J.O. from Hillsborough County, New Hampshire writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We have a water closet that holds our heating unit and hot water heater that needs to be accessed through a common area through the washer and dryer room. We have no way to access the water closet directly from our condo. When the property was bought we were told that that water closet was ours and we had direct access and given a key to access it as beyond the laundry room was our water closet. In addition to the water closet we have also been using it as a small storage space. It was recently found out that we have been using it for additional storage and the condo Association has told us that we are not entitled to have access to the water closet freely and that if we are to access it we need to call the condo association and have maintenance come and unlock it for us. If there’s any emergency in the late hours or anything we don’t have access to address our heat in the condo or our hot water heater. We cannot find any documentation about the water closet in the contract for the condo. What I am wondering is are they allowed to deny us access to the water closet even though we are financially responsible for the items in there like our hot water heater and our heat heating unit. If they deny us access, to it does that mean we are no longer financially responsible for those items since they are not in the unit itself and we do not have free access to them. Or are we legally entitled to have free access to that water closet as it is part of our condo even though we cannot access it directly from our condo unit.
Mister Condo replies:
J.O., as you have pointed out, there is no documentation indicating that you have access to the water closet. I am not sure who told you that you did back when you bought the condo but, clearly, they were incorrect. While many of your observations make common sense, I have found that “common sense” and “common interest” communities such as condos don’t always go hand in hand. If the association owns the water closet (it appears they do), you certainly can’t store anything in there. They have the right to control access to the water closet and have determined that the association is the only rightful keyholder. Your observations about access in case of an emergency makes sense but that isn’t how common elements work. You need to insure your property from emergency damage. That is your best defense in the event of an emergency. Hopefully, the association maintains the water closet and its housed equipment properly and you never need to make a claim. All the best!