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06/16/2017 : This condo owner pays fees for a money-losing garage and doesn’t even own a car

By Benny L. Kass

June 16, 2017

I live in a condo with 150 different units. Our assessments are based on our square footage. Residents can pay a monthly rent for parking spaces, while guests pay by the hour to park in the garage.

Our assessments are high. The garage loses $90,000 a year. Instead of raising the rates on parking, our board chooses to pay the loss by taking it out of our assessments.

I asked the board why we are losing money, and they blame it on the union. They say every attendant must be a union member. I believe we have one attendant each eight­hour period. I don't have a car, and feel I am paying for a privilege that my neighbors are taking advantage of.

My question: Since everything else is based on square footage, is it fair or right that I have to contribute so much money to a garage that is losing money?

By the way, I feel that the monthly parking is under charged. - Mimi

From your question, it is clear you are not directly paying the monthly rent for parking. However, if the condo is losing money each year, then there is an indirect payment from you and all other owners. And I question the "union" response.

Just because you don't have a car does not mean you don't have to contribute to the overall expenses of the association. I am always reminded of the unit owner who lived on the first floor and objected to paying for elevator repairs because he never used the elevator.

Keep in mind that a condominium association does not own anything. Each owner has a percentage interest assigned to their unit, and thus owns that percentage in the common elements, including the garage.

Have you discussed your concerns with other unit owners - whether or not they park in the garage? I suspect, however, those owners who park are happy they don't have to pay a lot of money for the privilege of using the garage.

In fact, I wonder whether the board members themselves park in the garage, and thus are purposely keeping the monthly fee low. If that's the case, that is a clear case of breach of fiduciary duty.

I understand that garage attendants may be union members, but that does not excuse the board from taking all necessary steps

- including perhaps dropping the number of attendants and/or raising the parking fees for owners as well as daily renters.

In my opinion, it is unconscionable for the garage to lose so much money. If the board does not address the problem, you really only have a couple of alternatives: Try to get elected to the board so you can have some influence; sell your unit and move out; or just accept the situation and put up with it.

You can also try to mount a campaign to "throw the rascals out," but you will need majority support in the entire complex. That may be difficult since those with cars may not be willing to support your efforts.

Benny L. Kass is a Washington and Maryland lawyer. This column is not legal advice and should not be acted upon without obtaining legal counsel. Send questions to [email protected]

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