Seniors At Risk In Some Condo Associations

The grassroots Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition (CCOC), founded in 2010, counts among its members many residents in 55-and-over condos and elderly well over 80 years old.

For these members the unresolved problems they have with their condos amount to “elder abuse,” in the words of CCOC member and Stratford resident, Angela Deleon. She points out that “the elected condo board takes on the role as caregiver for the older residents….not address[ing] the sincere and legitimate complaints of the elderly can ultimately affect their health and lifestyle…and many times result in death or financial devastation.” Deleon should know, since she both has recently been awarded a citation by the FBI for her outstanding efforts against abuse of the elderly and has been the recipient of indifference and hostility from her own condo community neighbors.

At hearings before the Connecticut Judiciary Committee on March 25, several elderly condo owners spoke of the upset they experience, because they can’t get anyone on their boards or from their management companies to fix problems they have with their units.

Richard Sullo lives in a 62+ condo. He reports, “We had been having a continual problem with inadequate domestic hot water [provided by the association]. The board kept doing nothing to resolve it for months. My 97 year old next door neighbor used to come and ring my bell in tears saying, ‘why should I have to deal with this in my old age?’” Several other owners submitted written testimony describing their unresolved conflicts with their boards and associations.

All urged the Committee to support HB 6620, which would create an Office of Condominium Ombudsman within the Department of Consumer Protection to address the many complaints the Attorney General’s Office receives on these matters. In addition, a psychologist supplied testimony that constant and unremitting stress, experienced by these owners, can lead to all sorts of emotional distress and even depression for those subjected to such ill treatment.

During the Judiciary Committee’s hearing, the president of the group that opposes the establishment of an Office of Ombudsman, the Connecticut Chapter of the Community Association Institute (CAI-CT), suggested that those owners who are not happy with their current living situations could move. Rose Bottinick of East Haven would love to move.

She and her elderly husband, however, live in a building that “has not been painted for 8 years and is badly peeling even though money was collected in an assessment” to pay for this work–work according to condo law remains the responsibility of the association. If her unit were fixed up, she would leave; but she is caught in a Catch-22 where she can’t fix the damage and she can’t sell her unit….Many unit owners testified they love their condos, do not want to move and just want their boards to be responsive and to act lawfully and ethically.

Several CCOC members of condos pointed to the fact that their boards refuse to follow the laws and to be educated on their responsibilities under CT law. A common excuse these board members make is that these are volunteer positions, as though the law and ethics allow for a lower standard of conduct and commitment in unpaid positions.

While the CCOC supports legislation to help protect condo owners’ rights, the CAI-CT throughout the hearings and in their comments to the media lobbies against legislation providing for timely and affordable mediation of disputes in condo communities. The CAI-CT claim that condos are democracies, and boards, who ignore the law, merely need to be voted out of office. Given how vulnerable many elderly feel and how unwilling the very elderly are to spend their last days engaging in political disputes, it has been impossible to mount a successful attack in most condos against even blatantly incompetent and irresponsible sitting boards. Once they are in, they stay in, even if they do a bad or half-hearted job.

The CCOC is working with those who are interested in issues that affect the elderly. They encourage those who feel trapped and powerless to join CCOC and to write their legislators about their problems. Many legislators simply have no experience with homeowner associations and, if made aware of the problems, would be willing to help the elderly find peace and harmony in the communities where they have chosen to spend their last days of independence and health. Legislators have the opportunity to support the elderly by passing HB 6620 and the establishment of an Office of Condominium Ombudsman. After all, many elderly moved into these communities in the first place, because they didn’t want to worry about the leaks in the roof; now they find that not only do they have to worry about the roof, but if it leaks on them; there may be nothing they can do about getting it fixed for a very long time….

The members of the CCOC endorse the passage of HB 6620, as well as HB 1205 and HB 1208, all of which are designed to protect the financial health and investment many have made in their condominiums and common interest properties.

The CCOC and its members continue to work to protect the investments and the lifestyles that have made condominium living in Connecticut so attractive. The CCOC is open to all condo owners statewide with hundreds of members in 102 cities and towns across Connecticut. There is no membership fee. To join, email for more information.

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