For many people who aren’t interested in purchasing a commercial building or a standalone, single-family home, buying a condominium can be a great alternative. Though these types of homes are smaller than others, there are many advantages to living in a condominium community, including lower purchase prices, lower required home maintenance, and often, access to recreational or other community features.
The way that condominiums can be similar to single-family homes, however, is that they are often part of a managing association for residents, often called a condominium association. These organizations are very similar to a homeowner’s association (HOA) in that they exist and operate in an effort to upkeep the value of the homes or condominiums that belong to it. They achieve this by requiring membership from each household, often asking for monthly dues for that membership, and then using those dues to provide services back to the community and its residents.
But it’s natural for disputes to occasionally arise when money, contracts, and services are involved. The parties on either side of the table have certain expectations of the relationship, and when those expectations feel unmet by one party or another, they may take legal action on their own behalf. But whether you’re an association member or a resident, understanding the legal details surrounding how that relationship works is the first step to resolving disputes that arise.
Condominium Associations Explained
Associations that exist to manage and serve condominium communities operate similarly to single-family home neighborhood HOAs when it comes to the broader purposes of these organizations. To be a homeowner in the condo complex or neighborhood, you are required to join the association, pay the required fees, and adhere to the rules and requirements set forth in a signed contract. In turn, the association usually provides something of value to its homeowner residents.
In the case of a condo association, those provisions are often communal recreational areas that all members can use, such as swimming pools, gyms, parks, or group events. Members of the association usually collectively own the shared common areas of the entire complex, meaning they are required to manage and maintain them as well. For this reason, these members will often charge other residents who reside there, but are not necessarily members of the board, monthly fees for the upkeep of these common areas they all use.
Though single-family neighborhoods can sometimes have communal offerings as well, the biggest difference between condo and single-family home associations is that condo associations tend to have even more ground to cover. Whereas single-family homeowners are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of their own property and all its elements so that they adhere to the standards set forth by the HOA, condo owners can sometimes expect their association members to take care of much of the upkeep of not just the recreational offerings, but all communal areas such as hallways, stairwells, elevators, parking lots, and more. Sometimes even the condo dwelling units themselves will be upkept and maintained by services hired by the association. It all depends on what’s included in the initial contract between association and homeowner.
Common Condo Resident & Board Disputes
When a new resident purchases a home in a condominium complex that is managed by an association, they are required to sign a contract that lays out all the fees, rules, and requirements created by the association on behalf of the entire community. Unfortunately, as can happen with any type of legally binding contract, disputes over certain elements of it may arise.
These disputes can come from either the association or the resident for a variety of reasons, but some of the most common often include:
- Contractual grievances: The condo association has guidelines that are set forth in a contract that all residents must sign. If a resident fails to adhere to that contract, the association may take action against the resident. The same can be said in the opposite direction; if a resident believes the association isn’t fairly upholding their contractual duties, they may take legal action on their own behalf.
- Construction: It can often be difficult to predict when, where, and how often construction might be needed in any area of a condo complex, and so may not be included in an initial contract. Residents may become angry or upset if construction on a common area or another resident’s home is interfering with their own lifestyle and may bring the matter up with the association.
- Property damage: If it is not clearly spelled out who is responsible for addressing damage to property after some kind of accident or natural occurrence, like a hurricane, it could lead to a prolonged dispute over who should be addressing the costs of that property damage. Mediation is quite common in the cases of condo property damage issues.
- Finances: Because association memberships often require fees, disputes about finances are also a frequent source of conflict. For example, a lien may be placed against a resident if they have not paid their association dues. Another common finance dispute can revolve around condo subletting if the specifics of those rules are not clearly spelled out.
- Board member elections: Election disputes are quite common, which is why many choose to have an election administered by an organization like the American Arbitration Association. If such a group isn’t used, avenues are opened for residents to feud about who was selected to become part of the association board.
- Parking disputes: Because most condominiums have communal parking areas, condo parking disputes often involve disagreements about where a renter or owner has a right to park, and sometimes even what type of vehicle they are allowed to park in these areas.
How to Navigate Condo Association Disputes
The very best way to navigate around condominium association disputes is to do everything possible to prevent them from happening in the first place. Though no system, contract, manager, or resident is going to be perfect, more often than not, if the association rules, fees, and expectations are clearly laid out in the contracts that all homeowners must sign, then prolonged disputes become much less common.
Of course, it’s also necessary for the condo association to uphold their contractual obligations. They should enforce rules for all residents, maintain property as promised, and do their best to manage these properties as morally and fairly as possible. If residents are paying fees to their association, they’re going to have these minimum expectations, and will raise disputes if they aren’t met—whether that might be true or not.
When that happens, a great option is to turn to an experienced real estate lawyer who is practiced specifically in HOA law. The right lawyer will know local state laws by which associations must abide, can understand the legalese of the specific condo contract in play, and can act as a mediator between the two parties until the dispute is resolved. If mediation doesn’t lead to a satisfactory end result, an HOA lawyer can even represent their client in court as needed.
The Whisler Law Firm has partnered with the Law Office of Joseph Pustizzi, PA to offer Florida residents support through HOA and condo association disputes. Their years of experience with association managers and residents alike makes them an excellent resource for disputes of all kinds. So if you’re a condominium association member or resident experiencing some kind of dispute, you can reach out to The Whisler Law firm at 833-529-5677 or fill out our online consultation form. When you do, we’ll get you connected with the Law Office of Joseph Pustizzi, PA so your case will be in the best of hands.