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  1. #1

    Default Can a Basement Apt. (Condo) Be Charged the Same Assoc. Fees As Other Units

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: Massachusetts

    I live in a condominium building, and Im asking a question on behalf of the (former) superintendent of the building. She has lived in the building her whole life, and I believe she was the buildings super her entire adult life (shes now close to 80 y.o.). This past year, the Trustees ended her employment and hired a property management company to take over. She owns the apartment she lives in, and now that shes no longer the super, the Trustees have told her she has to start paying monthly condo fees and periodic assessments like all other unit owners (she never had to pay previously- I believe it was part of her salary).

    The condo fees and assessments for each unit owner are based on square footage, and are quite substantial. She was given a very small severance payment and now lives on social security, and will likely not be able to afford living in the building for longer than another year. Putting aside how badly I feel she was treated, my question focuses on the condo association fees: her apartment is in the basement, and it seems to me that calculating her fees on square footage, without taking the basement location into consideration, is unfair or wrong. The unit right above hers (same size) is assessed over $200k more in the citys property database, as are all the other same or similarly-sized units in the building (again, due to higher floors vs. basement location), and Im thinking this should be factored into the equation.

    I advised her to talk to a lawyer about whether or not she could challenge the high fees/square footage issue, but shes reluctant to do so since money is so tight. I thought Id come here and see if anyone has any ideas or thinks she might have a case.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    Default Re: Can a Basement Apt. (Condo) Be Charged the Same Assoc. Fees As Other Units

    Obviously they CAN do it if they ARE doing it.

    Whether they are doing it rightly or wrongly will be answered by reading her CC&Rs.

    Unfortunately, though, I suspect that she has to pay the fees as charged just like everybody else regardless of being in the basement or how much the apartment is assessed for.

    If she can't afford a lawyer or she can't afford the fees, she may have to resign herself to selling the place and moving somewhere more financially reasonable.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    Default Re: Can a Basement Apt. (Condo) Be Charged the Same Assoc. Fees As Other Units

    A question to you;

    why would you believe the association fees should be any less for a basement condo if the fees are based on square footage, as long as her per square foot assessment compares with others?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Can a Basement Apt. (Condo) Be Charged the Same Assoc. Fees As Other Units

    Quote Quoting jk
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    A question to you;

    why would you believe the association fees should be any less for a basement condo if the fees are based on square footage, as long as her per square foot assessment compares with others?
    Because the basement unit was always considered a common area* until this past year when her employment as the building’s superintendent was terminated. She owns the unit, so she can’t be evicted, but charging her fees based on square footage was totally arbitrary. The Trustees could have made up any rule (or charged her any amount for monthly fees) as the basement apt. no longer being considered a common area* was a completely new thing.

    (*”Common area” might not be technically correct - the Condominium By-Laws refers to it as “common element” or “common facilities.”

    Also, I’m not sure if I’m following the second part of your sentence, but just to clarify - her unit is assessed at a significantly lower valuation than the other units in the building (at the same size) due to its basement location.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Can a Basement Apt. (Condo) Be Charged the Same Assoc. Fees As Other Units

    Quote Quoting Starr12
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    Because the basement unit was always considered a common area* until this past year when her employment as the building’s superintendent was terminated. She owns the unit, so she can’t be evicted, but charging her fees based on square footage was totally arbitrary. The Trustees could have made up any rule (or charged her any amount for monthly fees) as the basement apt. no longer being considered a common area* was a completely new thing.

    (*”Common area” might not be technically correct - the Condominium By-Laws refers to it as “common element” or “common facilities.”

    Also, I’m not sure if I’m following the second part of your sentence, but just to clarify - her unit is assessed at a significantly lower valuation than the other units in the building (at the same size) due to its basement location.
    A common area? How does a privately owned condo unit ever get viewed as a common area or common element??

    If it was under private ownership, it was never a common area nor common element or common facility. She may have used her home where it appeared to be whatever but since she was a private owner she had the right and authority to control the area as she desired.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Can a Basement Apt. (Condo) Be Charged the Same Assoc. Fees As Other Units

    Quote Quoting jk
    View Post
    A common area? How does a privately owned condo unit ever get viewed as a common area or common element??

    If it was under private ownership, it was never a common area nor common element or common facility. She may have used her home where it appeared to be whatever but since she was a private owner she had the right and authority to control the area as she desired.
    I’m not sure, but that’s how it’s referred to in the By-Laws. Even though she has owned the unit for approx. 40 years, she was never obligated to pay monthly condo fees or intermittent special assessments. This started after the new management co. took over and her employment was ended. I certainly understand that she’s now a unit owner like the rest of us, with the accompanying financial responsibilities, but it appears so grossly unfair to base the amount solely on square footage when the basement unit is in a uniquely lesser condition and valuation. Again, this is a brand-new issue for the building.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Can a Basement Apt. (Condo) Be Charged the Same Assoc. Fees As Other Units

    Starr, this is a sincere question.

    What do YOU think would be a fair way to evaluate it?

  8. #8

    Default Re: Can a Basement Apt. (Condo) Be Charged the Same Assoc. Fees As Other Units

    Quote Quoting cbg
    View Post
    Starr, this is a sincere question.

    What do YOU think would be a fair way to evaluate it?
    Sure. I think something like this: use the square footage calculation, minus x amount to take into account the basement location. The x amount could be based on the assessed valuations of the same-size units in the building. So if the assessed value of the basement apt. is 25% less than the average assessed value of the other units, then regular fee based on square footage minus 25%.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Can a Basement Apt. (Condo) Be Charged the Same Assoc. Fees As Other Units

    The fees can be calculated using a variety of methods; square footage, millage (percentage of value), flat fee or anything else the coa board and members agree to. Once any method is put in place it is inherently unfair to others paying their fees in full while some person is given a discount. I see absolutely no reason she should be given a discount. Once you start that, somebody else will come up with an excuse they too should be given a discount. Maybe one unit has horrible views while another has a very picturesque view of a river. Maybe one unit has fewer windows and simply has less view. Maybe those above ground floor should be assessed at a greater rate because, well, they are further from the basement and more sought after.

    Sorry but im not buying it. To be fair she should pay based on square footage and at the same rate as everybody else in the group.

    If you want a different means to determine fees you willl have to change the bylaws of the association. Without doing that her fees will not be decreased. Better yet, they can’t unless the board approves such an amendment to the bylaws.


    Here is where we find out how much people are willing to help the lady:

    take up a collection from all those that believe the lady is paying too much and pay her fees for her. Most times you find people willing to be vocal but when it comes down to actually backing up what they say, they decide maybe it is fair the way it is.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Can a Basement Apt. (Condo) Be Charged the Same Assoc. Fees As Other Units

    Quote Quoting Starr12
    View Post
    Sure. I think something like this: use the square footage calculation, minus x amount to take into account the basement location. The x amount could be based on the assessed valuations of the same-size units in the building. So if the assessed value of the basement apt. is 25% less than the average assessed value of the other units, then regular fee based on square footage minus 25%.
    Doesn't sound unreasonable to me. But you'll have to get it past the bylaws first.

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