R.J. from Middlesex County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
My condo fees include heat and hot water. On May 1, 2014 the management company (I assume with Board’s permission) turned off the heat in all 220 units in our complex without any notice. It still gets cold at night but now there is no heat available. When I called the office, I was told they turned off the boilers for the summer to save money. Now I have to use electric space heaters at night because it’s still cold! Can they legally do that in Connecticut?
Mister Condo replies:
R.J., I always cringe a bit when I hear about space heaters being used at condominiums. While they can provide heat in an emergency or temporary situation, there is just too much of a risk of fire from a space heater that is left unattended. There have been too many fires at condos in our state from such incidents and they often result in loss of property at best and loss of life at worse. Please be careful!
I am not an attorney so I cannot answer directly about the legality of what the Board is doing. I admire their desire to save money for the association members (including you!) I do not agree with turning off the heat so early in the season here in New England and I don’t understand why they would do so without providing notice to unit owners. Regardless of how and why they did it you may have the right to have the heat restored by the association, especially if your condo documents detail that heat is to be provided. You may need to speak with an attorney to determine if there is legal recourse for you.
However, I would also suggest you speak with your Board and fellow unit owners about changing the time of year that the boiler is turned off for the season, if at all. For the most part, June is warm enough for most of us but unless the units can be maintained at a reasonable temperature (65 degrees, for instance) the boiler may need to stay on. I am sure you are not alone in trying to heat your unit with methods like space heaters, which really puts the entire complex at risk of fire. Weighed against the expense of keeping the boiler on, I am sure the risk of fire from alternate heating methods like space heaters is too great to not consider keeping the boiler on longer.
The good news is that the cold mornings are almost behind us for the season. Now is the time to take action for next season so we aren’t having this same conversation next year. Speak with your fellow unit owners, speak with your Board, and see if you can’t get that boiler season extended until at least June. Keep warm and good luck!