Other owners in small condo building will not make improvements

7 Replies

I have owned a condominium in a small 5 unit building in Seattle since 2012. My condo is 2 bedrooms and the other units are all 1 bedroom. The neighborhood where my condo is had increased in value during the past few years, as has my condo. I have great incentive to make improvements to increase my property value, but the owners of the 1 bedroom units do not feel the same way. Instead, they do not want to make improvements or do necessary maintenance. When I bought the unit in 2012 all of the windows on the building had not been replaced since 1980. I replaced all of my windows and one other owner replaced their windows a year later. However, we cannot get the other 3 owners to replace their old aluminum windows that are almost 40 years old and in bad shape. All of their windows have rusting security bars that are not necessary in our neighborhood. The owners say they need them because the aluminum windows do not lock. These security bars do not open or unlock, and area fire hazard, but the other do not want to replace the bars or remove them because that means they have to pay for new windows or new bars. Security bars that do not unlock are also not up to Fire code in Seattle. Our declaration and HOA documents state that all owners will pay for their own windows for their unit, but it does not say that they must do so at a specific time. Yes, the documents should have stated this information when they were created in 1980, but unfortunately they did not, and changing them requires a 60% vote. Even though I own 40% of the building, I would need another owner to agree, which as been impossible. Does anyone have any advice on this topic? I would really appreciate it.

@Darren Johnson this may be over simplifying it but if a 60% is required to get a change why not buy another unit if/when it comes on the market? This very scenario is why I sold my condos. I understand your frustration, good luck.

agree with prior post.   

If your 2br unit qualifies as 40% then each remaining 1br unit must qualify as 15% assuming they are all equal size/value.    So you would have to buy two of the remaining units to get over 60%.

From what you describe unless you are in a high demand location the size/condition of those other units suggest you might be able to make a fair market offer that might not break the bank  (knowing nothing about your own finances of course) especially since the housing market has slowed down a bit right now in seattle,  though of course some areas and segments are more affected than others.

How much do you know about the other owners?    Do they owner occupy or rent out those units?   Elderly, younger,  or ? Do they have the resources to make the upgrades if required to?  Might they refuse to cooperate even if you did succeed in changing the rules?    If you can figure out what they want/need/motivates them you might be able to tailor offers to make them more appealing.  

It would be a bigger leap but maybe you should be figuring out how to make a buyout offer to everybody,   contingent on everybody agreeing.   I have no idea how often that succeeds.     If you can't swing it maybe find/convince some like minded local partners to make offers on those units,    with agreement of course to support necessary building updates.   You could turn it around as an escape hatch and let investors know that you would be willing to sell your unit to anybody who also purchases another unit(s) in the building.    

@Darren Johnson curious as to what happened in your situation? I have a similar situation. Our HOA consists of members that are owners in an 11 unit building. Two of us are on the board and the only ones that do the work of helping maintain the community, collect dues, pay bills etc. Whenever we have meetings most owners don't attend. when we vote on increases and special assessments, its met with resistance. Owners are lazy and don't participate yet have comments when its time to criticize and have expectations the the "HOA" do something about it.

@Rodney Sums I managed to get 2 other owners in my building (out of 5) to see the need for updates. We are able to out vote the other owners who do not want to do the updates. With our majority vote we raised the HOA dues and started doing work. The other two owners complained at first. They threatened to sell, but would not take an any offers and never put their places on the market (after learning that they would probably need to renovate their own interior spaces if they wanted to sell their units for a price that would allow them to purchase something else). They finally stopped complaining. One thing to note - one of them did not want to do any work to the building because they were afraid their property tax would go up. These two owners have been living in the building since 1982. If you can get a majority (or whatever % your HOA requires for a majority vote) to agree with you, then the other owners will have to go along with that vote. You may have legal options. If an owner is not actually paying their dues, then you could check your documents to see what you can do about it. You may be able to seize property - and if you don't want to go to that extreme, even suggesting that may happen, may persuade them. You say that most owners don't attend meetings. You may be able to have a vote with only the owners who attend - check your documents. You might want to also consider creating a Board and letting those people make all of the decisions. Yes, that will require a vote by other owners, but many may agree if they think it means they won't have to do anything. They may not realize that you are going to raise their dues, but if that is what it takes to get that place. What is going on can be a typical problem with smaller buildings. If you don't have comprehensive Bylaws, I suggest creating them. Once in place, they will need a majority vote, but you may find that many of the other Owners vote yes without even reading the documents. One other issue is that if a lack of repairs appear that they could create a code violation, then you could use that as a way to do the work before a violation occurs. If you find out how much a code violation may cost the HOA, then that would be something other owners could not get out of paying if you were hit with it. My building does not allow dogs and one of the owners who does not want to make changes threatened to move out when another owner suggested he needed to get two dogs that are legally ESAs. Good luck!

@Darren Johnson

Good job on that! We followed our CC&Rs, had a meeting to vote, didn't have enough for a quorum, offered everyone a chance to vote by mail or email before the next vote 30 days from that date....which by the way the second attempt to vote cuts the number of votes needed to pass assessments in half.  3 of us which are board members voted in favor, we needed 2 more votes to get the required percentage of ELIGIBLE votes, I called two other owners and they voted yes.  some didn't vote, some were behind on dues and couldn't vote.  One owner decided, once we passed it, to go to our attorney, pay their balance, and try and vote no because they're selling....likely trying to kick the problem down the road to the buyer later.  Too bad for them because they can't sell without those new assessments showing up on the condo questionairre LOL!!

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

We hate spam just as much as you