K.M. from New Haven County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Our condominiums were built in the 1960s. Our Community consists of 3 buildings with 14 condos in each building. (7 on the lower level and 7 upper level). Our buildings are built on concrete slabs. Our heating pipes are in the concrete slabs. There is one boiler in each building. Our hot water heat is shared servicing all units in the building by the heating pipes that run in a loop under each condo. The hot water heat pipes are leaking in the slabs. Is this something that is usually covered under our Condo Association insurance.
Mister Condo replies:
K.M., while it is possible that the association has a policy that covers damages caused by failed common elements, I would think it extremely unusual that 60-year-old equipment failure would be considered a covered loss. Common elements with limited life spans are typically the responsibility for the association and should be repaired or replaced according to the usable life span of the asset. While I know of older buildings like yours that have heating systems as old or older, the reality is that the heating system was being operated on borrowed time. An HVAC expert can give you more details than I could and I imagine the existing underground pipes would be best services by retrofitting or replacement, both quite expensive but necessary of the building is going to be properly maintained. Ideally the replacement heating system would have been planned for in a Reserve Study and money would have been saved for the past 60 years earmarked for its replacement. Sadly, many associations don’t plan ahead and the end result is disastrous, predictable, and preventable. It is quite possible that the current owners, yourself included, will be forced to bear the cost of the unit’s repair and replacement. That could mean an association loan or a Special Assessment to pay for the project. All the best!