(WSVN) - Residents are battling their association for an assessment they don’t want and some can’t afford — like the government worker furloughed by the partial shutdown. Can the majority of residents stop their board? There are ways, as we see in tonight’s Help Me Howard With Patrick Fraser.
When the government started furloughing employees, federal workers like Susan Graziano feared what she would face without a paycheck.
Susan Graziano: “Paying my mortgage, paying electric, food for my family. I’m going to have to call my creditors and tell them, ‘Hey, I don’t have the money.'”
But instead of her expenses decreasing, Susan’s are increasing because of her association.
Susan Graziano: “They are now assessing us $133,000 worth of painting.”
Michelle Hull: “People are angry. They’re very upset.”
Upset because to pay for that $133,000 paint job, homeowners like Susan and Michelle say they were told they have to pay a special $245-a-month assessment for the next 12 months — on top of their regular $300-a-month association fee.
Susan Graziano: “And now, with this shutdown and people not expecting paychecks, it’s not good.”
Homeowners went to the board meeting to try to stop the painting, since it’s cosmetic and doesn’t have to be done now.
Susan Graziano: “It’s the board members who make the decisions. They’ve shut us down. They’ve told us they don’t want to hear from us.”
Michelle Hull: “They are nightmares. It’s a nightmare.”
The homeowners then put together a petition signed by more than half the residents trying to stop the board from nearly doubling their association fee at this time.
Michelle Hull: “And still didn’t listen, and they still went ahead with the assessment.”
Susan Graziano: “I have to take care of my family, and I don’t know which way to turn.”
Some families living paycheck to paycheck — or in Susan’s case, as a federal employee, no paycheck to no paycheck.
Susan Graziano: “I’m nervous. I’m afraid.”
Michelle Hull: “I want to know if there’s anything we can do to stop it and maybe revisit it and figure out if the contract is even legitimate.”
Well, Howard, can a majority of homeowners stop a board that’s forcing them to pay for work the owners don’t feel is necessary?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “A board has enormous power and doesn’t have to listen to the property owners at all. You can have a petition signed by every homeowner not on the board, and the board can still ignore it. And when a board signs a contract against the owner’s wishes, like a paint job, all of the owners are stuck having to pay for it.”
We contacted the president of the Alpine Woods Association. We asked her about the special assessment for the paint job that residents said they could not afford at this time. She said she would rather not talk about it.
She said she did see the petition that majority of the residents signed to stop the paint job, but didn’t want to talk about that either.
Howard Finkelstein: “A simple majority of the homeowners can quickly demand a recall election and elect new board members, and a case like this shows why it’s so important to get on the board, so you have a voice in how your association is run and what you are forced to pay. And if you don’t want to be on the board, at least go to the meetings so you can keep an eye on the people impacting your life.”
Michelle Hull: “I will never buy in an association ever again with the experience that we’ve had here.”
While Susan waits for the government furlough to end and paychecks to return, Michelle is plans to make sure she and her neighbors soon have a say in how their neighborhood is run.
Michelle Hull: “This coming February we are having our elections. I am running. I’m running for whatever they need me for.”
If we had a nickel for every condo or homeowner board complaint, we could pay those special assessments. Now, if you think your association is doing something wrong, spending money where they should not, you have the legal right to look at the books within 10 days of requesting it. If the board or the property manager says no, contact an association lawyer to go to them, because the board will have to pay you damages and your attorney’s legal fees.
Feel like you’ve been painted into a corner? Ready to be furloughed from the problem? It pays to call us, because we never shut down.
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