Owner seeks accommodation for navigating dark stairwell

Q: I am a senior citizen with Parkinson's disease, which seriously compromises my sense of balance. I own a first-floor unit in a three-story walk-up condominium building. The back stairwell provides the only access to the laundry room and storage room and is a little dark during the day, so I requested that the light (which is on a timer) be left on 24/7 instead of the hours of about 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.

I offered to pay the difference in the building's electric bill; however, the board of the association refused my request. What are my rights in this situation?

A: The federal Fair Housing Amendments Act applies to condominium associations, requiring an association make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. Accommodations must also be necessary and reasonable in nature. The FHAA, under certain circumstances, allows a unit owner with a disability to modify common elements, at his or her cost, as a reasonable accommodation.

The FHAA would not require the association leave its lights on 24/7, but the FHAA might allow you to modify the common elements, at your cost, to install a light sensor or add an additional light switch that would be more convenient for you.

Q: We are a master association of eight associations. The board relies on the management company to seek competitive quotes for repair work. We recently discovered that of three quotes provided for a particular project, two companies were no longer in business and the third company was a preferred vendor of the management company. What avenues should we pursue?

A: While curious that an association management company would provide quotes from vendors out of business, it is possible that a reasonable explanation exists. The issue here appears to be lack of trust more than legal in nature. Legally speaking, the board should request additional quotes until it is satisfied with the quotes received.

As far as addressing trust issues, the board is best served to arrange a meeting with the management company to discuss the process the management company employs for soliciting vendor quotes, and other relevant trust issues.

Q: It is my understanding that condo unit owners may sue a board of directors for breach of fiduciary duty for actions that violate the Condominium Act or the governing documents. But short of such a lawsuit, is there any government entity to which a unit owner can lodge a complaint due to the actions of the board? Is a willful violation of the Condominium Act a criminal act or just a civil matter, even when there is no monetary relief sought?

A: There is no government entity overseeing the administration of condominium associations that accepts complaints for the performance (or lack thereof) of a board of directors. The specific facts of violations of the Condominium Act or governing documents dictate whether a crime has occurred.

For instance, theft of association funds (embezzlement) would constitute a criminal act. But if unit owners complain that a board is not fulfilling its obligations under the governing documents and want to seek legal redress, such actions by the board do not amount to a criminal act but are possibly a breach of fiduciary duty, which is a chancery matter to be brought before a court of equity where the property is located.

ctc-realestate@tribune.com

Featured Stories

Advertisement

PLAN AHEAD

Top Trending Videos