Reader Question: A year ago I bought a town home in a condo project. I asked about parking and told that each homeowner would have one additional space outside to park as well as in their garage. The garage is built into the home. Since I moved in, the municipality painted one side of the main street in the community yellow, so people cannot park there. New homes are going up on that side and will make a bad situation worse.
Many homeowners park two or more vehicles regardless of the rules. At the last home owners association (HOA) meeting, the HOA reiterated that there is/will be one parking for each homeowner outside of their garage in one statement, and in the next that they were going to put in the rules that homeowners with one car park in their garage. I can honestly say that I was deceived. What recourse do I have, Monty? Marcia C.
Monty’s Answer: Hello Marcia, and thanks for your question. There are choices involved that require research to understand the overall community before making a choice on the best course of action.
Ready, aim, fire
Most, if not all states regulate condominium developments. When a set percentage of unit sales occur, developers turn the HOA over to the unit owners to manage. Determining whether or not that has happened at this point is critical in sorting out your options. Developers who are still building product to sell and have control of the HOA have an incentive to correct design flaws. Changes in design are always difficult once a project is underway, but are easier to correct before the unit owners gain control.
If the development has been turned over to the unit owners, how they have chosen to manage the HOA is another critical piece of information to understand. Professionally managed HOA’s are better adapted for dealing with the issues described earlier.
Next, it is important to understand how the HOA works. How many unit owner votes are required to make changes? How do meeting quorums function? How are board members elected? What does it take to call a meeting? The by-laws and the HOA operating agreement were furnished before you purchased the unit, so you do not have to go far to get these answers.
It is unclear who sold you the unit. If it was the developer and not a re-sale unit it may influence your decision. Did you buy from an employee of the developer or an independent brokerage firm?
It will be easier to decide which of your options to exercise once you have answered these questions. Seek counsel with an attorney who has experience dealing with HOA’s, or some person who is familiar with your personality whose business judgment you trust before you take action.
Five options to consider
1. Accept what has happened and resolve to accept it. It will require inconvenience but it will be the least costly if you can pull it off emotionally.
2. No recourse at all. Simply sell the unit and move on. Do this with the attitude that a lot was learned about buying a condominium and you are chalking it up to experience. Most of your other options to pursue require energy, time and possibly cash.
3. Try to reason with the HOA or the developer, to come up with a plan that satisfies your parking needs and possibly the parking needs of others in the community. As an example, would they consider sacrificing home pads to gain parking? Would enforcing existing rules solve the problem?
4. Mobilize the other unit owners, or find others who feel the same way and organize them. Develop a plan that utilizes a solution where everyone is a winner. Just make certain it is peaceful, no dirty tricks and a civilized discussion.
5. Threaten to litigate. Do not do this if you do not mean it. Documentation regarding the one additional parking space for each unit being included may increase your odds of succeeding. Arguing about this with someone where it is your word against his or her word is less desirable. Is the wording in marketing materials? Was there a meeting when notes were taken? Is it in the contract of sale or the condo docs?
There is much to learn and think about here, and there is no perfect solution. Knowing the territory will help make an informed decision.