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Advocates Say Condo Boards are 'Little Kingdoms' [With Poll]

Do you own a condo? You may be very interested in what the Connecticut Condominium Owners Coalition survey says. Take the poll.

Advocates Say Condo Boards are 'Little Kingdoms' [With Poll]

Condominium owners are mad as heck and not going to take it anymore, or so said Brian Harte, 37, of New Haven County, of the Connecticut Condominium Owners Coalition (CCOC).

"There is no remedy for people who spend thousands and thousands of dollars defending situations where the property is not being maintained," Harte said, emphasizing the fact that condo owners have no recourse to take action against unscrupulous Condo Boards.

“There is a layer of politics that unit owners within these complexes face, but the boards play by whatever rules they choose to live by,” Harte said. “A lot of animosities arise when people find they have no where to turn for help.”

Some condo owners complain that their boards of directors and management companies ignore their complaints and CCOC is working to see that state laws that have been created to protect condo owners work as intended.  

More than 250,000 people in CT live in condominium type housing and the CCOC has issued a survey which they distributed through word of mouth, telephone, mail and email, canvassing over 800 condo owners in the state of CT. The result of the survey shows that almost half of the respondents had a lot of concerns about the way their condominiums have been operated.

The survey has closed, however, and the group plans to issue more surveys in the future. “We are dealing with a tight timeframe to get everything set for the legislative session and we need to keep moving forward,” Harte wrote in an email after the survey had ended.

The survey closed on January 16 with a final count of 301 responses, and all counties in CT were represented. The survey included 38 questions about the way the boards are required to operate. Questions such as:

    Does your board:

    • Provide adequate meeting notices with place, time, and agenda?
    • Provide previous year’s minutes for owner review and questions?
    • Provide owners with financial statements at board/annual meetings?

    Conversations with condo owners show that in many cases, even the most basic level of expectations are not met by the board to the satisfaction of the owners.

    One of the questions is, “If you are run by an outside management company how satisfied are you?” Responses showed that only 3.11 percent were very satisfied, 12.9 percent satisfied, 20.21 percent somewhat dissatisfied, and 43.5 percent very disappointed, the lowest on the scale. 22 percent answered not applicable because their condo is self-managed.

    The question, “How satisfied are you with the performance of your Board of Directors?” was answered, 6.1 percent, Very Satisfied, 10.33 percent Satisfied, 19.72 percent were Somewhat Dissatisfied, and 61.5 percent, Very Disappointed.

    “Our questions have legislative intent, taking aspects of the law, and finding if the associations are following these laws,” Harte said.

    “I think these condo complexes are little kingdoms that make decisions about how they feel that day,” Janet Grey, condo owner in Woodbury, said. “There are rules that apply and don't on other days.”

    Grey said that having an ombudsman who could direct people to another agency to pursue their cause or interest would be very helpful.

    Marshall Johnson owns a condo in Naugatuck and said that he has suffered retaliation through his board's actions. However, he said the board has become more responsive in the last year and a half since new legislation as passed. His concern is that many of the owners are seniors and would not feel comfortable taking a strong stand for themselves. He also complained that it was difficult to find out who did certain work.

    “Some contractors did shabby work.  The gutters were never hooked up they were just put into the ground.  They were supposed to run out to the river,” Johnson reports. “They keep coming up with assessments, but we can't vote on assessments.  They just took down a tree and assessed everyone, but when we wanted to take a tree down, they wouldn't let us do it.  You got no rights.” 

    The CCOC has compiled the survey data into a proposal that has been submitted to numerous representatives, senators, and specific legislative committees that have expressed support for condo law.

    The basis of the proposal calls for the Department of Consumer Protection to be responsive to complaints of condo owners whose grievances have otherwise been ignored.

    “We are looking at this in different perspective. We are largely looking at property management companies that are businesses like any business. In those terms, we are paying for the services of these management companies and they are not being held responsible,” Harte said. “We understand that the state is not in a position to create a whole lot of new departments or agencies, so this is the most cost efficient remedy for the state and for the owners.”

    To see the proposal submitted by the CCOC, visit their website by clicking here. 

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