Escaping Condo Jail

Question: The president of our condominium association acts alone and has previous members of the board on the bank account of the Association. He has been on the board for over 3 years. He harassed all the secretaries and treasurers that had been elected by the unit owners.

The President doesn't have meetings with the board or include them in any decisions for different projects, nor does he let the treasurer handle the money. He decides what projects he wants to do and he works on the projects than he pays himself. He also is a custodian/ janitor and he pays himself a $800 per month.

Please we need help. Where should we report, without hiring an Attorney. I am the current secretary for the association but the President doesn't even talk to us. He buys apartments from owners that are behind with the Association dues, he owns 5 apartments in a 20 unit building and he comes at the meetings with his votes plus with proxy votes from the unit owners that are renting their units. Ana.

Answer: Dear Ana. My first reaction was "you gotta be kidding; this was a ‘false news' email. But then I remembered reading "Escaping Condo Jail", by Sara Benson and Don DeBat, so my next reaction was "welcome to the wonderful world of condo living".

Are you the only one concerned about this? Have you talked with other owners to see if you could mobilize a group that would start to challenge the President? Have you advised the absentee owners of these problems so they would no longer give the President their proxy?

The best approach, in my opinion, is to try to "throw the rascal" out of office. Your Bylaws contains the procedure for recalling an elected board member. Keep in mind that the board can terminate an officer but only the unit owners -- in the percentage of vote required by your legal documents -- can remove a director.

If you can prove even only half of the facts in your question, there is a strong case that the President is breaching his fiduciary duty to the association.

So why don't you want to get an attorney? A lawyer can help, and I suspect that most lawyers would relish filing a suit against the President.

Contact the Community Association Institute (caionline.org). That's a national association that represents community associations all over the country. There are local chapters, and you will get some names of local attorneys who practice community association law. I strongly recommend you talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

You are the secretary of the board. You also have a fiduciary duty to the association, and in my opinion, that duty requires you to take immediate appropriate action to remove the President -- either by vote of the membership or by court order.

Question: A contiguous owner in a three level apartment-style condo caused a fire in her unit while smoking in bed. The ashes ignited bedding while she was breathing through her medically necessary oxygen tubes. She: (1) smoked in bed, (2) fell asleep, and (3) was attached to oxygen tubes. The combination of all three is unsafe. Her normal cigarette smoke discharge enters units above hers.

How can a condo board deter or prevent such behavior that presents grave safety risks to all condo residents? Is it possible to declare the condo a "non-smoking" condo. Al.

Answer: Al, smoking -- which now includes marijuana -- is the hot-button issue today in almost every community association throughout the country.

You can't stop stupid people from doing stupid things. I hope the smoker– if she survived -- has learned an important lesson, But the association cannot be the hand-holder of each and every unit owner.

However, you can restrict smoking -- of any kind -- in the common elements as well as in the units. While some of my lawyer friends believe the association can enact a rule prohibiting smoking in the common areas, I believe that the safe harbor is to get a ByLaw amendment on this issue. I recognize that it often is very difficult to enact Bylaw amendments.

To restrict smoking in units, you have to amend not only the Bylaws but also the Declaration. Such a restriction will be controversial, which is why the Declaration should be amended. Now would be a good time to present such a proposal, because owners may be concerned there may be yet another fire due to smoking.

Case law around the country is very clear: community association owners are legally bound not only by the legal documents in effect when the owner took title but also as to any properly enacted amendments to the legal documents in the future.



Go Back

Who We Are

Welcome to Zillastate. Funny name, Friendly folks, First Class Residential & Commercial Real Estate Service.

View more

Why Choose Us

Real estate market, investment strategies, and development.

We are with you all the way, helping guide you through the process.

ZillaState's team will provide you with exceptional service in all your transaction.

Buying your first home can be somewhat intimidating; we are there with you every step of the way.

ZillaState prides itself in tailoring our approach to fit your needs.

Testimonials

Zillastate has been a great management company to work with. As an owner of two properties in town I spent time evaluating our options for a management company. Zilla give back a lot to the community both financially and through support of non-profits, recreation and quality of life. Colleagues with properties managed by Zilla also highly recommended them as a small company with excellent service for both owners and renters. My experience has been outstanding. Their staff has communicated exceptional well and worked to find a great balance in Rents for both the renters and the owners. They have taken care of all property issues in an efficient and timely manner while communicating well with us. I give Zilla two thumbs up and highly recommend them as property managers in Missoula.

- 2018 Client, Property Management