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KASS: Condo board candidates seek proxies – is that OK?

Q:     Our condo has an election coming up: eight applicants for four positions. Residents are sent packets with applicants’ resumes and a proxy sheet to mail in if not able to attend the meeting to vote in person. Some residents ignore the entire event.

Some applicants are going door to door asking residents to sign a proxy form for them. These applicants will then walk into the meeting with signed proxies – more or less rigging the voting process.

This process just appears to me to be slightly unethical.   Please send your opinion. Bonnie.

A:       Dear Bonnie:

Join the wonderful world of condominium living. Personally, I don’t like the concept of a “proxy.” If you care enough about your association, come to the meetings. However, as a practical matter, proxies are usually needed to meet quorum requirements.

I do not, however, consider what is occurring in your association unethical. What’s wrong with meeting with fellow owners and trying to get their vote. That’s the way politics works for national, state and local elections, so why is it wrong in your association?

So long as all potential candidates have the same opportunity to solicit votes, that, in my opinion, is democracy.

 

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ANOTHER RESPONSE FROM A READER:

A reader wrote you regarding unsalable property. This is the same problem with time shares. Perhaps a solution is to sell the property or time share to an individual who is going bankrupt (sell for $1 plus a cash incentive). The sale would take the property out of the hands of the original owner and the bankruptcy would be in the name of the new owner who is going bankrupt anyway. Would this work? Charles.

MY RESPONSE:

Very creative, Charles, but sorry, it won’t work. It’s not only the property that is in question but the individuals themselves. The property owners of lots they cannot sell or use are still legally obligated to make the payments to the association; the time share owner is similarly obligated to the property manager.

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YET ANOTHER RESPONSE FROM A READER ON THIS SAME TOPIC. This is about the couple who bought vacant land in a community association and now the lot is un-buildable and no one wants to buy it. However, they still have to pay the annual association dues.

This problem was a good example of failure to think things through thoroughly or to hire experienced counsel at the outset (not to mention observing any statutes of limitation).

However, I would first investigate at the local courthouse clerk’s to see if the developer has actually sued any lot owner(s) to date for assessments and how any such case(s) went. If none, or just one or two older ones, I would see the risk of suit to be minimal. Henry.

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Q:   Mr. Kass, I read your column every week. I have not seen any info in your column on reverse mortgages. I’m 77 and have my own home. I have 4 adult children that own their own homes and not interested in mine. I still have a mortgage balance of $113,000. Would you please provide me with some information on reverse mortgages; the pros & con or who I can get in touch with for info. Mary.

 

A:     Dear Mary: Perhaps the best place to start learning about reverse mortgages is from the AARP. They have lots of helpful material which you can get online (aarp.org).

Pro:   Depending on the value of your house and the amount (if any) of your current mortgage, you can get a lump sum right now. Alternatively, you can receive a monthly payment for the rest of your life or until the house is sold. And this is true even if these payments ultimately exceed the value of your house.

Con:   You still have to pay the insurance and the real estate tax every year. You still have to maintain the house. And perhaps the most significant negative: you may have no equity left in the house to give to your children or your grandchildren.

I cannot – in this short column – provide more information. In addition to AARP, there are a lot of helpful studies and articles on the web, just by searching “reverse mortgages.”

But beware of scammers. And don’t rely on testimonials from famous people; those are paid commercials that favor the mortgage lender.

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