Q&A: Money for Nothing?

There have been two charges that just appeared on my maintenance statement completely to my surprise. They are small amounts of money, but I wasn't given any prior notice—they were just tacked on to my bill. One was for parking increase and one for "mailing outside of address." When I inquired about this to management, they told me it was for mailing the statement to me for the whole year, but the fee was $15, surely not reflective of postage. So my question is: Can they just tack on fees without letting you know ahead of time? Management says they disagree and it was the board’s decision. I wrote the board president and he never replied. It's a small monetary matter but it irks me. Is this legal?

—Charged in East Orange

“First, as to postage charges, this is normally a general expense that is budgeted and allocated amongst all owners,” says Attorney Scott Piekarsky, a managing member of the law firm of Piekarsky & Associates, LLC in Wyckoff. “Special fees that are only billed to certain owners are normally scheduled and adopted by the board with prior notice. Inquiry may reflect that management is acting with board authorization. Usually such a segregated fee should be adopted via board vote and resolution. I would make an inquiry.

“As to a parking increase, this should have required a board vote and resolution and prior notice to the membership before institution. I would check on this too to make sure the board followed proper protocol. If protocol was not followed, these charges should be reserved.”    

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