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  1. #11

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

    Quote Quoting jk
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    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. .
    I don’t agree with your analogy because the other owners all bought their units with full knowledge of the costs and rules and by-laws. In contrast, the basement apt. was excluded from the fees because of the value of having a live-in superintendent, and this new “rule” was imposed on her arbitrarily this year, after her employment was terminated.

    Also, the by-laws specifically exclude the basement unit. The new fee evaluation for this unit was created by the Trustees at their discretion.

    Quote Quoting cbg
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    Doesn't sound unreasonable to me. But you'll have to get it past the bylaws first.
    Interesting. Thanks.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    38,734

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



    Also, the by-laws specifically exclude the basement unit. The new fee evaluation for this unit was created by the Trustees at their discretion.

    if the fee is contrary to the bylaws then the board would have to amend the bylaws through proper procedures to change them, unless there is some weird rule that allows them to arbitrarily change them unilaterally at will.


    Something is odd and not making sense with your story. How did she buy this unit and not be assessed fees? Did she start working there and buy the unit at the same time?

    Is this even actually a legal and properly deeded unit?



    This statement by you is incorrect


    She owns the unit, so she can’t be evicted, but charging her fees based on square footage was totally arbitrary.
    if they are using the same formula as they charge anybody else, no, the amount charged is not arbitrary. They are imposing the same fee as they are every other owner so that is not arbitrary

    The charging of the fee itself is what appears to be arbitrary as there is no appears to be no basis for charging the fee.

    you seem to be quite familiar with what is in the bylaws. Are you also an owner or have direct access to the bylaws for some other reason?

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    7,426

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

    Quote Quoting Starr12
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    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.
    She needs to have a lawyer look over the condo documents. She was given a different status while she was employed as the building super, which relieved her of paying condo fees apparently for decades. But that past, and the fact that the area was once described as common area, don't help her because it's apparently now a private apartment like all the others in the building. Unless other owners are free to go in and out of her apartment as they wish it's not a common area now. So it matters what the condo documents say as to how the fees are charged. If all the units are charged based on square foot, then she doesn't have much argument to say she should be charged less. I'd not be surprised that the other units in the building also vary in value based on factors other than just square footage. Yet the fees are not adjusted for the other units based on the difference in market value, are they? If the answer is no, then I think your argument that she should be given a break based on the lower assessed value (and assessed values are usually not good proxies for the real fair market value, by the way) wouldn't fly. In order to give her that, they'd need to reform the condo fee rule to base the fees for everyone on assessed or market value rather than size. If she can get support for that, she might get that change. How much that might change her condo fees is another matter. I don't see it likely that they'd agree to cut her a break and base her fees on a different method than everyone else. That's a formula ripe for discord and discontent in the building.

    But I've not read the condo documents, so I don't know the details of how things work and that matters. She needs a lawyer who has read them to see what options she has.

    Here's the difficult thing, though. Even if she could get a bit lower condo fees, would she still be able to afford living there if her only income is Social Security? Does she have any investment funds to help her pay for things or is the condo the main asset she's got? If money is so tight she could not afford a consultation with a lawyer on this issue, that suggests to me that perhaps just getting the fees reduced isn't going to make the place truly affordable for her. Even if she might get by, she may well be better off living someplace else where real estate taxes, condo fees, and other expenses are much more affordable. Certainly the idea of moving can be daunting for someone her age, especially when she has lived in that apartment here entire life and has never had to move. But sometimes change is necessary and may even be better. She might find a nice place to live that is not in a basement, with more light and access to open air than she has now, for example.

  4. #14

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

    Thanks Taxing Matters. You make some excellent points. If we can get a copy of the most recent bylaws, we can read them over and see what we find. If there’s something there, maybe she can have a one-time consultation with a real estate lawyer just to see if she has any options. Your last point is an important one, though - even if she succeeds in getting the fees lowered, and it’s a long-shot, the fees will still be high, and I don’t know how long she’ll be able to afford living in the building. But she’s never lived anywhere else, and this all happened pretty abruptly, so she’s dealing with a lot of hurt and anger, and I thought I’d see if my idea to pursue this with a lawyer was valid or maybe off-base. Thanks again.

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    7,426

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

    Quote Quoting Starr12
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    Your last point is an important one, though - even if she succeeds in getting the fees lowered, and it’s a long-shot, the fees will still be high, and I don’t know how long she’ll be able to afford living in the building. But she’s never lived anywhere else, and this all happened pretty abruptly, so she’s dealing with a lot of hurt and anger, and I thought I’d see if my idea to pursue this with a lawyer was valid or maybe off-base. Thanks again.
    Of course her hurt and anger are things that shouldn't just be brushed off; she'll need to work through those emotions to reach a place where she can get past that and decide on how to move forward, hopefully without those emotions clouding her views. I'm not going to pretend this is easy. It's often hard for people that age to make changes, especially big ones like moving to a different place to live. For her especially so since she has lived in the same place for all her life. Maybe she won't need to move, but hopefully if she does need to move to a more affordable place she'll be at least somewhat open to it if she has some good support to help her with it. Moving is stressful even if you aren't nearly 80. I've moved a number of times, the last time just last year. I hate the actual process of moving, but it helps to focus on the end result: that you'll be in a place that is better for you than before.

    She certainly should at least see what options she has to remain in her present place. In the meantime, it might be good to start looking at what other living options she might have. She's probably never ever done that, and perhaps when she starts looking she might find there are places she might like better anyway that are more affordable. She'll never know if she doesn't look. Maybe she can find a place nearer relatives or friends. That would give her support and deal with one of the biggest problems older people face but that is only recently been getting more attention — loneliness. If she has no friends in the building where she is now, maybe moving to a building with a community where she might make friends would be good. There are lots of things to think about.

  6. #16

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

    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
    View Post
    Of course her hurt and anger are things that shouldn't just be brushed off; she'll need to work through those emotions to reach a place where she can get past that and decide on how to move forward, hopefully without those emotions clouding her views. I'm not going to pretend this is easy. It's often hard for people that age to make changes, especially big ones like moving to a different place to live. For her especially so since she has lived in the same place for all her life. Maybe she won't need to move, but hopefully if she does need to move to a more affordable place she'll be at least somewhat open to it if she has some good support to help her with it. Moving is stressful even if you aren't nearly 80. I've moved a number of times, the last time just last year. I hate the actual process of moving, but it helps to focus on the end result: that you'll be in a place that is better for you than before.

    She certainly should at least see what options she has to remain in her present place. In the meantime, it might be good to start looking at what other living options she might have. She's probably never ever done that, and perhaps when she starts looking she might find there are places she might like better anyway that are more affordable. She'll never know if she doesn't look. Maybe she can find a place nearer relatives or friends. That would give her support and deal with one of the biggest problems older people face but that is only recently been getting more attention — loneliness. If she has no friends in the building where she is now, maybe moving to a building with a community where she might make friends would be good. There are lots of things to think about.
    A very thoughtful reply. Thank you. Fortunately, she has friends and family (one son and grandchildren), but the *moving* part is what’s hard. (And the financial part, of course). Change is hard for everyone, but especially when you’re at a certain age, and when that change is imposed on you and part of a raw deal. But I’ll discuss all of this with her, and I appreciate the advice. Thanks again.

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