E.S. from Cook County, Illinois writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I live in a condo building built sometime around 1976. My question is whether the management company, or perhaps more likely the board (same as HOA?), should or would know (have documentation) about the presence of asbestos in the building since they have done regular maintenance and renovations of common areas of building.
During the pandemic I have been seeing a lot of residents doing renovation work in their units. I thought it was reasonable to inquire to the management company if asbestos inspections had ever been conducted in the building, since I wouldn’t want someone doing reconstruction in their unit contaminating the rest of the building if there are ACMs present. I never got an answer to the question, and the property manager or their receptionist would always avoid talking about the question.
I have tried approaching one or two board members unofficially but the question didn’t even seem to register and I was given the look like I was out of my mind. I have spoken to a Cook County EPA official and they said there isn’t a single record of asbestos inspection for the building, even though per county regulations these are required before any renovation of pre-1980 buildings or units, and condos fall under commercial building designation.
A city hall official told me they knew that balcony ceilings were asbestos panels, but they weren’t sure about the rest of the building, as the city hall doesn’t deal with that. What complicates the problem is that I am only a partial owner of the property so as far as the board are concerned I just sort of live here. Should the board of the building know or be concerned whether there is asbestos in the building or not, and how should I best approach getting the information from them? Thanks.
Mister Condo replies:
E.S., I don’t think your level of ownership is at question here. In fact, you have the same rights as any other owner, although voting rights may be limited to you or the other co-owner of your unit. The real question here is who is responsible for possible asbestos contamination. It is typical for the municipality to establish building codes and such. You have inquired and really not received an adequate answer. The Cook County EPA official came close by instructing you that the building inspection is required but hasn’t been done. You could follow up with that office and report the work being done without inspection. However, consider the consequences before you do as a County official could come in and condemn your building, forcing you and fellow residents out until the building is deemed “safe” after an official inspection. The residents doing the work without knowing they are exposing themselves or their fellow building occupants are the most at risk. The association is also at risk and really should be cautioning unit owners about the potential hazard to themselves and others. I am a big fan of safety and I hope that your Board will take your complaint seriously. As is always the case, you may need to speak up at a meeting or run for the Board yourself to see real change. All the best!