Avoiding Legal Nightmares Have No Fear

We all have nightmares. Whether it's hungry sharks nipping at our feet or shadowy figures lurking in the woods, there will always be things that wake us in the middle of the night. If you're a co-op or condo owner, manager or board member, your nightmares may be a bit more specific; perhaps they involve feuding board members, or contractors gone awry, or worst of all, a tangled web of litigation that gets more snarled the more you try to free yourself.

These legal nightmares are even scarier when they land on your doorstep for real. If not dealt with properly, disagreements or arguments between neighbors or board members can escalate, eventually landing before a judge and causing a world of financial and emotional hurt.

No matter how grisly the tale, though, there are almost always ways in which it could have been avoided. And for every bad experience—at least in the real estate world—there's usually a lesson to be learned.

Tales from the Co-op/Condo Crypt

You would think that new buildings would be less prone to legal nightmares than their older counterparts. After all, people are just moving in, the paint is still fresh, the board members are collegially learning the ropes side by side. The truth is that the newness factor in and of itself can be the root cause of a variety of potentially litigious issues.

Attorney Adam Leitman Bailey of Adam Leitman Bailey PC in Manhattan has seen some of the trouble that can arise when building communities first come together. He represented a Tribeca condo erected by a first-time builder. After the residents moved in, problems began to arise almost immediately. The boiler didn't work and there was no cold water. The roof was leaking, causing water to drain into multimillion-dollar properties, destroying hardwood floors and making life unbearable for those who lived there. And because the building was new, there was a brand-new board in charge—the members of which were about to get a hardcore initiation into handling bad situations.


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  • My community was one of the first condominium communities in my state. Our governing documents are a sham and nothing "connects the dots"...the HOA lost a Summary Judgment motion in court to collect past due fees because the judge agreed they may NOT have authority to collect!!!! What does our "Management" suggest? Let's litigate!!!!! WTF??? BTW...there is no litigation fund...so it means the homeowners must bear the cost...instead of negotiating a new set of governing documents and explaining to the homeowners that someone F?%$#@ED up.! We have no reserves and the "Management" has levied us for "special assessments" every year for 5 years to cover up for the fact no one was paying attention for the last 25 years. Our monthly dues have doubled in 5 years as well...while our property values have fallen to 50% of what they were 3 years ago. The property management (Mrs. P is our property manager...and Mr P. is our landscaping contractor. Mr. P was the original developers nephew. This husband and wife pair collect over $300,000 between them from homeowners...and never once have either contract been bid against.) seems to be running the show here...NOT the Trustees and the homeowners!!!! Because these two "contractors" have been here for 18 years....and she runs the show...you better not get on their bad side. If you do...watch out! Every infraction they can drum up becomes a fine....while your neighbors who always vote YES do as they please. My advice? NEVER buy into a condo.....you can't govern a bunch of bullies.
  • my managment dept at the codo office made me remove a pond I had on limited common it was there for 12 years I removed it Then I was billed 4000 dollars in legal fee with a lien now on my unit never will i live in a condo again