Condo Association Problems Come With Declining Real Estate Market

Q: I live in a condo community that I purchased in 1989. The association and community were fine for many years, but about 5 years ago things really started to change.

The condo homeowner association board is being way ‘too frugal’ with our money, to the effect of not getting landscaping done. The condo community looks horrible in some areas.

More importantly, the condo homeowner association board does not enforce the rules (like residents picking up after their dogs) and the situation is out of hand.

The condo property manager and board do not enforce the rules and only give lip service. Do I have any recourse other than hiring a lawyer? Can I stop paying my fees as one way to protest? Any suggestions or assistance you provide would be appreciated.

A: The worst thing you can do is to stop paying your monthly assessments in some sort of formal protest to the board. That’s only going to get you (and perhaps your credit history, if your condo board reports your lack of payments to the three major credit reporting bureaus) into big trouble.

You should first figure out if you’re the only one who is bothered by the lack of care for the community grounds. You should chat with your neighbors and see how they feel about it.

If you find that your neighbors and friends in the community are as upset as you are, you should start attending board meetings and bringing it up as an agenda item.

Then, volunteer to get involved. Sit on the “community landscape” committee (or offer to start it if it doesn’t already exist). Get your condo neighbors together and offer to make some changes.

You can also run for the board to undertake the changes that need to be made to keep your condo property in top shape so it is attractive to as many buyers as possible.

There are two other things that might be going on. First, in many condo properties across the country, a high level of foreclosures and non-payment of monthly association fees could mean that the condo homeowner’s association board has to cut back on upkeep and maintenance expenses simply to avoid running into the red.

Another possibility is that the board is not getting the service that they are paying for with the management company. It’s possible that the board needs to fire the condo building management company and find another company that will actually do the work they’re supposed to do.

You might also find out that the association’s financial condition is weak and that the association does not want to raise dues now but also can’t spend the money they would otherwise want to or need to.

It’s easy to criticize, but it’s much more constructive to jump in and try to help out. If you don’t feel like helping out, you should think about selling and moving somewhere you’ll have more control over the exterior maintenance of the property and less stress.

For other articles on condominium association problems and declining real estate values in the market, read the following articles:

Bad News For Real Estate Market: Unemployment and Foreclosure Continue Into 2010

Condo Association Fees, Dues, Lawsuits Can Strain A New Buyer

Declining Home Value May Spur Short Sale Instead Of Refinance

Low Appraisal Caused By Declining Home Values Results In Change To Loan Refinance Terms

Problems Refinancing Condo With New Lending Guidelines