D.M. from La Habra, CA writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
In my condo, we have boilers to generate hot water to the condo complex. My boiler has broken down many times and after the recent earthquake in the City of La Habra, I have not had hot water for 4 days. Can I advise my HOA to apportion some amount of my monthly dues for this extreme alteration in the promise to provide basics and amenities in a condo complex? The hot water issue is still not fixed…
Mister Condo replies:
D.M., the earthquake your region suffered made the news all around the country, including here on the East Coast. I am sorry for your hot water inconvenience but I am glad that is the only damage you are reporting. Association-provided amenities such as hot water are an important part of your association’s obligation to you and all of the other owners of the units. However, I highly doubt a financial compensation is likely to be offered by the Board and they are certainly under no obligation to offer money in lieu of services. The earthquake, in particular, is an act of Nature and can be easily argued to be out of the control of the association.
My larger concern is that this is not the first time the boiler system has broken down and not the first time the association has failed to provide a contracted service. What often happens is that the originally installed boiler system has become too old to function reliably. In associations where proper financial planning was in place, a new boiler system is purchased so that hot water can be reliably produced. In associations where proper financial planning was not in place, the Board often finds itself applying repairs and short-term fixes to the aged boiler system and it frequently breaks down. I am guessing that is what is happening in your condo.
The solution is often for the Board to go ahead and replace the old boiler system with a new one. However, that costs a significant amount of money and the unit owners are the ones who will foot the bill, either in the form of a special assessment or increased common fees to support a loan which may be necessary to make the purchase. Neither situation is ideal but it may be the only way for the association to fulfill its obligation to unit owners to provide their hot water. Otherwise, the situation you have described is likely to continue. At some point, a group of unit owners might actually band together and sue the association for not fulfilling its obligation to provide hot water. Hot water, by the way, is exactly what the community could find itself in if that happens. Not only would the association have to pay for the new boiler system but a lawsuit as well! Good luck!