A frustrated condo owner reports frayed carpet, peeling wallpaper and dirt, but her requests for action go unheeded. How can she force the fixes?
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Ask Lois: Can you help me get my condo common areas repaired?
“In my condo building, the wallpaper is buckling, peeling off the walls and is visibly dirty. The baseboards are filthy. There is frayed carpet by the elevator with an unprofessional repair. The repair was only after I tripped getting off of the elevator. I’ve spoken to the property manager and I’ve emailed the board a letter of complaint.
I’ve lived here since August 2015. I want to know how to get the board and property manager to maintain the common areas. They are obtaining proposals to paint the stairwell, change lobby doors, and renovate the clubhouse for $170,000 when the common areas are filthy and in need of repair. It’s disgusting to have to pass through. I have to wear a mask because it triggers my asthma.” – Winona Cohn, Boca Raton
Winona – Since the Surfside tower collapse that killed 98 people a year ago, condominium boards and managers have been super-alert to needed improvements, so hopefully you will soon get some attention from the powers-that-be in your building.
You told me in a follow-up email that you were in contact with Palm Beach County Code Enforcement, which is looking into sanitary conditions, fire systems and electrical work. This is a good initial step.
I contacted two attorneys who specialize in condominium law, and here’s what they said about how you should proceed. Peter Sachs, a founding partner with Sachs Sax Caplan in Boca Raton, recommended a three-pronged approach.
“As to the routine maintenance items, she needs to continue to complain to management and the board, vote for like-minded directors in the next election, and then be prepared to pay her share of the costs,” Sachs said.
For items that are safety-related: “Assuming the board continues to be nonresponsive, she could file a complaint with the local building official or with code enforcement. After Surfside, I think she would get some quick action from the city or county.”
The key is to be courteous but also relentless, said Gary Singer, a board-certified real estate lawyer who writes about industry legal matters and the housing market in his “Ask A Real Estate Pro” column in the Sun Sentinel.
“In my experience, most association managers and board members want to do right by the residents,” Singer said. “Be polite but insist that the repairs get done. Be understanding about delays, but do not allow your concern to be forgotten.”
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