DCP: Condominium FAQs

Condominium FAQs

Disclaimer:

The Department of Consumer Protection offers this information solely for educational purposes. The information provided is of a general nature and not comprehensive. This information should not be construed as legal advice regarding your particular circumstance. If you require legal advice, please consult an attorney.

With the exception of credentialing third party condominium association managers, DCP DOES NOT oversee condo regulations or hold hearings to adjudicate condominium complaints.  There are unique risks associated with community living; it’s vital that the “buyer beware” and that prospective buyers fully understand these trade-offs before they buy.



Before You Buy

If you are considering community living and/or purchasing a condo, it’s important to educate and inform yourself on the advantages and disadvantages of this lifestyle and to become acutely familiar with the condo community you select before you sign on the dotted line. Each Community Living community has its own unique character. It’s up to you to discover which condo community’s character best matches your wants, needs and expectations.


There are additional trade-offs to bear in mind when purchasing a condo that often don’t apply to single-family home ownership. On the one hand, condos offer peace of mind, the security of living among others, less maintenance responsibility, on-site recreational facilities and amenities, and the benefits of living in a “close-knit” community. On the other, among many other considerations, you may share walls, floors and/or ceilings with neighbors; your condominium association may have rules, priorities and values that may not perfectly match your own; and you may not as easily be able to resolve conflicts when they arise. You need to know the rules – written and social – before making your purchase.


There are three primary kinds of common interest communities: condominiums (“condos”), cooperatives and planned communities:


  1. In a condominium

    1. Units are separately owned
    2. Common areas are owned by all unit owners as tenants in common
    3. Units may have limited common elements for exclusive use by each owner
  2. In a cooperative

    1. The association owns all real property
    2. Unit owners are shareholders or members of the association. They have the right to exclusive possession of their particular unit.
  3. Planned communities

    1. Neither condo nor coop, in which there is a shared ownership of a common area
    2. For example, unit owners own lots, association owns common areas.


This piece focuses on condominiums.


Prospective Buyer Checklist

  1. Work with a reputable and licensed real estate agent who is well-informed about condo purchases and sales, who knows your concerns and who takes the time to listen to your needs.

  2. Select a real estate lawyer to represent you who has substantial condo transaction experience.
  3. Obtain a copy of the Association By-Laws, Declaration, Association rules and regulations, recent budget, and minutes from meetings held over the last 12 months. Go over these documents with your attorney. Ask your attorney to interpret these documents and to explain them to you.
  4. There are many great books and online resources to help teach you about your options. It’s worth investing time up-front to ensure you make the right decision for you.
  5. Meet with the Association President and Board Members. Ask to attend a Board Meeting.
  6. Take a walk around the condo complex and try to meet some of the residents. Talk to them about what it’s like to live in their condo complex.
  7. Make a list of your questions and concerns. Seek answers to all your questions and concerns before you close.


Frequently Asked Questions


Should I buy a condo or a house?

Whether to purchase a condo or a stand-alone house will vary from person to person. There are many great checklists available online that can help you explore the pluses and minuses of community living versus home ownership. Visit the not-for-profit section for resources to help you decide.


What are some issues prospective condo buyers should consider?

There are many books, articles and online resources that offer prospective condo buyers tips and advice before they buy. Here are some examples of considerations you should think about:

  1. Make sure that condo living is for you. In condo living, you give up certain rights in order to gain others. Are you comfortable with that? For example, your purchase may be subject to condo association approval. And, if you wish to sell, your sale may be subject to others’ approval.

  2. Select a reputable and licensed real estate agent who knows and understands condos. They may have insights that can make the difference between finding the right and wrong community living opportunity for you.
  3. Read the condo documents carefully and be sure that the condo you’ve selected matches your lifestyle.
    1. Does the condo complex cater to a particular age group?
    2. Is it family friendly?
    3. Is it a haven for pet owners? Does it prohibit pet ownership?
  4. Review the condo association’s financial documents carefully
    1. How much does the association have in reserves?
    2. Are all condo owners meeting their payment obligations?
    3. How much has the association budgeted to spend?
  5. Speak with your potential future neighbors
    1. Ask them what they don’t like about living in their complex. What do they wish were different? What are their biggest complaints?
    2. Ask how long it takes to get repairs. Are there any repairs that take a particularly long time? What do they wish were updated, improved, replaced or fixed?
    3. Ask them whether condo association meetings are held regularly and are they posted properly. What’s attendance like? Do they attend? Do they feel like their association represents their interests?


What are some questions I should pose to my real estate agent and/or attorney?

Among many other questions, you will want to know how old the complex is, is it family-friendly, is it pet-friendly, how often people move out, are there age restrictions, how long do repairs take to be completed, what are dues and fines, has there been an assessment to homeowners, are there any outstanding debts from homeowners not paying fees, how much does the association have in reserve, what items are listed in the budget, have there been any foreclosures, what are rules on renting and selling your unit, what are owners’ rights to occupy the unit.


Which laws apply to which form of community living property?

There are three primary Connecticut laws that govern condos. They are:

Unit Ownership Act (condominiums created before 1977)

Condominium Act (condominiums created from 1977 through 1983)

Common Interest Ownership Act (condominiums formed after December 31, 1983)


In addition, there have been four directly related acts adopted since CIOA:

An Act Concerning Amendments to the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act (summary)

An Act Concerning the Common Interest Ownership Act (summary)

An Act Concerning Elections of the Executive Boards of Directors of Condominium Unit Owners' Associations and Changes to the Common Interest Ownership Act (summary)

An Act Concerning Certification as a Community Association Manager, Licensure as a Real Estate Broker or Salesperson and the Display of an Object Related to a Religious Practice or Belief on the Door or Door Frame of a Condominium Unit (summary)


Finally, you may find Connecticut Law on Condos useful.


What should I know about condos? What are some examples of rights that may be limited or enhanced?

When you own your own home, you are responsible for upkeep of the house and the property on which it sits. When you own a condo, you pay the condo association for upkeep of common areas and you retain responsibility for upkeep of your condo itself. Do you own or plan to own a pet? Some condos allow pets, others do not, some do not but look the other way. As a condo owner, you’re subject to the rules listed in the bylaws and you are legally bound to abide by them as is everyone else in the community.


In well-managed condo complexes, unit owners receive the repair and upkeep services they require, paid from proceeds of their association dues and fees. In a home, the homeowner bears the cost and must budget and prepare for the unexpected.


When buying

What is the Declaration?

The “Declaration” defines the how the condo complex is structured, delineates what are common areas and what units are eligible for private ownership. CIOA defines the Declaration as “any instruments, however denominated, that create a common interest community, including any amendments to those instruments.” In order to purchase a condo, the seller must furnish you with the Declaration, association bylaws and rules and regulations, and resale documents. Together, they make up your ownership contract and illustrate your rights, responsibilities, duties and obligations as a condo owner.


What are the bylaws?

The bylaws are the rules or “instruments … that contain the procedures for conduct of the affairs of the association…” Bylaws are defined in COIA and are the set of rules that govern the community. They must be recorded with the Declaration with the town clerk in every municipality in which the condominium complex is located.


Connecticut’s Condominium Act requires that bylaws provide for the following:

1. the election from among the unit owners of a board of directors;

2. the number and term of office of such board members;

3. a provision that the terms of at least one-third of such board must expire annually;

4. the board's powers and duties;

5. the directors' compensation, if any;

6. the method of removing board members;

7. the powers of the board in engaging the services of a manager or managing agent;

8. the method of calling meetings of the unit owners, and the percentage, if other than a majority, of unit owners that constitutes a quorum;

9. the qualifications, powers and duties of the officers of the association;

10. the manner of selecting and removing officers and their term and compensation, if any;

11. maintenance, repair and replacement of the common elements and payments for them, including the method of approving payment vouchers;

12. the manner of assessing against and collecting from the unit owners their share of the common expenses;

13. designation and removal of personnel necessary for the maintenance, repair, and replacement of the common elements;

14. the method of adopting and amending administrative rules and regulations governing the details of the operation and use of the common elements;

15. restrictions on and requirements respecting the use and maintenance of the units and the use of the common elements as are not set forth in the declaration, designed to prevent unreasonable interference with the use of their respective units and of the common elements by the several unit owners;

16. provisions governing the alienation, conveyance, sale, leasing, purchase, ownership, and occupancy of units as are desirable;

17. provisions for the establishment of reserves to provide for maintenance, improvements, replacements, working capital, bad debts, depreciation, obsolescence, and similar purposes as are desirable, except that for a conversion condominium, provisions for reserves for capital expenditures are required;

18. the manner by which the bylaws may be modified or amended, consistent with the Condominium Act's requirements; and

19. other provisions deemed necessary for the administration of the condominium consistent with the Condominium Act

What is in the Resale Documents?

After the initial sale by the developer, sellers of common interest ownership units must give buyers a package of resale disclosure documents. It is the seller’s responsibility to compile and disclose the resale documents to the buyer. Those documents must include:


1. Monthly common charges
2. Unpaid charges the seller owns the association.
3. Any restriction on a maximum or minimum resale amount.
4. The owners’ right to use or occupy the unit.
5. Owners’ ability to lease the unit.
6. Amount of reserve for capital expenditures.
7. Any upcoming capital spending approved greater than $1,000.
8. Number of unit owners who are at least sixty days delinquent in in paying common charges.
9. Number of Foreclosures actions brought or pending by the association.

How do I get these important documents?

1. Each association must file the name of the contact person with the town clerk.

2. Each association must provide the seller with resale documents within ten business days of request.


As a practical matter, you may wish to review the documents filed at your town clerk’s office. However, the town clerk will not have access to current financial information that you will surely wish to review before making your decision.


What happens if I enter into a contract to buy and I change my mind?

The purchaser may cancel a contract of sale within fifteen days after executing it. To cancel, the buyer must either hand-deliver or mail notice to the seller or his agent. Cancellation is without penalty and all payments made by the purchaser before cancellation must be refunded promptly.


Are there exceptions to this rule?

Yes. If a common interest community has twelve or fewer units, and is fully built, they do not have to supply resale documents and buyers have no right of cancellation after the contract is signed.


You should take extreme caution in purchasing any condo without full disclosure of the association’s condition. For example, what if the association has racked up huge debts? What if half of the condo owners don’t pay their dues? You must be particularly cautious because once you sign, you have no right to cancel.



After you buy

Keep the bylaws in a safe place. You never know when you may need them.


How do I know when and where my next condo association meeting will be held? How do I propose something to the board?

By law, condo association executive boards (legally, the “unit owners’ association”) meetings must be held at least once per year. The secretary or another executive board member must notice meetings no fewer than 10 days prior and no more than 60 days prior. Notices can be sent by mail or hand delivered.


As a unit owner, you have the right to speak at an association meeting. However, you may wish to approach board officers in advance of the meeting to discuss your thoughts.


What communication about the association budget can I expect from my condo association?

When the condo association adopts a budget, it has 30 days to provide a summary of the proposed budget to the common interest community and to set a date for a meeting to discuss the budget. At or prior to the meeting, the board is obliged to provide a reasonable opportunity for community members to voice their views.


I got the budget but I don’t like it. How do I fight to have it rejected?

Unless a simple majority of condo owners, or greater if stipulated in the declaration, vote to reject the budget, the budget passes. Check your declaration documents to know the percentage required to reject your particular condo budget.


Is there a required minimum number of board members?

Yes. The board must have at least three members of whom the majority must be unit owners.


There is a serious problem with a board member. How can s/he be removed from the board?

CT law states, “Notwithstanding any provision of the declaration or bylaws to the contrary, the unit owners, by a two-thirds vote of all persons present and entitled to vote at any meeting of the unit owners at which a quorum is present, may remove any member of the executive board with or without cause, other than a member appointed by the declarant.” In other words, board member removal requires a two-thirds vote of eligible voters at any board meeting at which there is a quorum.

What happens if I suspect a member or members of my condo association of having a conflict of interest?

Connecticut adopted a law placing expectations and restrictions on executive board members of condo associations. The law makes it illegal for an executive board member or an individual seeking election to such a board from accepting any item of value in exchange for good favor.


Many condo associations are structured as non-stock corporations. As an officer, board members are obliged to discharge their duties in good faith, with the care an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would exercise under similar circumstances, and to do so in a manner in which s/he believes to be in the best interests of the association.


What if there is a serious health risk that the condo association or a fellow condo owner won’t pay to fix?

You should explore, with your condo association, whether there is a reason why the problem has not been fixed. If the problem is the fault or responsibility of a fellow condo owner, the condo association can take legal action against the unit owner. They also have the authority to levy a lien and institute penalties against condo owners to try to force them to pay to fix the problem.


Does your condo association have the funds to fix the problem? Is it possible that condo owners’ dues have not kept up with costs to resolve the problem? Would you and fellow condo owners be willing to increase condo fees to pay for the fix?


Discuss your concerns with your board members. If that does not work, be sure to discuss it with fellow unit owners. You should report this health concern to your local Health Department and you may wish to consider taking legal action against the condo association board.


What do I do if the condo association board never meets? Or what if they meet in secret?

Never” and “in secret” are not allowed under Connecticut law. The condo association board must meet at least once per year. Under amendments to COIA adopted in 2009, board members may never meet in secret, and social gatherings at which board members are present do not count as board meetings. Even if board members wish to meet by phone, which they may, access to the call must be made available to all unit owners. In fact, board members must provide instructions as to how to participate in the meeting if it is by phone.


What if I want a pet?

Pet owners have rights. Non-pet owners have rights, too. Check your condo bylaws. They may stipulate whether pets are welcome in the complex and, if so, what kinds of pets may be specifically welcomed or prohibited.


What happens if I have a noisy neighbor? What if the board doesn’t enforce the association’s own rules?

State law gives a condo board broad discretion in enforcing the rules. In fact, boards can decline to take action against violators whenever they determine that doing so would not justify expending the association’s resources or would otherwise not serve the association’s best interests. When they decline to act, state law specifically says that they have not rescinded or waived their ability to enforce the same rule later, so long as the boards are not acting in an arbitrary or capricious manner (such as flipping a coin, favoring their friends, etc.).


You should send your community’s board or manager a written complaint that concisely identifies specific examples and individuals. If the board chooses not to act, your remedy is to vote to elect new board members who share your concerns at the next annual meeting. Remember the importance of organizing and exercising your vote.


Where do I go for mediation on my condo matter?

Connecticut law does not presently offer a mediation solution through the Department of Consumer Protection. But mediation may be an excellent path to explore privately if permissible under your bylaws. Try to resolve disputes directly with the board. Communication is often your best course of action.


Tips for Condo Association Board Members

The Connecticut Chapter of the Community Associations Institute offers this guide for community living association board members.


Consider taking a class on Board Member best practices. Some not-for-profit condo association advocacy groups offer


Where can I find suggestions and guidelines for CAM ethical standards?

Under the non-profit section, there are links to organizations that provide education and best-practices training for CAMs.


In Connecticut, do Community Association Managers have to be licensed with the Department of Consumer Protection?

Third party CAMs (private organizations hired by condo association boards) must be credentialed. Prerequisites are education, training and background check. Links to this information may be found here.


Most associations in Connecticut are small and self-managed. Self-managed CAMs do not require licenses.


Relevant Laws Landing site for Connecticut Law on Condos

There are three primary Connecticut laws that govern condos. They are:

Unit Ownership Act (condominiums created before 1977)

Condominium Act (condominiums created from 1977 through 1983)

Common Interest Ownership Act (condominiums formed after December 31, 1983)


In addition, there have been four directly related acts adopted since CIOA:

An Act Concerning Amendments to the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act (summary)

An Act Concerning the Common Interest Ownership Act (summary)


An Act Concerning Certification as a Community Association Manager, Licensure as a Real Estate Broker or Salesperson and the Display of an Object Related to a Religious Practice or Belief on the Door or Door Frame of a Condominium Unit (summary)



Not-for-Profit Community Resources


Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition/

A listing of useful condo terms


Condo Case Studies

  1. Frustrated

I’m very frustrated with my condo association. They don’t do anything for me but take my condo association fees. When the big snow storm hit, I had to plough my own driveway and even dug out the section of the street nearest my property. I’m sick of this. I am going to withhold my common fees until the association starts to show results.

There are various condo association advocacy groups, both local and national, that dedicate themselves to providing advice and insight to condo owners. DCP does not register these associations, but you may search online for ones that are active in your area.

While it may be tempting to withhold common charges, you must understand that your association may respond with action against you that may be detrimental. For example, the association has the right to tell credit agencies of your refusal to pay, which can adversely affect your credit score. The association may also sue you for the unpaid condominium charges.

You are frustrated. Be sure you do everything you can to resolve the matter first. Have you discussed your concern with other condo members? Do they share your frustration? Raise your concerns to a condo association board member. If they are not responsive, document your concerns and forward them formally to the condo association board. You should attend a condo board meeting and voice your concerns to the board. Bring fellow condo owners who share your frustration. Finally, you may need to seek legal counsel and explore whether to bring your matter to court.


  1. Rights

I just got finished speaking with a member of the condo association board about a concern I have. They don’t care. What are my rights? If I sue, who pays for the Condo Board’s defense?

Have you considered running for a seat on the condo board? Consult the board bylaws to learn when terms expire. Perhaps some of your fellow condo owners might like to run, too. In that way, you may be able to win more suitable representation.

Your rights will be found in the Resale Documents.

The Condo Board’s defense is paid out of condo association fees or from insurance purchased from the fees.


  1. Nepotism

I keep noticing that my condo association’s brother, who owns his own landscaping business, is the one who does our association’s landscaping. I went to the last condo association meeting, and I reviewed our landscaping expenses. They are out of sight! I’m sure the board member’s brother got the business only because he’s the board member’s brother, and given how expensive the landscaping is, I wonder if the board member himself is getting some kind of kickback. What can I do?

It might be helpful to investigate what competitors’ services actually cost and present your findings at a condo board meeting if your findings corroborate your suspicions. You might pleasantly surprise the board members with a way to cut costs that benefit the whole community. Or you might create an opportunity to help bring the costs in line with what you’ve found.

Board members may receive compensation for their services on the board, but compensation must be disclosed.


  1. Behind Closed Doors

I see all these changes happening, and none of them is good. I can never find a condo association board member. They hold meetings in secret, they make decisions for the association, and I have no voice in how the association gets managed. What do I do?

First, document your concerns. The condo board is required to meet and to announce when and where its meetings will be held.

Second, have you asked your neighbors if they have information no when and where the association meets? Perhaps the meeting announcements are posted someplace else than where you expect to find the notices.

Next, you and fellow condo owners may wish to consult an attorney. You may wish to ask the attorney to write the condo association a letter on your behalf, stating your concerns and requesting information on the meeting schedule and clarifying that the condo board is required to hold regular, posted meetings that are open to condo members.


  1. Encroachment

My neighbor just decided to build an illegal addition to their condo, and it comes onto my property. I’ve gone to the condo association board, but they haven’t done anything about it. What can I do?

Have you spoken with the other condo owner? Is he or she aware that they’ve built onto your property? Does the condo association agree that there is an encroachment?

If your condo association is in agreement, then it is incumbent upon the association to take action against the violating condo owner. Representatives should first speak with the owner and discuss possible remedies. It may be possible to resolve the problem without further conflict.

Sometimes further action must be taken. The condo association may impose fines against the owner, and in some cases may wish to attach a lien to the condo owner’s property requiring that the problem be fixed upon its sale. Finally, the association may take the owner to court.


  1. Through the Roof

My condo board wants to raise common charges and I don’t think they should. The economy is really bad and it’s harder than ever to make ends meet. I have to live within my means, so why can’t the condo association live within its budget?

These are difficult times, indeed. You’re surely watching your spending more closely than ever. Have you recently reviewed your condo association’s budget? When was the last time your association raised fees? What do you think of the services they purchase on behalf of the ownership? Do you see any ways the condo association might be able to cut costs? Or maybe, like for so many things, costs simply went up.

Review the condo association financials, and work with your condo association on a plan to keep costs steady or to reduce them if possible. You may wish to reach out to board members with your suggestions before the next association meeting. If you’re unable to reach satisfaction, have you considered running for a seat on the board?


  1. Extreme Patriotism

I’m as proud of this country as the next person, but my neighbor really takes her patriotism to an extreme. She has blanketed her condo with flags that disrupt the tranquility of the condo complex. How do I get her to tone it down?

Federal law allows you to put up a flag. However, the condo association determines where it can be placed and how it can be shown. You should check your condo association’s rules on where flags can be flown and explore whether your neighbor is within her rights as defined by your community’s rules. This is true, by the way, for other forms of speech, too, such as the posting of political banners and signage.


  1. Where’s My Car?

I realize that I wasn’t supposed to park my car where it didn’t belong, but did the association really have the right to have it towed?

Whenever personal property is left on community space, there is a process that should be followed. As with community living, however, each community member has a duty to be mindful and respectful of his or her neighbor. Nevertheless, the condo association must first provide notice to the owner of the car (or other personal property). The association may next assess a fine upon the violator. Next, the association should hold a hearing to which the violating member must be noticed. If these steps do not reach resolution, only then may the condo association order towing for the vehicle.



Content Last Modified on 8/26/2013 9:56:24 AM