Category Archives: Damage

This Condo Repair Job is for the Birds!

L.W. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi, I’ve had an issue with a bird nest outside on my soffit. My condo is refusing to pay for the removal even though it’s part of the building. This has been going on for several months. I’ve been calling the condo President constantly to no avail. We recently hired a Management company and the President is very rude. I had my cousin talk to both of them and they both told him the birds are gone. Due to this problem, I have copious amounts of bird feces on my balcony. I own a screened in balcony which is the problem. Since their handy man doesn’t know how to take the screen apart they told my cousin I refused service. I have rights as a home owner and not wanting it to be damaged. What recourse do I have?

Mister Condo replies:

L.W., I am sorry that you are facing such an ornery challenge enjoying your condo living experience. Birds, bats, raccoons, rats and other wildlife often find condo dwelling to their liking. You are correct in assuming that the Board is the responsible party for correcting the situation. However, calling the condo President constantly is not a good strategy to have the situation remedied. Since you have a Property Management company to deal with, they are likely going to be the ones who will dispatch the handyman to remove the nest. The complication of the screened porch adds a new wrinkle but it shouldn’t be the end of the process. It sounds like another repairman will be needed to remove the screen without damaging it. Who owns the screen? If it is you, you may have to arrange to have the screen removed at your expense so the association’s handyman can do his work to remove the bird nest. If the screen is association-owned, then they will need to have the screen removed before they can remove the nest and then return the screen to its original position. You asked about recourse. First, you need patience. Coordinating two different repair people may take some time and the Board is not technically under a time constraint. That being said, your only true recourse is to bring action against the Board for not dealing with the problem. That can be costly and time-consuming. My advice is to work with the Board, the Property Management company, and the workers dispatched to deal with the problem. It will take some time but it sounds like they are on the way to getting it done. Good luck!

Condo Sidewalk Repair Project Causes Unit Access Loss

L.D. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo board in Lee County, Florida just told me I will lose access to my unit, which is my only residence, for a full week in order to do maintenance work on the walkways and power wash the buildings. I am currently on an extended tour of Asia and return the very week the work is scheduled to be returned. Can the board throw me out on the streets like that? And what procedures must they follow if they can do that?

Mister Condo replies:

L.D., I am sorry that the scheduled power washing of the buildings and sidewalk repairs coincide with your return from duty. Thank you for your service. The Board isn’t so much throwing you to the streets as they are alerting you that they are protecting your investment with power washing and walkway maintenance. I am a bit surprised that they need a full week and that they are suggesting you need to lose access to your unit during the cleaning and walkway repair but you may wish to ask them. It is possible that it is an insurance issue or that the walkways will be unsafe during the project. Explain your situation and respect the Board’s concern for the safety of you and all residents during this repair. On the upside, you should have clean buildings and beautiful new walkways when the project is completed. All the best!

Inadequate Condo Board Meeting Notice

N.T. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a first-time condo owner in California for a year. I wrote a letter to the board requesting for reimbursement for an expense that my condo insurer and I felt was a responsibility of the HOA to prevent further damage to the interior since the HOA contractor was overwhelmed and was unavailable. I wanted to attend the next board meeting in case my issue comes up on the agenda. The board typically meets on a certain day of the week every other month. The community newsletter typically indicates which day the month prior or it has been rescheduled. However, the past month the date was left empty on the newsletter but there was a meeting and my issue was raised and I was not there to clarify the statement the manager made which was not true. My question, is the board required to publicize the dates of the board meeting? I plan on attending the next board meeting which was publicized in this month newsletter which listed both the prior month meeting date that occurred and the upcoming meeting date. Thank you in advance and will greatly appreciate any information you can provide.

Mister Condo replies:

N.T., I am sorry that your introduction to condo living has been so controversial and that you experienced problems right off the bat. You asked about meeting notice requirements and the short answer is, yes, the Board does need to give advance notice to all unit owners of the association as outlined in either the governing documents or local or state law. Typically, the notice requirement is in writing to the individual unit owners, although other methods may be acceptable as long as they are agreed to by the unit owners. If the newsletter is the standard and medium used then that is how it is done in your community. I will say that a newsletter alone is not typically considered due process for serving notice of a Board meeting and that email would be more common in this day and age. The notice needs to include the agenda as well as the date and time. Board meetings are open for unit owners to attend but unit owners don’t participate unless asked by the Board to do so. In your case, you wanted to clarify your petition to the Board for reimbursement for expenses you made to prevent further damage. Ideally, the Board would have undertaken this expense and you wouldn’t have been out of pocket in the first place. The Board, and only the Board, can make repairs or alterations to common elements even though common sense likely drove you to take the action you took. I hope you are not out a tremendous amount of money. It might be best to write this one off and understand that you need to let the Board take this action if it comes up again. Good luck!

Shared Water Main Creates Condo Chaos

K.B. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in a 4-unit condo where two units share a main water line. HOA newsletter in Nov. 2015 there was an article stating to make sure you notify your neighbor when you turn off the water line to both units. Recently my neighbor has been working on their condo and turned off the water while they were working. I was never notified that the water was going to be turned off. I saw their contractors leave and my neighbors return home around 4:30 p.m.. Water still was not turned back on, at about 6:00 p.m. I knocked on the door, no response. I thought they forgot to turn on the water. I turned on the water to take a shower. I went straight up the stairs heard water running and ran back down the stairs to turn the water back off. Not till 6:30pm did my neighbor return home. Their contractors did not cap her pipes in the bathrooms and she expects me to pay for the damage. Who would be responsible for the repairs?

Mister Condo replies:

K.B., it is too bad that there weren’t better communications between you and your neighbors. They needed to communicate with you when they turned the water off. You needed to communicate with them when you turned the water on. Neither of you did. Typically, I would say neither of you are responsible and let each of your insurance companies battle it out for how to handle the expense of the repair. The newsletter article is a nice way of reminding unit owners about the issue but it isn’t a legally binding notice. If your neighbor has insurance, I would think their homeowner’s policy would cover the damage. If not, they might elect to sue you in small claims court or such. Unless the damage was extensive, I doubt they will do that. I would offer my apologies and also ask them to make sure they do a better job communicating when and if the water is ever shut off again. All the best!

Hoarder Refusing Unit Access Adds to Hurricane Irma Damage

E.E. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We just suffered flooding due to Hurricane Irma in 3 of our 6 townhome buildings. The building where we are having an issue has 6 units adjoined by a 2-hour firewall. We have 1 unit owner is a hoarder – very bad, almost no walkpath. The unit flooded and we need her to move everything on the 1st floor for the repairs that the Association’s insurance is willing to do so that she doesn’t have a black mold issue. The drywall, the cabinets and flooring all have to be removed. She is saying she has no plan to move anything out or make repairs. The concern is not only for her but the adjoining unit owners. Can we make her comply for repairs?

Mister Condo replies:

E.E., I am sorry that your community suffered Irma’s wrath. Like so many other condominiums in your region, damage was significant and clean-up efforts will be ongoing for quite some time. You now face a serious challenge with a hoarder blocking access to her unit for clean-up. While most folks would welcome the cavalry arrival to get things back to normal, the hoarder’s brain works in a different manner. All is not lost, although I think you will find this a difficult battle. It’s all about where the line is drawn between unit owner’s rights and the rights of the HOA. My first call would be to the association attorney who can help guide you through what may become a lengthy legal process of actually having access granted. Of course, your first step is to work with the unit owner and/or any known family members who may be able to step in and let the restoration company get in and do its work. However, if the unit owner refuses to voluntarily provide access (typical hoarder behavior from my experience), the association needs to take more aggressive action. While the unit owner’s health is most certainly at stake, so are the neighboring units and even the entire building. Mold isn’t just unsightly; it can be deadly. This is an unfortunate complication to an already bad situation but, trust me, you will get through this. I wish you all the best in your recovery efforts.

HOA Bills Unit Owner for Repair Team’s Lack of Unit Access

J.C. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The unit above me leaked into my garage. The owner happens to be on the Board of Directors. He is having the HOA pay for it. Now, I got a bill from HOA that my tenant was not home for them to do the work.

Mister Condo replies:

J.C., well this is certainly a series of unfortunate events. I am sorry for your troubles. Typically, the association carries insurance for damage caused by your fellow unit owners. The fact that this unit owner serves on the Board of Directors is irrelevant unless you are alleging wrongdoing on the part of the Director. From what you have told me, I do not see any wrongdoing here. The Director is also a unit owner and protected by the same association insurance that you are. The HOA dispatched a repair operation to your unit, which is what they are supposed to do. Was their communication between the HOA, the repair firm, and you or your tenant? If so, and your tenant agreed to be home when the repair team was dispatched yet failed to be there, I can see where the HOA would assess a fee to you for the cost of the repair team not being allowed access to your unit. If there was no communication that a repair team was coming and they are still charging you, I would challenge that fee and maybe even speak to an attorney about the fee to see if it is something you could sue over. Chances are the amount in question is too small to sue over. The bottom line is that you want the repairs to your unit made so work with your HOA to make sure that happens. If your tenant can’t be there, you may have to be there yourself to make sure the repair team has access. All the best!

Exterior Rot on Condo Leads to Interior Water Intrusion

R.S. from Missouri writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am a condo unit owner for 13 years. I recently experienced my third interior damage leak from rotted siding and decades old flashing. Would the HOA be responsible for the cost of these repairs? My monthly common includes maintenance of the exterior of the unit. Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

R.S., I am sorry that you have had three different water intrusion events that have caused damage to your unit’s interior. I hope you have homeowner’s insurance to help you mitigate against the losses. It would appear that your condo isn’t being maintained as well as it might if you are experiencing rotted siding. Properly installed flashing may last decades but not if water is getting in behind the flashing. The Board of Directors is charged with maintaining, protecting, and even improving the common elements of the association as outlined in your condo documents. They are also responsible for putting in place a strong fiscal plan that includes building up association Reserves for the eventual replacement of common elements. Have they done that? Is there money in the Reserve Fund to pay for the needed repairs? If not, this problem is only going to get worse as further deferred repairs will lead to more decay and more water intrusion events as you have described. It may be time to have a heart to heart with the Board and fellow unit owners. It may be time for a community association loan to make these repairs and it is most certainly time to raise common fees so that a Reserve Fund can be built for future repairs. This may mean that common fees will rise significantly but if there is no Reserve Fund, they have been artificially low for too long. The HOA is responsible to repairs made to the exterior of the unit. You are responsible for repairs made to the interior, even if they are caused by neglectful maintenance by the association. That is why you have to have insurance for these losses. It’s time to get your condominium association back on track financially or these claims are going to become larger and much more frequent. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Good luck!

Condo Insurance Payment Made to Unit Owner for Building Damage

S.V. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

There was damage to the outside of our building. Insurance check was made payable in the name of a condo owner, who is the brother of president of condo association, in the amount of $6,000.00. I could not get an answer from either party and the insurance company why this was not made out to the condo association. Was this legal? I don’t know how the money was spent. This was several years ago. Is there a statute of limitations?

Mister Condo replies:

S.V., that is a strange way of processing an insurance claim at a condominium. However, it is not unheard of and without a full review of the insurance and the claim, it would be very difficult to prove whether anything illegal occurred. In fact, the insurance company would more likely be the one to have a claim if they were defrauded out of money. Was the building damage repaired? Was there further money paid for the repair by the association that the insurance should have covered? If there were no additional monies paid out by the association and the damage was repaired, it is probably best to stop worrying about it. I am not aware of a statute of limitations for you to investigate and/or file a complaint with your association on how the insurance money was distributed but to what end? If you weren’t harmed financially, this is really an item for the insurance company to worry about, not you. All the best!

Condo Sump Pump Requirement

D.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Is each condo legally required to have its own sump pump? We are a 2-unit condo and there is only 1 sump pump for the 2 units. If the sump pump fails/backs up is each unit both liable or just the unit that has the sump pump in it.

Mister Condo replies:

Since I am not an expert in local building code for your neck of the woods, D.H., I can only give you a generic answer. I am not aware of any requirement to have a sump pump in each and every unit. In fact, it is quite common for multiple units to be services by a singular sump pump, in my experience. The sump pump is typically owned by the Association and is a common element meaning that if it fails, the liability should fall upon the association. However, it is not uncommon for the unit owner where the sump pump dwells to have some maintenance responsibilities for the maintenance / power supply requirements of the pump. These details should be spelled out in writing if they exist at all. If the unit owner where the sump pump is housed deliberately disabled the sump pump, the subsequent damage could be charged back to the unit owner. I have heard tales of unit owners fed up with the banging that can accompany some models of sump pump where they cut the power to the unit. In that case, the association may have recourse with the owner for cutting power to an association-owned asset and any resultant damage. My best advice is to make sure the pump is maintained regularly and keep an eye out if it fails at all. Good luck!

Ownership of Burst Condo Water Line Questioned

T.G. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

If a hot water line bursts in an outside wall who is responsible, the unit owner or the board? Also, the line was not where the Board said it was. Our kitchen sits above our neighbor’s garage. The board said both hot and cold lines are in the ceiling of the garage.

Mister Condo replies:

T.G., typically when water lines burst it is the responsibility of whoever owns the area where the line has broken. In other words, if you own from the wall in, a line that breaks outside of your walls is very likely the responsibility of the association. Regardless of what the Board says about it, a reading of your documents will very likely clear this up. If, by chance, the documents don’t appear to provide you with a good answer, it is time to speak to an attorney who can read any “legalese” that might make a simple determination possible. There are exceptions, of course. I know of some associations that have allowed modification of water lines at owner’s requests and along with the approval to do so came the responsibility to maintain the water lines. This is highly unusual though and does not sound like your situation. If you do own all of the interior walls where the water line burst (garage ceiling is a good example, a bathroom supply line would be another) then you may be on the hook for the repair. Like I said, when the unit owner and the Board don’t agree, it is usually time for a legal opinion. Good luck!