M.M. from Windham County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
The managers want me to pay an estimated $9,000 to repair a broken sewage pipe that serves my unit only. The pipe is 9 feet below the surface of the communal parking lot for my building and 40 feet from the access pipe in my basement. I say I own only the interior and will not authorize the excavation. It’s the Condo Association’s insurance company’s role to repair exterior damage, such as potholes or dangling trees. The managers disagree and are pressuring me to order the repairs now– in mid-winter in Connecticut. I was told that if sewage backs up in my neighbors’ units that I will be responsible for all repairs. How can sewage back up in my neighbors’ units if the broken pipe serves ONLY my connection to the condos’ sewage system? The Bylaws document is flawed. A previous manager created it by taking pertinent points from other bylaws. I have found at least seven examples where the association is responsible for damages to the limited common elements; the manager has found two that put the blame on me, the unit owner. So far, everyone I’ve asked sides with me. I fear that even with overwhelming support for my view, the managers will ignore that support and sue me to repair the pipe. Use my insurance, they say, even though there is a $1,000 deductible. I’ve informed the other 41 units that if the managers do this to me, they could do the same to them. Help!
Mister Condo replies:
M.M., you are in a most precarious situation. Without examining your condo documents, I, too, feel that you are correct in your presumption that this is a condo association matter and not your personal problem. However, the Board (via the manager) has made it clear that they are not willing to pay for the repair and that they are going to charge you for any additional damages should you fail to remedy the situation. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in this column. For me, this matter would be referred to my attorney. This is a clear case of misinterpretation of the governing documents as to responsibility of a limited common element. It is possible that the documents are poorly written when it comes to maintenance of a limited common element (many are), however, an attorney can best let you know if you will prevail in court should the matter go that far. For the record, the manager is not empowered to write or rewrite bylaws. The manager can do research and even make suggestions to the Board but the Board, and only the Board, is empowered to adopt those changes. In some cases, document amendments require a full vote of all the members. If the rules for changing the rules weren’t followed, those document amendments may be challenged and discarded. One more reason an attorney is you best option for defense right now. All the best!