M.W. from Arizona writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Our older condo building with two dozen units built in 1974 in need of new cold-water plumbing. The problem is that over the years whoever was on the prior boards approved the use of common space for 4 buildings out of 6 that could fence in back door to make a private patio. Two of these building have our common walkways blocked off with fence or slump block behind our covered parking area. So, there is no safe walkway behind the parked cars and one has to walk in the alley to get to their parking spot. Now we need a new waterline and these, of course, run right down the back of the buildings that have been made into patios. The board decided that it would be too expensive to dig up these patios so we contracted to go above ground with copper pipe and then insulate them for the next step. Our problem is one unit in the middle of the building has caused some delays and refused access to her patio by posting “No Trespassing” sign as she wants hers buried. The (contracted) plumbers had the city called about permits and OSHA was called to check for safety violation, all with no issues found but only delays in the work and they know what unit did this. As a board we have been having issues with this person around the complex making threats about getting rid of the management and he is a renter/spokes-person for this owner so now what can we do? Is common space still common if it has been blocked in? We do have a property manager that has not kept all the owners informed about our plans for re-plumbing the complex. The plumbers bypassed this unit and will be shutting off the water to switch over to the new lines next week. Now what?
Mister Condo replies:
M.W., I am sorry for the problems plaguing your condo building. It’s too bad that the previous Boards didn’t take this potential problem into consideration back in the day when this could have been easily avoided. There is usually a good reason that common grounds are to remain common grounds. In this case, access to the cold-water supply has been compromised. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. This is clearly a case where a legal opinion will serve the association well as not repairing the water supply is not an option. The complaining renter is the least of your worries as he has no authority to do anything other than live in his rented unit. Speak with the attorney, take whatever legal action is necessary to secure the rights to access the water line and make sure the future Boards never forget how the decisions of previous Boards created this problem and that they should hold tight to whatever remaining common grounds exist. All the best!