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Any advice for unhappy condo owner in disfunctional association?

Posted on Sun, Nov 07, 2010 @ 10:22 AM
Over the past six years, I have been falsely accused of violations (to the point of harassment), lied to concerning condo association insurance claims, and have been subjected to a plethora of other costly nuisances. There are health and security issues that go on for weeks unresolved. When I complain and offer alternative solutions, I am either ignored or rudely responded to by property management. I have, in turn, become rude several times as it seems the only way to get anyone to react. I am now being threatened with a "cease-and-desist" order, which I believe to mean that I will no longer have the right to communicate directly with the Condo Association or Property Management. (Maryland) There are a couple other unit owners in my building who feel the same way as I do, but they are typically apathetic when it comes to trying to deal with this. The yearly owner's meeting rarely comprise of more than 15-to-20 owners (out of a possible three hundred). What I'm saying is that it's unlikely that I would get support from the community, even if I had the addressed of the actual owners (there are a lot of rental properties here). I have saved all correspondence from the property manager with which I can prove the harassments, inconsistencies and contradictions. Things have building up to a head and soon it's quite likely to explode (so is my head). Any advice be greatly appreciated.



Regardsless of which state you live, in extreme situations like yours you either quiet down and abide by the order or, seek legal counsel to find out if you indeed have a solid case against your association. Nobody in their right mind would offer here a "self help kit" remedy only to worsen your situation.

posted @ Sunday, November 07, 2010 10:49 AM by Susana

One of the greatest challenges in condo ownership is trying to find compromise within the structure of the Association's Declarations, and a living situation that is more like socialism than a free market system. Some board members are just bullies (sort of like one of the postings here.) It's not exactly the desire of any homeowner to have to seek legal remedy against neighbors in order to be treated fairly and with respect. If you do not wish to get an attorney, then you have two choices; sell your condo (if you can in this market), or gather small groups of neighbors together to talk about important issues. Giving the Board all the power and allowing them to bully you is typical of condo ownership, and they tend to elect their 'friends' to the Board like handing down a kingship. Some people like to allow others to make those decisions for them, and you may not be one of them. If you can find others in your Association who feel the same way you do, as a group you may have a chance. If the other homeowners are not willing to take a stand, sell as soon as the market turns around.

posted @ Sunday, November 07, 2010 11:45 AM by Linda

The reason the rest of your neighbors do not attend meetings is probably because they are bullied and brow-beaten also. We have the same situation here and the only way they stop their lies is to face them with a dose of their own. First, find out who exactly this lawyer is who sent you the Cease and Desist order. Lots of times there are neighbors who are lawyers and write fake letters thinking it will scare off whoever is threatening to invade. Then contact the state of Maryland condo and HOA ombudsman. http://www.marylandhomeownersassociation.info/Site/Welcome.html 
Let them tell you exactly what you can do within your legal limits within your state. 
I'd just bet that lawyer who signed that Cease & Desist order is doing so from his personal computer right in your neighborhood.  
According to Black's Law Dictionary this is the definition of Cease & Desist Order 
"Cease and Desist Order 
n. an order of a court or government agency to a person, business or organization to stop doing something upon a strong showing that the activity is harmful and/or contrary to law. The order may be permanent or hold until a final judicial determination of legality occurs. In many instances the activity is believed to cause irreparable damage such as receipt of funds illegally, felling of timber contrary to regulation, selling of shares of stock without a proper permit, or oil drilling which would damage the ecology." 
So you see, I have a feeling you are being duped and being scared into submission. 
Get on the phone with the Maryland Ombudsman as soon as you can but make sure you check out the lawyer who sent you the letter, where he lives and if he is benefitting - which he probably is. 

posted @ Sunday, November 07, 2010 11:56 AM by RIchard

Seriously folks, telling someone to move is not good advice. That is exactly what the association wants from people who stand up for their rights. There are agencies to intercede on behalf of the owners. Once an association gets warned by the state, things will change - and I dare say you'll see abusive board members moving on.

posted @ Sunday, November 07, 2010 12:01 PM by Thelonius

Why assume the writer of the question is a she? 
When people turn to these association blogs it is because they have been violated. I've seen this go on over and over with abusive association boards. My money is on the writer of the question, not the association.

posted @ Sunday, November 07, 2010 1:56 PM by Richard

Having been on both sides of the aisle, as Director and association manager, I can tell you that you have played your cards the wrong way for far too long. You should have challenged your board with the legal tools available to owners in your state long time ago. When you have a bully or rogue board, and your neighbors don't want any part of your fight, you should have approached the situation as attorneys do, and built your case from the ground up. I am afraid that after 6 years of animosity you need an attorney to look up for your future interests should you decide you don't want to move.

posted @ Sunday, November 07, 2010 3:03 PM by Susana

As far as the question about the gender of the OP, I find it odd that this site hides the first name of the OP but discloses the names of all people who respond. Any idea why ??

posted @ Sunday, November 07, 2010 3:24 PM by Susana

except for "a couple of other unit owners" who dont want to step up to the plate,you seem to be acting alone, even though there are 300 or so residents who are members of the assn. have you really looked at this objectively ?? are the 300 "others" satisfied withe the board and only "the few" giving you lip service?? if you are correct and i am sure you have some valid points, you know what you have to do, which is to rally the troops, do a little campaigning and throw 
the bums out! on the other hand, dont be surprised if the majority feels that the present board is doing an fine job. ask yourself why it is unlikely you would get support from the community, there may be a reason.

posted @ Sunday, November 07, 2010 3:32 PM by brian

To Linda, are you the same Linda that posted the other day complaining about her board not allowing vehicles in and out of a North Carolina property in the winter months when the community is officially closed ?? 
The reason why at times owners like the OP need an attorney is simply because the vast majority of associations have attorneys to defend Directors, not the owners. 
Board members are elected officials of the association, and as such the community has given them powers. The opinion or grievance of 1 or 2 owners is irrelevant as far as the Law is concerned. You have to have the majority of the voting interest backing to have a valid claim.

posted @ Sunday, November 07, 2010 3:40 PM by Susana

Susana and Michael Katz..........It sounds to me like you both probably are on a board that either ignors, lies or bully's the other members. 
To the writer I have the same thing where I live and I will tell you one thing, tomorrow a certified letter will be mailed giving our acting president 10 days to respond to our situtation around here. The reason I say acting president is because they stepped down and will not get it together to get a new board voted in to people who want change within. After the ten days I will be seeking legal council and you better believe I will be going for my lawyer fees to be paid for from their pocket, my pocket (since I will be sueing myself), the members pockets,or you can call it whatever, but I and others have had enough of their bully B.S. 
So you are not alone in this matter and if you don't want to be on the board then get out of the heat. Board members lie to your face, take your money, and who else knows what they do. Time for a change and it will be coming eally soon! But rest assured I will not be moving or selling because I know what the law states and the declaration, and the by-laws. So you need to dock everything, send certified whe you send letters and then get yourself a good lawyer that will get it all straightened out.But make sure you ask for your lawyer fees to be paid back to you. Now to those of you who don't like my advice, you can go to another site! Good luck

posted @ Sunday, November 07, 2010 7:47 PM by m

M, if you do not have the decency to disclose your full name then I'd suggest that you do not make false accusations. The one who should try a different venue is you. You do not rule here.

posted @ Sunday, November 07, 2010 8:09 PM by Susana


posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 12:00 AM by BOB

There are three documents that members of a Board of Directors of a condo or HOA must be familiar with. These same documents should also be familiar to unit owners. On the management side a detailed understanding of the bylaws,and the state condominium Act is of prime importance. To effectively conduct the meeting of the Board a basic iknowledge of how to conduct a meeting requires some knowledge of Robert;s Rules of Order or their equivalent. Remember also that the presiding officer at a Board meeting should maintain a neutral position and must insure that the minority on any issue are treated respectfyulky and fairly and are allowed to offer theuir views. Out of such deliberations it is not unusual that after botyh sides of an issue are aired that a compromise is attained which is better than either individual view produced. Interruption of a speaker,loud background remarks and uother impolite behavior should not nbe tolerated and if a member of the assembl;y continually acts to disrupt the devorum he should ne invited to leave the meeting.

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 6:57 AM by Charles Adler

I can only say what worked for us in VA.As a member of a group of owners who felt that the BOD and the Property manager were not managing our property well, and not protecting the best interests of the community I understand what you are going thru.When members started speaking up in meetings. The BOD(It was the president and the property manager and not the entire board) responded with a barrage of letters from the attorney-such as cease and desist for referring to our maintainence man as idiot in an email(there are a stack of email complaints about this man to the property manager and the BOD that were ignored.)I personally recieved an letter from the attorney stating that the BOD could seek financial penalty from me for the facebook page another resident started concerning the association.(They didn't know who had started the facebook page and so targeted me...and actually the FB page had only positive topics and volunteer opportunities on it) 
So what changed things? Organizing.I started tape recording the BOD meetings and emailing a summation to everyone who gave me their email.This was a factual transcript that clearly stated that I was a homeowner and not a member of the board. I used the boards own words to show the problems.We got a homeowner list and contacted everyone-either by knocking on doors or by mail and phone for absentee owners and started mobilizing the community.We made clearly understandable flyers explaining the problems in the budget and maintence of the property.We got the last 3 years of financial statements from the property manager and went thru them and found multiple times where large amounts of money were spent without the proper BOD vote.We had 2 very qualified professionals who agreed to run for the BOD. And with the determination and hard work of team of 6 people they were voted in.Most people who lived here were very grateful that SOMEONE ELSE was doing the hard work.They wanted a change but did not want to "Cause trouble" and did not want to get on the old BOD's radar because that led to legal harrassment.They wanted change but did not want to do all the work and that was ok as long as we had their vote.In the end we had new members of the board and a majority voice.Now the New board is taking a very hard look at every item on the budget and is listening to the membership.Could one person do it all? No,but 6 motivated people did!

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 7:56 AM by Lynn

I really did not have a chance to review all of the responses in depth, but I do not see anywhere the suggestion to run for the board. Run for the board, and you can start doing what you need to in order to get action going.

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 8:17 AM by Ronald Hicks

Lynn, my compliments to you and your hardworking group. That is the correct and lawful approach. 
Ronald, you should read the original post one more time. After a cease & desist order and years of confrontation IMO this owner does not stand a chance to run for the board nor do I think he/she has the support of the community.

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 8:40 AM by Susana

I sympathize with the original poster. Do you have any volunteer mediation services in your state you could use? Do you have a local newspaper that would print your concerns especially about the "health and security" issues? I submit written questions to my board every month before their meeting. Rarely are my questions addressed in the minutes that are routinely posted on our bulletin board afterwards even though my questions are relevant to all owners. If you are seeing a doctor concerning any stress you are having due to your situation, be sure the doctor is recording why in case a lawsuit developes.

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 10:01 AM by nellie lavendar

Susana...it seems to me the only thing you do on this blog is make negative comments. I don't know why are you are responding if you cannot be helpful and kind. People are not writing here because they want to take legal action...we all know that is an option. I think most people here want to work things out with their neighbors. There are obviously quite a number of Board's with serious power issues who enjoy pushing people around and doing a lot of chest bumping! It does not make for happy living arrangements or a good working relationship with the elected leadership. How about changing the tone here to practical solutions that are kind and thoughtful?

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 10:34 AM by Linda

I just complimented Lynn.  
The "help" some posters seek here is not about learning but about their inability to look at the world around them with objectivity.

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 11:43 AM by Susana

Make sure you read your condo docs completely and understand them. Then use your state agency to help. It is easy for the property management company to use intimidation, your best response is to understand your legal rights.

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 11:50 AM by Cheryl Gowin

Susana, you just cannot help yourself, can you? Yes, you complimented one person, and then promptly lambasted another. People are looking for help and you seem to think your vast experience allows you the title of judge and jury, putting your own experiences on someone else's challenge. Sure glad I don't live in your condo complex...not much neighborliness in your tone.  
As for the original question, my first comment was to try to get neighbors together to talk about the issues, and then as a group, prepare requests to the Board, or ask that the issues be placed on the agenda for discussion. Perhaps the reason people don't come to the meetings is that they are not heard, or they are bullied into silence, or maybe because the issues on the agenda aren't worth their time. 
As for our condo Association, it has a reputation in the area that the Board is incompetent and divisive. We did not know that before we purchased, or we would not have bought the property. But we did, and the market is not great right now. My brother has two units in our complex, and we all plan to sell as soon as the market returns to normal so we can get our money out of the place. I'm sure that will make our Board happy, then they won't be accountable to anyone willing to take a stand. 
Of course, then they will lose the only people in the complex willing to take care of the place.

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 12:10 PM by Linda

Linda, the Constitution grants the right to free speech but preaching is a different matter. You have literally "kidnap" this threath to suit your agenda, whereas the OP has yet to add a paragraph.

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 12:38 PM by Susana

Susana, yes, you are entitled by the constitution to free speech, and so is everyone else on this blog...as for co-opting the thread, your 8 responses trumps my 3. If we're counting. You've attacked the person who asked the question, several people on the thread, and me. I'm just asking you to be a little kinder in your 'free speech.' Not quite sure what you mean by 'preaching' but if it's that I think neighbors should be kind to each other, and considerate...then I guess that's what I'm doing. I just think respect for each other does more than bullying. But that's my opinion, and you and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this matter. And I'm not coming back to this blog for sure!

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 12:54 PM by Linda

Thank you Linda for some true statements. 
I live in a 15 unit condo in Pa. and I have posted on here many times before. I am going back to March when I started a petition to get a meeting for our association after asking several times for one and it was not just myself who was asking. 3 Years went by and I finally had enough and this is why I got answers from this formum and did everything by the book. Members were glad to sign and when word got out to the BOD's they bascially made that meeting date before I turned in the signed petition. That was good for us and we did get our meeting. But at the meeting all 3 stepped down from the Board and we all took a vote to go with a management service. The reason for management service was a few of us wanted to see the books and we were always put on hold. Always being told no money in the KITTY! 
Now we are 8 months down the road, management is in place and I called last week to 1. schedule a maintance fix of somethings in our building and to find out why the acting still president has not sent certified letters out to everyone for the voting of a new board. This was told to us at the Oct 17th meting. Much to my dismay I was told that since Oct 17th meeting the acting president has not returned the signed contract to them and they cannot do anything for us until then.  
Linda that contract was sent to her the 1st of Septemeber, went back for changes to be made,and the management sent it back to her Sept 15th and now she still has not returned it to them. 
I have a letter sitting on my desk right now and I will wait till Friday for that contract to reach our management service. If it does not get there by then, she will be getting this certified letter from me. 
Might I just add that at the meeting on Oct 17th she told us that the contract was signed and returned. 
I want to run for the board and she knows this and I also was told we only need one with management) is this correct? 
Also there are others that talk with me and right now we do not know why we keep being put on the back burner. 
No contract signed, but yet that is where our money is going to right now........go figure.........and this I am not comfortable with knowing they have all our records, statements, books, and checking account money, but no signed contract. 
Yep you got it, our association needs a lawyer and I am fresh out of answers for these people here. 
So to the first poster I feel very bad for you. 
The state makes laws, we have a declaration, we have by-laws, and we have rules..........What good are they to us unless we have the money upfront to fight back.  
So to Susana, please don't judge when you don't know the whole story. Neighbors get upset when they invest into something they think will be their final move. 
Associations are good for maintance, lawn care, snow removal, etc etc etc, especially to the elderly. But when someone takes your money and only pays the necessary bills like garbage, snow, and grass, and insurance, and they don't fix repairs that makes your own unit depreciate in value. I am worried and so are others here and I keep searching for answers. My last recourse is a lawyer at my expense.........But Susana I do not plan on moving or selling. 
Please give some good answers and not just tell people to move or sell or suck up the BOD way of hadnling things. 
I am mad and I will prevail, and I will not give up until I get results. 
Thank You again Linda you made my day!!!!!!!!!

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 1:17 PM by S

I am glad to see some varied responses and suggestions of what may or has worked. I do not think one size fits all. The more posts I read I am seeing that bullying by boards is more common than I thought. Also, Legal action can be costly and like someone else pointed out you, in a way, are suing yourself. 
I had tried to work with my board privately without talking to many owner because I thought I could get the board to follow laws and bylaws and their ethical fiduciary responsibility, and I thought they would not want sensitive things out in the open. I used phone calls, emails, meetings, even a certified letter all to no avail. 
I then created a Website and posted the info and that with the pressure finally got the board's attention and at least in a couple of areas (starting to keep board meeting minutes was one) they say they will comply with the law and assoc legal docs. However, there are other areas they will not even respond to, much less address, for example they are years late in having an independent audit, contrary to assoc legal docs. This is just like what was done in the couple of areas they now admit to and say they will change. Further, they continue to bully me. For example, they have recently set out a series of charges to access assoc legal docs, threaten me with lawsuits but refuse to specify any law or assoc legal doc I have violated, threaten to charge me with their use of legal counsel because of their liability concerns about their violations. All these things are designed to bully and make me go away. I have decided to deemphasize trying to work with them first and make all issues available to owners via the Website I created, at a minimum simultaneous to the time I notify the board or perhaps instead of notifing the board. And in my case I will follow up with legal actions where necessary. Not the best but I am fed up, cannot stand a bully, and will not let a bully go unchecked. 
Do I recommend my approach to everyone. No, especially not for the faint of heart. But for those who have tried other avenues, do not want or cannot affort to immediately sue, have a 17 year board member president that it may take years to politic into changing, do not seem to have a good state agency to be able to address complaints to (I think only the Atty General's office in N.H. so there is not a system in place), then it is one way to at least do something that can have some success.

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 3:40 PM by Rick

I am familiar with several different members of several different boards. Not one Board Member that I know personlly is a bully. Almost every HOA or Condo has a few nutty people who think that everything is wrong with the Board and their property. It goes with the territory. As someone said a long time ago--if you can't stand the heat stay out of the kitchen. If Boards were as bad as some people think they would be voted out.

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 4:20 PM by Knock James

Have you ever considered suing the board for harrasment. Further are you aware that if the board acts contgrary to your atate law that the immunity granted them in your by laws may be forfeited and they could be bhekld personally liable for failure to obey the law.Just try this one--get a lawyer to write a letter to the board threatebning to sue them for harrassment. It sometimes works wonders.

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 5:44 PM by Charles Adler

I also know about a half dozen board members outside of my board. They are all honest and fair. I have had some conversations with them about my problem board. They are to a person shocked. So it may be a minority of bad boards but I now believe it is a significant minority. 
I have not told but a small part of my story on this blog. I have no doubt that most would find it clear there are indeed bully boards.

posted @ Monday, November 08, 2010 6:32 PM by Rick


posted @ Friday, April 20, 2012 3:52 PM by RICHARD

Like you I live in Maryland and have served on my board of Directors and have also served as the Chair of our covenants committee for over twenty can quote our bylaws from memory and am intimately familiar with the Maryland Condominium Act. I faced the same problem you are suffering with years ago and solved it and have helped unit owners in three other Maryland Condos do like wise. To really help you I need a copy of your bylaws.

posted @ Friday, April 20, 2012 4:15 PM by Scott Adler

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