Last night was horrible. From next door loud, crazy music all night long. Called the front desk for the third time, at 2 am. “Not too bad,” said security when he arrived at my door, though finally agreeing sleep might be tough if not impossible.
Said I, “Why don’t you knock on the door and tell them to STOP IT?” Said he, “I did that the first two times,” but he promised to again “document” our complaint.
Not a fun night, and not the first time. What kind of crazy people are these? They’d just moved into the unit next door. Lucky us! We’d already spoken to others on our floor and the one above. Sure enough, some of them had also complained.
What does it take for the board and management to take care of this? I’m paying a lot of money to live here, the assessments are always going up, and now it’s turning into hell. I’m angry and I’m not going to take it anymore. Call the police or go to court?
Next day I phoned the office to find out what was going on. Turns out a lot was going on, and I’m really pleased with the outcome of that call.
Our neighbor had already received two Letters of Warning about previous noise disturbances, as well as a Notice of Violations stating possible fines but offering the opportunity to explain herself by attending a Rules & Regulations Committee meeting.
The woman had accepted the invitation and would soon meet with the committee. Management wouldn’t tell me exactly when, nor would I be allowed to “testify” against her. But my complaints had in fact been documented and been passed along to the committee. After hearing her side of the story, the committee would make a recommendation to the board.
I attended the next board meeting and, sure enough, a discussion had already occurred in closed session (so as not to violate privacy rights) about two “excessive and repeated” noise violations. Back in open session then, the board voted to fine the offenders – without identifying them – $250 and $100 respectively.
Which fine, if either, went against my neighbor? The board wouldn’t tell! It’s considered a private matter between the association and the violator. The point of the deliberation and fine is to stop objectionable behavior and to discourage future occurrences .. not to punish, embarrass or impose a financial burden.
Frankly, a part of me wishes my neighbor had been identified and embarrassed. But the upshot of this experience was, for me, a newfound respect for the Rules & Regulations Committee.
The Bigger Picture
Two governing documents underpin the committee’s work. Both can be seen under the Library tab on our website, www.ptcondo.com.
The Declaration (Section 13) speaks to the issue of violations, with penalties up to and including repossession of units. Our Rules & Regulations, contained in a handbook by that name, provide for implementation and are revised from time-to-time to reflect current conditions.
Frequently, the warning letters and notices sent by management are enough to put an end to the violation. When not, the matter is referred to the Rules & Regulations Committee.
The committee meets once a month and in private. Current members are Laura Cossa, Vince DiFruscio, and Carlos Vargas. Chuck O’Bringer is chair. Board liaison Michael Parrie attends to take notes and guide the committee, then presents the motions at board meetings to assess fines.
The committee queries and listens to unit owners accused of violating our rules, then makes recommendations to the board. The board, in turn, discusses each case in closed session, moves and votes for fines or other corrective action in open session. The board always makes the final decision.
In my interview with them, committee members emphasized their efforts to be cooperative and provide leniency. A previously-scheduled meeting with the committee may be rescheduled once if necessary. If out of town, an owner may converse with the committee via speakerphone. A schedule of fines assures fairness, relating to the seriousness of the offense and how quickly it is resolved.
The maximum fine is $1,000 and is reserved for the most serious violations. An example is the rental cap violation where, after warnings, a unit owner is fined $1000/month until the rental ends. More common violations, such as odors, noise, and failure to purchase rental insurance meet with lesser penalties.
Of Special Note
When renters or guests are the offenders, it will be the unit owner who is held responsible and fined. It’s up to that unit owner to get that fine reimbursed by his tenant or guest.
Fines may be appealed to the board, but that’s as far as an owner can go within our internal system. Should the police be called or a lawsuit initiated, those actions take the situation outside our internal system, and Park Tower no longer has jurisdiction.
Committee members are recommended by the chair and appointed by the board. Qualifications have mostly to do with familiarity with association documents and manner of operations. (Three of the current members are former board members, and the fourth served on the committee in past years.)
The committee is expected to provide a neutral point of view separate from board and from management. Whereas many condo associations expect their boards to function in this capacity, our system provides this additional layer of independence and objectivity.
Finally, and above all in this committee, its members are expected to preserve privacy and confidentiality.
Rules and regulations are intended to make Park Tower a pleasant place to live. We attend a mandatory Welcome Committee meeting when we move in, at which time we learn about them, sign off on having received a hard copy, and agree to live by them.
The committee engages at the enforcement level – a thankless job – and we owe its members tremendous gratitude. When at the end of our interview I asked what wisdom they’d like to share, they answered in near unison..
“Be considerate of your neighbors.”
I am grateful to Michael Parrie, Tim Patricio, Laura Cossa, Vince DiFruscio, Chuck O’Bringer and Carlos Vargas for their help in putting together this article.