C.N. from New Haven County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
My fireplace is sealed and insulated. I don’t use it. Now the HOA Board is requiring I pay to have the ‘chimney and outside components’ inspected to be sure no dead animals or debris are in there for insurance purposes. Is this my responsibility?
Mister Condo replies:
C.N., as the weather cools, a nice fireplace sounds good right about now. However, you are not alone in sealing and insulating your fireplace and, I assume, you were well within your rights to do so back when you did. Was the Board notified of that action? Was approval needed to do so back when you had it sealed and insulated? The Board is responsible for the safety and well-being of unit owners within the HOA. That includes purchasing insurance to protect the common elements and outside elements. As a requirement of insuring buildings with chimneys, the insurer can certainly require that chimney inspections take place. The real question is why do they require an inspection of a sealed chimney? You would think proof that the chimney has been sealed would end that request. Regardless of the “why” they need the inspection, the issue of “who” pays for it is likely outlined in your condo documents. My guess is that the chimney is a limited common element (provided solely for your use and enjoyment). As such it is possible that all care and maintenance falls to you as the owner of the unit. The inspection falls under care and maintenance so you may be on the hook. That being said, if you can offer the insurance company proof that the chimney is sealed, that may suffice. If you do need to have the chimney inspected, I would request a copy of the inspection report so that you have it on file for the next time they require an inspection. At that time, you should be able to produce the report that shows the chimney is sealed and needs no inspection for dead animals or debris. However, just because the chimney is sealed now, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be unsealed in the future. Even though that possibility is remote, I can see a scenario where you are asked for the inspection report time and time again even if all the report does is confirm that the chimney is sealed and not in use. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen. All the best!