L.G. from Worcester County, Maryland writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I have a condo in an oceanfront building and most units are empty during the winter months. Every unit has its own thermostat that’s set individually. Everyone pays their own, individual heating bills. My HOA’s bylaws state that the minimum temperature in our units must always be 40 degrees Fahrenheit dry bulb. My HOA board sent a survey to owners last fall, wanting to change the bylaws to require that our thermostats be set at a minimum of 55 degrees. The board stated that we should be thinking of ourselves as subsidizing each other’s heating bills. Editor’s Note: (several paragraphs were truncated for space) Do you have any thoughts on dealing with this heat issue? Also, if there is a vote by owners to change the bylaw to 55 degrees, what do you think of that? Do owners have the right to vote in a change of that nature? And, if they do, do you think it’s worth any type of legal challenge?
Mister Condo replies:
L.G., unless your governing documents state otherwise, the Board likely has the power to pass the rule requiring unit owners to keep their units at 55 degrees or higher. If the insurer has such a provision, then the Board must enforce the provision or risk the liability for when a pipe freezes and bursts. Regardless of the insurance provision, the Board simply needs to follow the rule for making the rule. If that requires a vote from the homeowners as well, so be it, but, most likely it does not. Legal challenges are the right of every homeowner. However, as long as the rule is passed in accordance with your governing documents and state law, I doubt anyne would sue or prevail. All the best!