F.B. from New Haven County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I am recommending that my condo board make mandatory periodic replacement of in-unit water heaters. We had a few leak causing water damage to surrounding and lower level units. My board said they cannot make it mandatory as a preventative item. Is that true? Have other associations made the water heater replacement mandatory after a certain number of years?
Mister Condo replies:
F.B., yes, other associations have mandated the replacement of aged water heaters after a certain number of years and for good reason. Revisions to the Common Interest Ownership Act allow insurance companies to deny claims on outdated equipment. That has forced numerous associations to revise their policies regarding scheduled maintenance and replacement on common wear elements, even those inside of individual units and owned by the unit owner. The lesson is learned the hard way, more often than not, when the Board puts in a claim and the insurer denies the claim based on the age of the faulty element. If that hasn’t happened at your association yet, there is still time to avoid the “school of hard knocks” method of learning. Your Board has the power and authority to publish a full list of items that unit owners are responsible for maintaining and replacing on regular intervals. They also need to inform unit owners that the consequences for not doing so can be severe. For instance, if a unit owner refused to replace a water heater that later failed, they would be on the hook for the resulting damage. That could be thousands of dollars to the unit owner, especially when neighboring unit owners are forced to sue to have their damage repaired. Instruct your Board to work closely with the association’s insurer to make the additions necessary to the by-laws to protect the association and the unit owners within. Best wishes!