J.F. from Hartford County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Can our Condo Association require Townhouse owners (we are owner-occupied with 19 units in four buildings) to submit to an energy audit and then share in the cost for the audit and to repair for all owners? Some have already had energy audits done and made the recommended changes. I have very efficient heating and cooling, separate zone on second floor with programmable thermostats. The Association does not own or maintain any common elements. All limited common elements are outside, although they are now saying that the attic space is not the owner responsibility. Our Board is being controlled by our property manager.
Mister Condo replies:
J.F., whoa on your closing sentence! You buried the lead! Property Managers work for the Board. They don’t control the Board unless the Board lets them and, even then, the Board can fire them or choose not to renew their management contract when the time come for renewal. I realize you have a small association but that is no reason to not have strong leaders that use the Property Manager to assist them in the day-to-day running of the association. Under no circumstances should they surrender their ability to govern to the Property Manager.
Now on to your original query… At first blush, my answer is that the Board cannot force unit owners to submit to an energy audit. The attic space may, in fact, be owned by the association. You really need to read your documents to see who owns that space and who is responsible for the maintenance of the space. If the association owns the space and wishes to insulate to save money for the unit owners, they are free to do so. If they don’t own the space, they may request unit owners insulate to save money and, perhaps, prevent ice damming, which does cause the association money in insurance claims and deductibles. Unless the association’s governance documents state otherwise, the Board is responsible for all common elements which are usually all of the building exterior components. Individual HVAC units are typically unit owner owned and maintained. If you require a legal opinion on this matter, it may be well worth it to speak to an attorney to advise you if the association has overstepped its authority. If they have, a quick court filing may prevent them from imposing further requirements that are beyond their scope. I think they mean well but they may be getting some bad advice. Also, you should consider running for the Board and getting a first-hand look at how the Property Manager behaves. If it is as you suspect, it may be time for a new property manager. Good luck!