B. from New Haven County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We have a retaining wall that was installed by old management, bypassing all zoning laws, w/o drainage now it has reached my deck support. The state got involved, and the city claims no knowledge, now we are on the hook for cost, legal rep retainer, and maintenance. Is there some way we can get this done w/o absorbing the whole cost?
Mister Condo replies:
B., in a word, that stinks. Is the old management company still in business? Have you requested a copy of the association records showing the retaining wall installation? How is it that you won the wall and not the association? These are all questions I would want answered and I would speak with an attorney before shelling out my money for a problem I didn’t create. It is completely possible that you will be found responsible for the wall and the expense but before I accepted my fate, I would want to know that every other avenue had been explored. It is not typical for a condominium association, which owns the land beneath and surrounding the condominium units, would not have responsibility for all of the common grounds. However, it is possible that an exception was made for a previous owner who was trying to stop the grounds around him from eroding. If so, there should be an agreement on file between the previous owner and the association allowing the work to be done. That agreement should show that the unit owner is responsible for the retaining wall in perpetuity. If that unit owner installed the retaining wall without proper documentation, you may have a case against them as well. The bottom line is that you may be on the hook for the immediate repair because these other remedies will take time. However, if you have an attorney push back against the association that they are responsible for the repairs, you might just find out that they are. Sorry this has happened to you and good luck getting a safe and speedy resolution.