B.M. from Oakland County, Michigan writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I have a detached garage and I have been gathering a lot of water since the landscape around the garage has not been properly draining. Instead when it rains all the water seems to get into my garage. In the winter the water freezes making it a hazard for slip and fall. I have tried to get the board and the management company to fix this issue since I’ve moved here five years ago. And it just seems to be getting worse. All I get is there’s not enough money in the budget. Now I see mold gathering all over the garage walls as well. I spoke to a landscape crew and told them my issue and they investigated it and said it would be very easy to fix by digging a trench behind the garage and draining elsewhere. They said it would not be very costly. Decided to send an estimate to the board. The board ignored the request and estimate. What does one have to do to get the attention of the board and the management company? Do I have to have an actual slip and fall and hurt myself and sue? The wood walls are rotting which means that the structure can fail. Any suggestions or advice?
Mister Condo replies:
B.M., I am sorry you find yourself at odds with your association over their duty to maintain and protect the property. I wish I could say you are the only one but the reality is that the demand and desire to keep common fees low has forced many associations into similar situations. Unfortunately, you have hit the nail on the head with your injury scenario. You really can’t force the Board to spend money on maintenance it claims it can’t afford. If all it is going to take to fix the property is a ditch, you might get a cost estimate and present it to the Board and even offer to pay for it if they won’t. This is an extreme measure but it would solve your problem. As for the greater systemic problem of not having enough money, you can suggest that it is time to have a Reserve Study done and then properly fund the community for future capital improvements. It is only a matter of time before this “deferred maintenance” is going to become required maintenance. At that time, unit owners can expect hefty special assessments. Owners that can’t afford the assessments could risk foreclosure. Better to properly budget for tomorrow’s repairs today while there is still time to collect it in smaller increments that may not cause the same financial duress that a special assessment will cause. At the end of the day, this Board and previous Boards have not done the community any favor by keeping the fees low. In fact, they have created quite an expensive problem for all current and future owners. All the best!