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March 8, 2011

The 8 Most Common TIC Group Disputes

The waiting time for condo conversion has lengthened from three or five years to more than 20 years over the past two decades. That’s a lot of waiting time for TIC owners who have gotten involved in shared ownership and its risks, thinking the arrangement would only be temporary. And unfortunately, some such owners have experienced their share of unexpected disputes among TIC partners.

I thought it would be a good time to round up the most common TIC partner disputes, courtesy of my friends at Goldstein Gellman (G3MH).  Their recent FAQ on TIC Dispute Resolutions (1/11/11) was a great source of information that I thought I’d share. If you’re considering purchasing a TIC or are in contract to purchase one, make sure you pay attention to the following eight critical areas:

1. Noise and nuisance. Goldstein Gellman points out a very good fact about Victorian and Marina-style buildings, which are the most common TIC buildings in San Francisco. Sound transmission can be an issue. Though renters tend to be more tolerant of their neighbors, owners often have a heightened expectation of peace and quiet as their reward for paying mortgages and property taxes. Make sure everyone is clear on how much of those hardwood floors should be covered with area rugs, and whether you’d all prefer not to hear each others’ clanking heels across the floors.

2. Parking and storage. Make sure you all test your cars and examine the storage available—and are comfortable with the spaces that are “deeded” to you.  

3. Window maintenance. There are some common components of a building that are typically shared expenses (i.e., roof). Goldstein Gellman says that in TIC arrangements, it’s a common assumption that the individual owners are responsible for their own windows. If you and your group want to clear up any confusion, have the details spelled out in the TIC agreement.

4. Unbalanced TIC financing. There are cases in which a TIC group will buy its building with one partner paying all cash and the others using loans. With a shared mortgage, the all-cash partner could assume more risk than everyone else. Should the value of the TIC property decline to the point where the partner who purchased with a loan chooses to walk away from the loan and property, the all-cash partner could be stuck repaying the defaulting partner’s mortgage. Yikes.

5. Sale of TIC interests. Reselling your TIC interest depends on the ability of the entire group to refinance. Things can get messy if any of the other group members can’t qualify for the refinance.

6. Eligibility for condo conversion. Many TIC agreements require that the owners occupy their units until condo conversion is achieved. But if  a TIC partner moves out too soon, complications can ensue. The agreement may specify a certain amount of dollar damages owed to the other partners, or may not mention the subject at all. Goldstein Gellman says there’s no universally accepted standards as to the dollar value of the loss of anticipated condo status.

7. The post-condo conversion period. The more clearly your TIC agreement details items such as which unit gets a parking space or how conversion costs will be allocated, the less chance there will be of a dispute after the conversion happens. Another thing to note is the possibility that one TIC partner can’t qualify for a refinance into a condo loan. With a group loan, the entire balance must be paid off before any units can be deeded out to their respective owners (or sold to new buyers). If one partner can’t refinance, no one else can, either. Many TIC agreements include a provision forcing a partner to sell if he or she is unable to refinance. Of course, enforcing this provision is up for grabs.

8. Reserves. May TIC groups have agreements that mandate a reserve fund that can eventually be tapped for maintenance and repairs. The problem arises when TIC partners decide to adopt a pay-as-you-go arrangement, and no provision is made in the agreement for handling partners who are short on cash.

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