Whoops. Condo Board Renovation Issues
June 25, 2014 6:52 PM   Subscribe

I own a small condo apartment. In December, I contacted the condo board to ask for information about how to proceed with changing my floating floor because I had a 6'X6' section of damaged flooring (just from 7 years of wear and tear... the original materials were really really shoddy). A representative responded immediately and gave me the material specifications and informed me that I would need to obtain authorization before proceeding with the work. I didn't proceed with the work at the time...

In May, my personal circumstances suddenly changed, requiring an unforeseen and unwanted move. I planned to rent out the apartment. I re-initiated contact with the condo board rep (let's call her Angela) to begin the process of obtaining authorization. She did not respond to my first email. Radio silence, not even a confirmation of receipt. Four days later, I sent a second email, cc'ing the general customer service email address of the condo board. No response again. Then I called and left a recorded voice mail message. No one returned my call. Then I filled out a form for service on their website. Again no answer. Finally, I managed to get in contact with a someone on the phone, who said that she was just the secretary and would have to pass my message on to someone else (the person I sent my very first email to). Of course, no one called me back.

The work had to be executed as soon as possible so that I could find and place a tenant by July 1st. It was extremely frustrating to not be able to get in contact with anyone, and not have anyone to complain to about the lack of communication. It's not like I'm a paying customer who can opt to take my business elsewhere. Waiting a month to communicate with someone in order to modify my own property is... well... irritating to say the least, and unprofessional on their part. But, them's the rules.

Since it had been two days short of one month of trying to get in contact with them, I made the (bad) decision to proceed with the work, as per the specifications given to me by Angela in the first email from December, so as not to lose out on rental income. Coincidentally, the morning the contractor began work, a rep from the condo board (not Angela) finally responded to my email. In his email, he reiterated the material specifications (exactly the materials I was having installed) and went on to say that if I were to proceed with the work without authorisation, I could be forced to make changes if they received noise complaints from neighbours (due to insufficient sound proofing... which should not apply since I used the correct specifications for the soundproofing membrane). I assumed, arrogantly (in retrospect), that even if I did not have authorization, they wouldn't ask me to redo the floor, seeing as I followed all the installation and material specifications.

The work has been done for two weeks, and I expect my tenant to move in July 1st. This morning I received an email from the condo board asking me to confirm by email whether or not the floor was replaced without authorization, along with a reminder that by building regulations, owners are not allowed to proceed with modifications without receiving authorization from them.

So... how exactly should I proceed from here? Should I respond to this email to say yes, the floor was changed? Is not following a regulation considered a legal issue? Would it be any benefit for me to explain the potential loss of income if I waited for a response from them? At this point, I can't tell anymore whether I did a reasonable thing that isn't really that a big of a deal, or if I'm a total jerk who did something they really, really shouldn't have done.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
To be honest with you, I'd speak with a lawyer before responding in any way. Condo boards scare the bejesus out of me. My experience with them is that if you cross them, they can make your life hell. So I would proceed with the extremest of caution.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:13 PM on June 25, 2014 [12 favorites]

At this point I would not lie, but I also would not volunteer any extra information.

"Yes the floor was changed and the work was performed to the specifications provided by (xxx on date yyy) and confirmed by (zzz on date yyy). My new tenant will be moving into the unit on July 1"

Let them either drop it or ask again if it was authorized. Only then if they ask again would I indicate that you attempted to obtain a formal authorization on multiple occasions, but since you received no response you understood the emails providing the specifications were an implicit authorization.

I think the only way you can get in trouble here is if you lie. If you tell the truth this can be interpreted as an honest misunderstanding. If you lie then it looks like its a willful act and they would presumably not want to work with you. You indicate the second email stated the penalty of not getting authorization is to have the work redone if the materials were not correct...since the materials are correct there is no penalty...

My guess is that they are overworked and need to be sure the work is done to a certain level. If you have managed to do the work to their specification it's not really worth their time to beat you up about it...especially since you reached out trying to do the right thing on multiple occasions...they certainly have bigger fish to fry as I'm sure people are modifying their units without any contact what-so-ever, they are the real problem...
posted by NoDef at 7:14 PM on June 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

They took a month to respond to your email, so you can do the same. This gives you time to consult a lawyer in your area. And to get a rug to cover the new floor. And to get a notarized affidavit from your contractor attesting to the materials used. Do not say anything to them, and do not let anyone from the building in to look at the place.
posted by Sophont at 7:18 PM on June 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Is there a management company that is separate from the board? I live in a town home, and that is the case here. Here, the board is made up of busy, but understanding, residents while the management company is distant and more bureaucratic.

I had a problem where the board seemed absolutely negligent, despite my repeated requests. In the end, it turned out that the board had communicated the problem to the management company, but they had done nothing. The board, having passed my request along, thought everything was resolved. It wasn't until an association meeting that they learned the management company hadn't done anything.

If you haven't talked face-to-face with a board member about the issue, you might try knocking on one of their doors and trying to explain things. Reaching out as a neighbor might be more effective than email, and they might be as out of the loop as you are.

But yes, you should probably get a lawyer, too.
posted by a dangerous ruin at 8:09 PM on June 25, 2014

I've been on condo boards before. You did nothing wrong. I would respond to them like this:

"Thanks for following up. I did end up having the work done to your specifications of XY and Z. It looks really good. Thanks so much for your help and thanks for taking time to serve on the condo board."


Now what. They have no basis to pursue any further action.

The absolute maximum they could legitimately do to you is a fine. But in order for them to fine you, they would have to have some evidence that you broke the rules. They have zero.

The condo board is concerned with budget, long term maintenance, noise issues and neighbor to neighbor issues. It's true that there are zealous nutjobs on condo boards that might want every rule enforced to the letter. But considering no one got back to you for a month, I doubt you have any one that zealous on your condo board.
posted by poyorick at 10:41 PM on June 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

Based on their failure to respond to you, I would just not respond.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:49 AM on June 26, 2014

I just studied this in real estate school...in NC which may or may not make a difference.

When you own a condo, you own the airspace. That's it. I would personally check with a lawyer myself if it were me..
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:48 AM on June 26, 2014

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