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Dear PoPville – Condo Management Question

by Prince Of Petworth April 18, 2012 at 2:30 pm 22 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Nikoo’s Photos

Dear PoPville,

I live in a condo building (renovated row house) with 4 units. Each unit pays a monthly condo fee, but there are also two parking spaces behind the building that the developer chose to keep and rent out. These spaces are hard to get to because of the way our “backyard” is fenced in, and they are just gravel, so the area has become overrun with weeds. Sometimes there are random cars (and once a boat) parked there. At one time the developer almost sold the spaces to a construction company so they could put up a toolshed. We live in a neighborhood where finding parking is not an issue, so spaces are not high in demand (unless you haven’t registered your car in DC).

Per our condo documents, these two spaces owe a monthly condo fee of $25 each; however, he has not been paying it. Our condo association has made numerous attempts to collect the fees over the years, even resorting to sending letters from a lawyer, but that does not seem to faze him. We also explored other options such as forcing a sheriff’s sale so we could buy them, but we run the risk of someone else getting to them first. Two years ago we placed a “condominium lien for assessments due” on both spaces for the amount he owed at the time, which protects us if he tries to sell the spaces. Now that some time has passed, we would like to place another lien on the property but are not sure if the lien should be for the full amount (he currently owes $4500 for each space) or for the difference between the first lien and the second lien.

So our questions are: 1. What should the new lien amount be? and 2. Does anyone have a recommendation on what to do now? Can we sue him for the spaces?

Obviously the ideal situation would be that the condo association owns the spaces so we can transform them into an actual backyard, but he is asking for $10,000 per space which is outside of our budget right now.

  • You should probably hire a lawyer.

  • Anonymous

    Yet another reason I’m glad I’m not a homeowner.

    • Anon

      How is that helpful to anyone?

    • Anonymous

      correction: you’re glad you’re not a CONDO owner… rowhouses and separates have no one to answer to and no fees to collect

  • Anonymous

    Seems you should be able to negotiate the $4,500 he owes for each space from the $10,000 asking price, which may bring it within your budget. Then you could just purchase the spaces and release the lein. Everybody wins! Otherwise, get a lawyer and foreclose on the lein(s).

  • Hire a lawyer. Update the lien and foreclose it (assuming there isn’t also a tax lien – there probably is). Have the association bid on the parking spaces at the foreclosure auction.

  • Anonymous

    “someone else getting to them first”

    I’m sorry, is that realistic? You don’t make it sound like it’s that desirable a spot. I would be aggressive and foreclose on the liens.

  • Anonymous-est

    Ugh. Sorry you have to deal with this crappy situation. How is that he has the audacity to ask for $10,000 yet doesn’t respond to any of these legal actions and/or other requests you sent to him? Just curious. I agree with Anonymous, 2:45pm. Good luck!

    • It’s not audacity, it’s the cost of doing business. If the developer can sell the spaces, it then has the cash to pay off the back taxes and assessments. Otherwise the developer has to pay out of pocket. It’s scummy but that’s the way they do it.

      • Anonymous-est

        I agree. I see how I wasn’t clear… my point was: how is it that the OP even has knowledge that the developer wants X amount for it when he’s unresponsive to all of the other things? There’s a disconnect there.

  • Anonymous

    Yup hire a lawyer, sue him also for cost of lawyer and court costs. You should also be able to levy a fine on the unpaid prices. It may get to the point that it is cheaper for him to sign them over to the Condo Association rather than go to court and get spanked in an easy open and shut case, if your facts are right.

    • Attorneys fees are almost never awarded to a prevailing party. They may get some costs, but they will have to pay their own lawyer.

      • Typically, condominium bylaws will include a section stating that, in the event that an owner defaults on their condo fees, the condo board has the right to charge any legal fees back to the offending owner. Obviously, no way to know if that is the case here.

  • Technically the association is being paid the 25 per month to maintain the area so they should remove the weeds etc. But they can also vote to increase dues and prevent rental and use for non-vehicles in certain circumstances. Other than that, you can foreclose the lien but its a big hassle. I think sometimes threatening the action could be your best solution. No one wants a judgement on their record.

    • Shaw Guy

      Agreed with samosa – vote to change the condo documents, but vote to assess a late fee ($25 is more than fair, but even $50 is likely “reasonable”) for every 30 days that condo fees are not paid. That way, the amount owed escalates a LOT faster. If he doesn’t pay the first month after the new rules pass, at a $25-per-30-days fee, he then owes $75 the second month ($25 for last month, $25 this month, + $25 fee), $150 the third month ($25 per month for three months, plus one $50 late fee for the first month and a $25 late fee for the second month). At the end of a year, he’ll owe $300 in actual condo fees that month (twelve months of fees unpaid, plus $1950 for all of the cumulative late fees. Multiply that by two spaces, and he’ll have to sell them to you in forclosure, and might even end up losing the spots and *still* owing you more money.

      The one thing to be careful about is making sure that the condo docs consider the spaces private space and not public space, because if they are “public” space he can (justifiably) say he stopped paying when you stopped maintaining them.

      Do amend the docs, though, to also prohibit the use of the spaces for non-automotive uses. That will limit what he can put there. You might even want to restrict it even further and limit leasing or renting the spaces for any use other than parking a vehicle that is registered to a resident of the building. Once they have been re-acquired by the association, you can always amend that section again to then prohibit using them for automotive uses and officially deeding them to the association and as public space.

  • Anonymous

    10k seems high in a neighborhood where parking isn’t an issue. I paid $7k for a spot in Mount Pleasant

  • ET

    Talk to a lawyer. Full stop.

  • zcf

    you can easily spend $20K in legal fees trying to get those spaces.. Yeah I agree that you should increase the fees… but personally I would just start parking there myself. Put a big sign that says “the owner of these spaces have not paid their condo fees” so the owner looks bad to whoever he is leasing the spaces to.

  • ap

    occupy it. make him sue you.

    • Anonymous

      Or better yet, occupy his office. Camp out in the public space in front of the developer’s offices until he agrees to meet with you and negotiate some sort of settlement over this. This is ridiculous behavior and this guy deserves to be publicly shamed.

  • Anonymous

    Dude. Parking spaces are not units. Therefore they are common elements and belong to the association already. Get a lawyer and sue.

  • Joel

    Typically when a developer renovates a building he needs to remove himself after the last unit is sold. Are the parking spots on land that is subdivided from the rest of the property? If those parking spots are on your parcel of land (according to DC’s public records) and you pay the property taxes on that land, it would seem to me that the developer isn’t in much of a position to retain those spots.

    You can search the public records database at:

    And if you don’t know your lot and square #’s, you can find it on this map:


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