Elderly can vote themselves a say in condo policy

MAILBAG

October 03, 1999

Dear Mr. Azrael:

I am a senior citizen living on a fixed income. I purchased a condominium about 15 years ago. I still have a mortgage and pay a condominium fee, which over the years has been steadily increased. In addition, I have paid several assessments over the years.

Now, again, my board of directors has voted for and passed another assessment.

I feel extremely strapped to pay this assessment. I made my position clear to the board and was told that I could pay it off over several months. This, however, still presents a hardship.

Can I be held liable by the board's suggested terms to pay this assessment.

Bill Millen, Pikesville

Dear Mr. Millen:

My heart goes out to elder citizens such as you who have to stretch their fixed incomes to meet ever-increasing condominium dues and assessments.

Unfortunately, you are often at the mercy of your condominium's board of directors.

The condo directors have the responsibility and duty to fix an annual budget that is sufficient to pay all the continuing expenses of the condominium, including a reserve for major repairs and improvements, such as a new roof or redecorating the common areas.

If the reserves are insufficient, the board has the power to assess each unit owner for his or her share of these major expenses.

You objected to the latest assessment, and the board granted a limited concession, allowing you to pay the assessment over several months.

If you and enough other unit owners think the board is extravagant, spending too much money on unnecessary improvements, you can nominate your own candidates to become board members and "vote the big-spending rascals out."

Your condominium declaration and bylaws should explain if there are any limits on the amount or frequency of assessments. The bylaws will also specify how to nominate candidates for board membership.

The more you get involved in your condominium association, the more your financially conservative views will become known and respected.

If senior citizens like you can elect members of Congress, they can certainly elect members of condominium boards who will be more considerate of the limited finances of elder residents.

Questions?

The Sun invites you to send real estate questions to Mailbag. Questions are answered by Jonathan A. Azrael of Azrael, Gann and Franz of Towson.

Questions -- including name, address and daytime telephone number -- may be sent in the following ways:

Mailing address: Real Estate Mailbag, Fifth Floor, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278-0001. Fax: 410-783-2517. E-mail: real.estate@baltsun.com

Call our Sundial audio-response number, 410-783-1800. Enter code 6170.

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