Q&A: No Service? No Fees!

Q I live in a condo that I own. Lately, our elevator has been stalling and making scary noises for two months. Are we as condo owners entitled to withhold our monthly fees until our management fixes the problem? They’ve been unresponsive so far to our phone calls and written requests. Is it legal for a homeowner to withhold payment of condo fees because the association is not providing services?

-Burlington Unit Owner

A “While this may not be what unit owners want to hear, the answer is generally no,” says David Dahan of the Marlton, New Jersey-based law firm of Parker McCay. “Unit owners have an obligation to pay their share of common expenses under the New Jersey Condominium Act (the “Act”) and, typically, under the master deed and/or bylaws. An association also has an obligation to repair common elements such as elevators. However, the obligation of unit owners to pay fees is not contingent on the association making repairs to the common elements. This means that, generally, unit owners must still pay monthly fees despite any failure on the part of an association to make timely repairs.

“Therefore, the question becomes: “Well then, what do I do?” Unit owners should identify the problem in a letter to the association and clearly state that if the problem is not remedied within a certain number of days, the unit owners will take legal action to compel it to do so. If the association does not respond or the response is not satisfactory, the unit owners may commence legal action. In the meantime, try to gather as many unit owners as possible to attend meetings of the Board of Trustees and complain about the problem in numbers.”

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