T.B. from Northern Indiana writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Hello, we moved into a condo in Fall of 2016. Shortly thereafter, we filed a claim due to water entering our condo due to the neighboring condo accidentally drilling into water lines. We were able to move back into the condo after 3 months with our family of four and two dogs in a hotel for renovations. To top it, we have a six-year-old disabled son (cerebral palsy, non-verbal). We found during the remodel that each time it rains all of the “common grounds” (our yard!) around our condo flood every time it rains. To the point at times there is 8 inches of standing water. The gutters are in disrepair as well. I did report this to the treasurer as well as the association president. I was told “it is an ongoing problem” “we live in the forest, what do you expect” “it would cost too much to fix” “you know, everyone has to pay for anything that is done here?”! They basically have all lived there for over twenty years and do not care if my yard is flooded! It isn’t affecting them, they are all friends, it has been poorly maintained for too long! We do not live in a forest! It is a small, wooded grounds in the middle of a major metropolitan area. I have no idea what to do, we just spent a ton remodeling but am very fearful of structural damage!
Mister Condo replies:
T.B., I am terribly sorry for your misfortunes. The water damage was unfortunate but things like that do happen and insurance typically covers the damage and even most, if not all, of your out-of-pocket living expenses while your unit isn’t available. Many homeowner’s insurance policies offer this type of protection. As for your flooding problem when it rains, that is a different matter. Most associations would not stand for the type of maintenance on their common grounds as you have described. At the end of the day, you will have to do one of two things to get this fixed. First, you can vote these folks off of the Board. That may not be an easy task since they have been there a long time and may have the support of the majority of homeowners who have elected them to represent the association. If you are in the minority of dissatisfied homeowners, it might be impossible to gather enough votes to get these folks out of office. On the other hand, it may be time to speak with a locally qualified attorney about what legal remedies are available to you. If I were in this situation, I would be looking to sue the association for negligence. The various and assorted answers they have provided don’t cut it with regards to their legal obligation to the homeowners, including yourself, when it comes to service that the association must provide by the contract of the Declaration and other governance documents. If you are comfortable interpreting these documents on your own, you may not need an attorney to bring your suit against the Board but I highly recommend that you at least consult with one before you take on this legal task. Sometimes the threat of a lawsuit is enough to “motivate” the Board to do the right thing, which may include raising common fees, special assessments and more to raise the money needed but it is likely your only viable choice. Good luck!