QA&: Cluttered Condo Unit?

ouse level which has six apartments and a lobby level with nine  apartments. As I was walking by my neighbor’s apartment, the door opened and I noticed an abundance of folders, newspapers  and both women's and men's clothing scattered across the room reaching halfway  upward towards the 12-foot ceiling. There appeared to be a small pathway they  could walk from the area near their windows and their apartment door. There’s nothing in our proprietary lease that says an owner could be evicted for  creating a fire hazard or potential roach and rodent problem but could the  board decide to reprimand them if this was brought to their attention? Is there  anything in law that addresses a potentially hazardous situation such as this?  

 —Concerned in Clinton  

A “Although this question indicates that the issue arises in a condominium and it  also references that there is proprietary lease which is applicable in a co-op.  Though, there are differences from a legal perspective in the form of ownership  for condominium and a co-op, the general principles of governance apply to both  forms of community associations,” explains attorney Janet Aronson of the law firm of Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, P.C. in Braintree, MA.  

 “Based upon the question, there is a question as to whether the unit, which  appears to have substantial debris, is being maintained in a safe, sanitary and  satisfactory manner. Both condominiums and co-ops, in their respective  documents, have certain maintenance obligations that are imposed upon owners.  Typically, the documents contain provisions regarding the maintenance and  upkeep of the unit. In this case, as there may be a question as to whether the  unit is being maintained in accordance with such obligations, the potential  infraction should be reported to the board. Additionally, aside from the  obligations contained in the underlying documents, the condition of the unit  may also trigger the application of the state’s Sanitary Code.  

 “Therefore, it is important for the board to be informed of the concern about the  unit, so that the board may evaluate and take any and all appropriate steps to  address the condition. “Generally, the documents do give the board broad powers to address infractions  through the use of fines, rights of access to units and/or the authority to  bring a legal action to seek a court order to enforce an owner’s obligation. In addition to such remedies, there is typically a right of the  association to recover its legal costs and expenses or any charges incurred by  the association as a result of the violation, such as cleanup costs. All such  charges can be assessed to the owner and constitute a lien upon the unit until  paid.  

 “Clearly, the importance of keeping the board apprised of concerns, particularly  those related to health and safety, cannot be overemphasized. It allows the  board to be forewarned and helps them to be forearmed in the administration of  the association in the best interests of all owners.”