D.D. from Hartford County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
My condominium is suffering from decks that are clearly rotting. I had the leg of a deck chair pop a piece of wood right out from under the chair last week. I’ve complained to the condo president (my neighbor) but he says we don’t have any money in the Reserve Fund to address the problem. What’s it going to take for me to get the association to replace my deck like they should?
Mister Condo replies:
D.D., rotting decks are a serious problem that no condo association should take lightly. In fact, even decks that appear safe and strong need to be replaced on a regular basis at condominiums so that the association protects itself against liability in the event of a deck failure on decks that have lasted past their warranted life span. If a deck is warranted for 15 years the clock for replacement is ticking the day the deck is installed. In fifteen years time, it will need to be replaced, even though it is very likely to still look and function fine in fifteen years time. The reason for this is insurance liability. If the deck fails and was out of warranty, the association could find itself on the receiving end of a very expensive lawsuit. How expensive? One recent case in Indiana has the unit owners seeking millions form the association.
Hopefully, nothing like that will befall you or your community. However, deck repairs and maintenance cannot simply be shrugged off with a simple “we’re out of money”. Share this story with your condo president. He needs to address the issue with his fellow Board members to devise a plan to pay for the needed deck repairs. It may be a life or death issue. At the very least, it is a potential liability that your association does not need or want. Options to pay for the deck repairs include levying of special assessments and/or borrowing money from a bank.
Also, since he has indicated that the Reserve Fund was not properly funded, this is a good time to look at all of the other projects that are improperly funded. The decks are very likely just one of many items that have been deferred over the years. Common fees will likely need to be increased to cover the deficit. A recent study of condominium Reserve Funds across the country found almost 70% of them to be underfunded. It is high time that this trend be reversed. Your community can use the deck replacement project as the first step in the right direction of fiscal responsibility and condominium association stewardship. Good luck and be safe!