L.M. from Hartford County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I have lived in my condo unit since 2004. After moving in, I was told my unit was originally the office so certain items were set up in it. Since living here, I have found out that 3 Sump Pumps are running off my electric. Pump 1 is located in my bedroom. Pump 2 is a portable pump which is in my furnace room. Pump 3 is in the hallway of the building next to my unit but has been rewired so that it no longer runs off of my electric. When this was first discovered, an agreement was reached with the BOD that they would pay half of my electric bill and I would deduct that portion from my condo dues. A new BOD was elected in 2007. They no longer want that arrangement. They want no responsibility for the pumps. They feel they are my responsibility and felt that Pump 1 in my bedroom is solely mine. So, in 2007, I contacted the installer of the pump in my bedroom. The letter they sent me in part stated the pump in my bedroom has smaller pumps located in other units draining into the big one in my unit and the system is designed to control water penetration from the exterior, etc.. The BOD had an electrician come out who stated that the sump pump in my bedroom is a hazard. At that time, it was also discovered that the wiring for the gate (for the cars to enter and exit) is running through my unit as well! It is not running off of my electric, but I was told it was also a hazard. The BOD feels since the gate isn’t actually running off of my electric that the wiring going through my unit shouldn’t be a problem for me. It is now 2013. The issue was revisited with the current BOD who do not think the pumps are mine since none of the pumps were authorized by me. My question is do I have a right to ask them to remove the items? Are they responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the pumps? Can I have them removed on my own?
Mister Condo replies:
L.M., what a tangled tale you tell! It is a real nightmare for you, I imagine. The good news is that no harm has come to you from the hazards identified by the electricians or pump installers who have looked at the situation. The real issue here is Board members who are uncertain or unwilling to do what should be done to remedy the situation and a questionable construction standard that likely was missed when the condominium was originally built. You may wish to hire legal counsel to guide you through this process but if the current Board is amenable to making things right, that may not be necessary.
Common elements that are owned by the association are the responsibility of the association. That means all of the sump pumps that were part of the initial installation or have been added by the association since the units were built are the responsibility of the association. That includes supplying power to the pumps as well as maintenance and upkeep of the pumps. If the only way they can supply power to the pumps is to tap into your wiring to do so, they can do that but only with your permission and your agreement as to how you will be compensated for the electricity used. If I were you or serving on your Board, I would want the pumps on association-owned electric service for the simple reason if you were to leave the association or the power service turned off to your unit, the pumps would become non-functioning and could cause huge water damage issues for the association.
As for dangerous wiring inside your unit, you have the right to have that problem resolved. However, it may take more than one electrician informing you that there is an issue. The association has the right to bring in their own electrician for an assessment of the situation. If that electrician agrees with the assessment you have already received, the Board would be wise to correct the situation before there is a problem. However, unless the wiring is deemed faulty, the Board may choose to do nothing as the original wiring was likely to local building code back at the time the condo was built. Again, depending on how the Board handles your request to have the wiring fixed, you may wish to hire an attorney to guide you through any legal action you might choose to pressure the Board to do the right thing. All the best!