A.M. from Hartford County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I moved into this condo on October 27 of 1997. On November 1 of 1997, I noticed water pooling around the base of the downspout in a corner of the unit. I reported this to the board and they installed an extension to the downspout and then into a submerged pipe to carry the downspout water out to the catch basin in the street. In May of 2014, I noticed water gushing out of the top gutter onto the roof shingles. The top gutter was not attached to the bottom gutter, so all the rain water was overshooting the lower gutter and falling onto the roof. I took a picture of this and reported it to the Condo Board. An “elbow” was put in connecting the top gutter to the lower gutter. I noticed that while living in the unit, there was a mildew odor coming from a walk-in closet where the corner downspout problem was. I did not report this to the board, but used a dehumidifier to deal with the odor. Now the odor has been detected in the guest bedroom attached to the walk-in closet. I reported this to the board, as I suspect that the years of water spilling out of the gutter onto the roof before the elbow was installed may have seeped into the siding, under the fascia, in the insulation, etc. , which is causing this odor in this room.
I would like to have a licensed, certified roof engineer/inspector do an inspection to determine what water damage may have occurred to produce this odor. My condo board is reluctant to hire a certified engineer or whomever may be qualified to do an inspection. There is no access to the rafters or roof from inside the condo. No water stains are apparent on the inside ceiling or walls of the room where the odor is. However, there is a ceiling/wall water stain in an adjacent room which was passed off as “due to an ice dam from the winter”.
The board would like to have the maintenance person who maintains the gutters do this inspection. I do not believe that he will deliver an unbiased opinion or a qualified opinion in this matter. I maintain that a thorough inspection by a certified engineer/carpenter/roofing inspector is necessary to determine where the moisture is coming from which would result in the odor. This involves removing siding, shingles, etc. I would like to ask you what obligation the board is under to have this inspection done by someone other than the maintenance person and how I should proceed in this matter. Thank you for any assistance you may be able to give me.
Mister Condo replies:
A.M., mold and mildew are always a serious business in condominiums. The problem often takes years to fully appear and there is usually a lot of finger pointing and very little action on the part of the powers that be to mitigate the situation. In my experience, it is almost always time to speak with an attorney when the mitigation efforts stop. However, in your case, the Board has proposed a solution that I think you should at least let them try before you escalate the situation by involving an attorney. Once you do that, the Board will likely respond by hiring their own attorney and the matter will head to court for remediation. If there proposed solution does not work and you are still dissatisfied with their remediation efforts, it is certainly time to speak with an attorney and pursue a legal remedy to your problem. It is important to note that Board members are simply volunteer leaders from within your community association. They are not usually building experts, mold remediation experts, or legal experts. They are well-intentioned folks seeking to protect their community association from what they may consider unnecessary expenses that drive up common fees and may even require special assessments. In this case, it would seem they are taking the least expensive path to remediation, which is fine if it works. However, once you apply legal pressure in the form of a lawsuit, the matter is complicated and much more expense is added to the equation. That isn’t to say you won’t prevail and get what you want but it now becomes as much a legal battle between you and the association as it does a request to have the mold removed. Speak with an attorney, get proper legal advice, and be ready to take action if the problem isn’t resolved. Mold can be toxic and it may be more than just a smell coming from the mold; it may be deadly and the longer this drags on the longer your health is at risk. I am hoping for a speedy resolution for you. Good luck!