Common Fees After a Fire Without Use of the Condo

D.L. from Litchfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We live in a mid-sized condo complex in Litchfield county. Unfortunately, we had a fire last July that destroyed 4 units in one building. One of the residents of the destroyed unit is challenging paying her condo fees, and wants a waiver stating She has not had use of the property. I looked at our by-laws and cannot find anything that addresses that issue. Perhaps you can help. Thank you!

Mister Condo replies:

D.L., I am so sorry for the unit owners effected by the fire. I hope no human life was lost. I am not aware of any condo documents that deal specifically with loss of use of the property other than to state that damaged units will be repaired and brought to original condition. The emphasis here is on the unit’s reconstruction, not the unit owner’s use of the unit. While it is unfortunate that the unit owner does not have use of the unit as a dwelling during this period, that is not the responsibility of the association. In fact, if the unit owner had proper insurance, her own insurance would pay for her housing during the time that the reconstruction was being taken care of. Common fees, special assessments, and any other fees the unit owner might owe, continue during the reconstruction process. After all, there are still expenses being incurred on this owner’s behalf – insurance, management, common ground maintenance, etc.. On its face, this may not seem fair but it is the way of the world, at least the community association world. Please keep in mind that I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. This unit owner can challenge paying her condo fees if she wants but if it comes to a court case, she will likely lose, in my opinion. Also, if she becomes too far back in arrears, the association would be obligated to foreclose against her, adding insult to injury. I wrote about a similar case in Pennsylvania in 2013. You can read my reply here if you wish – http://askmistercondo.com/reduced-common-fees-after-a-fire/. Good luck!

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