All condominium lawyers have “war stories” that they relish telling. In fact, when attorneys gather, you can hear a veritable festival of such war stories. While most community associations operate in an environment that is rather uneventful, learning from the mistakes of those that become fodder for war stories can be instructive to all. I asked Attorney Frank Flynn, the managing partner of Boston’s Downing & Flynn, a law firm specializing in condominium law, to see if he had discerned any behavioral patterns and traps that lead to “war story” creation. Frank came up with five key “behavioral trap” areas.
1. Not Following the Basics, Such as Reading Condominium Documents: Often boards don’t even make an effort to learn the specified procedures for meetings, or their fiscal responsibilities of how to budget and do assessments. At times, even the beneficial interest schedule is not followed. Such uninformed boards don’t follow the condominium documents’ procedures properly, frequently leading to legal problems.
2. Misconduct and Refusal to Pay: This applies to unit owners who refuse to pay the funds they owe, and the collection fees that they are assessed as a result. These homeowners turn a small financial molehill into a mountain, making it much worse all around. They are often so mad at whatever the issue might be that led to the delinquency, that refusal to pay may become an emotional response for them; even when the lawrequiring payment of condominium fees is quoted for them, they just dig in their heels.
Or, it may start out as a financial issue for them that spirals out of control and becomes worse. As part of the misconduct, they refuse to abide by the rules. For instance, a unit owner was running a hotel out of his unit via short-term rentals, enabling hordesof people to come into the property. Unauthorized pets are another perennial matter that leads to unit owner misconduct and citations.
3. Self-Representation: Boards or homeowners often try to engage in litigation on their own, without a lawyer. Then, when things get out of hand, they suddenly become frantic and start looking around for legal representation, a move that usually comes too late to remedy their situation. The adage that “only a fool represents himself” does hold true.