It’s Friday at 6 p.m. and your workweek has finally come to an end. Thirty minutes spent with your favorite news anchor while going nowhere on a treadmill, a quick shower, a shave and spritz of cologne and a change of clothes later, you’re ready to meet your friends for dinner and drinks when, on your way out, you spy the envelope that has been slipped under your door.
“Hmmm,” you think aloud, “should I open it? After all, who shoves a note under the door anymore? Was it there when I came in? Did someone get my mail by mistake and is kindly returning it? Could it be a note from that cute guy down the hall?”
As your curiosity gets the best of you, you pick up the envelope, tear it open, unfold the letter inside and there it is.
“Dear Unit Owner,” the note reads, “It has come to our attention that you are in direct violation of Paragraph 10, Part D, Section 2, subsection (f) of the condominium association rules and regulations. Accordingly, you must cease and desist within the next 30 days or a fine will be forthcoming.
“Failure to adhere to this notice or to pay said fine may result in something terribly embarrassing or financially debilitating happening to you, including but not limited to ejecting you from your residence with the help of my Uncle Guido and his steroid-laden associates. Have a nice day.
Sincerely, Your Condominium Board President.”
“*$%*&! (translation: I don’t care about) your stinkin’ rules,” you shout at the door. “You’re not the boss of me!”
Oh yeah? When was the last time you read your condominium documents?
In the D.C. metropolitan area, when you’re under contract to purchase a residence governed by a homeowners’ or condominium association, the seller of the property must give you a set of documents known as a Resale Package or, in the case of new construction, a Public Offering Statement (POS). You then have a limited amount of time to review the contents of the package and opt out of the contract if you discover something you find problematic.
The following documents will normally be included.
The resale certificate serves as a cover sheet or summary of information, most notably, the monthly fees, delinquencies among the ownership, a description of any litigation the association is facing and a list of board officers.
The financial statement includes the previous and current year’s budgets, anticipated capital expenses or special assessments and the amount of reserve funds available for the future, as well as any other documents attesting to the financial stability of the association.
The insurance certificate provides the name of the master insurance carrier, the amount of insurance for the building and grounds and general information about the policy that will be needed by your lender. Don’t confuse this with your requirement to obtain homeowner’s insurance on your property and its contents.
The articles of incorporation show how an association is structured and when it was recorded in the appropriate courthouse. These articles are usually prepared by a law firm when a housing complex is conceived and form the basis for the association as a legal entity.
The by-laws are procedures to be followed in governing the association, such as how elections are held, the duties of each board officer and the formation of committees to handle the association’s business. There may be amendments added over the years, so read them all the way to the end.
Finally, the rules and regulations are of prime importance as they will tell you what you can and can’t do on the premises without incurring a penalty of some sort.
So if you want to know that you can keep three dogs and two cats, remove that wall between the kitchen and the dining room, grill steaks on the Juliette balcony, rent your place out as a short-term hotel suite and dance the flamenco on your hardwood floors at midnight while playing Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” at an ear-splitting decibel, consult your association’s rule book before Uncle Guido’s cohorts show up at your front door.
Valerie M. Blake is with Keller Williams Realty; each office is independently owned and operated. Equal Housing Opportunity. Reach her at 202-246-8602 or Valerie@DCHomeQuest.com.