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Subject: Can an HOA enforce maintenance in condos?
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PaulM30
(B)

Posts:9


04/22/2019 2:54 PM  
Typically speaking, can an HOA mandate maintenance work within the confines of a condo unit and asses the owners for that maintenance? My building recently had an issue where a valve failed in a higher floor unit, which caused serious flooding to the units below. The valve is of fairly poor quality, and was installed at the time the building was constructed around 10 years ago. The HOA have contacted a plumbing contractor and will arrange for the valves to be replaced in all units, and will assess between $50-$100 to each unit for the cost of the work Is this usually within the scope of what an HOA can do? Can an HOA usually mandate maintenance work within the walls of condo units?
BobB31
(Florida)

Posts:74


04/22/2019 3:12 PM  
It sounds like an owner-owner dispute, not something that HOAs get involved with.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:8090


04/22/2019 3:29 PM  
Depends on who installed the plumbing? It sounds like this is internal plumbing inside the walls. Which the HOA installed original to construction. I would say yes they can and should replace those valves equally amongst everyone. Which costs money. Atleast your saving money by dividing the bill equal amongst ALL the owners. Otherwise, individual costs and timelines could cost ALOT more.

Former HOA President
PaulM30
(B)

Posts:9


04/22/2019 4:51 PM  
Sorry, should have been more clear. It was the valve in the toilet cistern which is responsible for shutting the water off when the cistern is full. It failed while the owner was away so water kept running for days. The board want to do this purely as a preventative measure as all units have the same model, and several of our owners are part time residents.
PaulM30
(B)

Posts:9


04/22/2019 4:52 PM  
Posted By BobB31 on 04/22/2019 3:12 PM
It sounds like an owner-owner dispute, not something that HOAs get involved with.




The liability between owners was all taken care of. The fault was a faulty cistern valve so the board want to mandate that they’re all replaced to avoid anything happening in future.
BobB31
(Florida)

Posts:74


04/22/2019 5:11 PM  
Posted By PaulM30 on 04/22/2019 4:52 PM
Posted By BobB31 on 04/22/2019 3:12 PM
It sounds like an owner-owner dispute, not something that HOAs get involved with.




The liability between owners was all taken care of. The fault was a faulty cistern valve so the board want to mandate that they’re all replaced to avoid anything happening in future.



I can see a couple problems with this approach:
1. Owners forced to replace non-faulty valves - unless there is proof that the valves are faulty I would have a problem with this approach
2. Owners forced to replace non-faulty valves with potentially faulty valves - "new" <> non-faulty - who is liable?
3. A cistern valve does not typically fail with no prior symptoms - had the owner ignored these warning symptoms?
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:243


04/22/2019 5:17 PM  
Look at your governing documents to see if there is anything that gives the association the right to enter a unit in an emergency and do repairs. This is pretty common. I'm assuming that your unit is the typical "walls in", with the major structural components of the buildings defined as Common Elements. If this is the case, since Common Elements could also be damaged when a valve fails, the association has an interest in preventing such damage.

It's also probably in everyone's best financial interest to have the all valves replaced, rather than wait for them to fail and then deal with the results -- i.e., your unit gets flooded, or your unit is the one doing the flooding in which case you'd be responsible for damages to the unit(s) below. Not only is such a piecemeal approach more expensive, it can also result in your insurance premiums rising, or the HOA becoming uninsurable altogether due to multiple claims.
PaulM30
(B)

Posts:9


04/22/2019 5:54 PM  
Posted By BobB31 on 04/22/2019 5:11 PM
Posted By PaulM30 on 04/22/2019 4:52 PM
Posted By BobB31 on 04/22/2019 3:12 PM
It sounds like an owner-owner dispute, not something that HOAs get involved with.




The liability between owners was all taken care of. The fault was a faulty cistern valve so the board want to mandate that they’re all replaced to avoid anything happening in future.



I can see a couple problems with this approach:
1. Owners forced to replace non-faulty valves - unless there is proof that the valves are faulty I would have a problem with this approach
2. Owners forced to replace non-faulty valves with potentially faulty valves - "new" <> non-faulty - who is liable?
3. A cistern valve does not typically fail with no prior symptoms - had the owner ignored these warning symptoms?




I don't think the point is that they're 'faulty', more that they have expected useful lives, and the ones we have are of a very cheap variety.

Number 2 is my biggest concern.

I don't know, but it's impossible to ascertain one way or the other. He was a part time owner and was rarely there.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3247


04/22/2019 6:54 PM  
Posted By CathyA3 on 04/22/2019 5:17 PM
Look at your governing documents to see if there is anything that gives the association the right to enter a unit in an emergency and do repairs. This is pretty common. I'm assuming that your unit is the typical "walls in", with the major structural components of the buildings defined as Common Elements. If this is the case, since Common Elements could also be damaged when a valve fails, the association has an interest in preventing such damage.

It's also probably in everyone's best financial interest to have the all valves replaced, rather than wait for them to fail and then deal with the results -- i.e., your unit gets flooded, or your unit is the one doing the flooding in which case you'd be responsible for damages to the unit(s) below. Not only is such a piecemeal approach more expensive, it can also result in your insurance premiums rising, or the HOA becoming uninsurable altogether due to multiple claims.



Well said Cathy.

Paul, as others are saying, there is no such thing as typical. Your docs and your state laws will provide specific answers.

But here are some general comments:

- Many condos restrict the flooring that can be used when there's a unit below. Why would leaks be any less of a valid reason to assert control than squeaks?

- What percentage of the units are vacant for long periods of time? The higher that number, the more the Board's decision makes sense.

- When the Board became aware of the valve's limitations, did that open the Association up to increased liability if they did not act to alleviate the risk? Did they get good advice from Insurers and Lawyers? If yes, why second guess them.

- $50-$100 per unit is reasonable.

- If someone wanted to sell their unit, would they have to disclose the known risk to a potential buyer? How would that affect marketability?

- With the flooding incident, how long were the affected units out of commission? Would that need to be disclosed to a potential buyer?

- Did the flood create an added risk of mold? - Which is one of the greatest areas of conflict between Association and unit owner.

- Were anyone's insurance premiums affected? - Not enough to say it was resolved.


If your Board discussed a good number of these issues before reaching their decision, I applaud them. I'd pay the $50-$100 and say - Glad someone is looking out for my future needs.

Je publie un degagement de toutes responsabilite. Read all posts at your own risk.
JoyceR2
(Virginia)

Posts:149


04/23/2019 8:11 AM  
All of this below makes perfect logical sense. The board should do due diligence "always" to protect properties.


on 04/22/2019 6:54 PM
Posted By CathyA3 on 04/22/2019 5:17 PM
Look at your governing documents to see if there is anything that gives the association the right to enter a unit in an emergency and do repairs. This is pretty common. I'm assuming that your unit is the typical "walls in", with the major structural components of the buildings defined as Common Elements. If this is the case, since Common Elements could also be damaged when a valve fails, the association has an interest in preventing such damage.

It's also probably in everyone's best financial interest to have the all valves replaced, rather than wait for them to fail and then deal with the results -- i.e., your unit gets flooded, or your unit is the one doing the flooding in which case you'd be responsible for damages to the unit(s) below. Not only is such a piecemeal approach more expensive, it can also result in your insurance premiums rising, or the HOA becoming uninsurable altogether due to multiple claims.



Well said Cathy.

Paul, as others are saying, there is no such thing as typical. Your docs and your state laws will provide specific answers.

But here are some general comments:

- Many condos restrict the flooring that can be used when there's a unit below. Why would leaks be any less of a valid reason to assert control than squeaks?

- What percentage of the units are vacant for long periods of time? The higher that number, the more the Board's decision makes sense.

- When the Board became aware of the valve's limitations, did that open the Association up to increased liability if they did not act to alleviate the risk? Did they get good advice from Insurers and Lawyers? If yes, why second guess them.

- $50-$100 per unit is reasonable.

- If someone wanted to sell their unit, would they have to disclose the known risk to a potential buyer? How would that affect marketability?

- With the flooding incident, how long were the affected units out of commission? Would that need to be disclosed to a potential buyer?

- Did the flood create an added risk of mold? - Which is one of the greatest areas of conflict between Association and unit owner.

- Were anyone's insurance premiums affected? - Not enough to say it was resolved.


If your Board discussed a good number of these issues before reaching their decision, I applaud them. I'd pay the $50-$100 and say - Glad someone is looking out for my future needs.


CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:243


04/23/2019 8:37 AM  
Another insurance item that just occurred to me: if your association has "all included" insurance, then a good part of a damaged condo will be covered by the association's insurance in events like these.

With "all in" insurance, think of your unit as a box, then picture it being flipped upside down. The stuff that falls (eg. owner's personal belongings) would be covered by the owner's insurance. The stuff that doesn't fall (drywall, cabinetry, countertops, plumbing fixtures, flooring, etc.) would be covered by the association's insurance. You can see that the association would have a vested interest in protecting itself from damages due to failing plumbing fixtures.

All included insurance can be confusing since it covers parts of the unit *in the event of an insurable loss.* This is different from routine maintenance where the unit owner is entirely responsible for upkeep of the home's interior.

You can check your governing documents to see what it says about your HOA's insurance. (My Declaration says that my association must carry "all in" insurance.)
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6350


04/23/2019 9:36 AM  
We are a condo HOA too, two high rises. Our previous & current HOA general counsels advised against the HOA demanding Owners pay for mandatory inspections or repairs of our separate interest items in our condos. Here and I think most condos, Owners are indeed obligated to maintain their valves, faucets, toilet seals, etc. These are our separate property.

So we have an annual voluntary inspection of clothes dryer duct work that terminates usually on our balcony ceilings. It's $72. And we have a voluntary inspection of our water source heat pumps (HVAC units) in our condos at about $90 apiece. The purpose of both is to prevent water damage to our own condos and the common areas or condos below. But both attorneys and our construction defect attorneys advised against making these inspections mandatory. They do not meet the criteria of the HOA entering because of an emergency.

Every owner gets a report and it's their obligation to make necessary repairs, if any.

A Board member wanted to have a mandatory plumbing inspection of all units' fixtures because our towers were about 17 y.o at the time. Our GC advised against it and made it voluntary. I think is it was $125. Maybe half of our 200+ owners did this.

As with most OR maybe all condos, our CC&Rs permit the HOA to come in and do work if something IS threatening common areas or other condos. In the case of these separate interest valves, it seems they MIGHT be a threat. That they're "cheap" may not matter unless there's a report from an independent plumbing expert, not someone who could profit, that states they must all be replaced to avoid damage to common areas or other condo.

Otherwise, I think your board should send a letter to all owners offering the replacement and explaining why without exaggerating the issues. Make sure they know that if their valve fails and causes damage to other units, they will be completely responsible. Also advise them to turn off the valve to their washing machine and other items if they'll be away for any length of time and to NOT run their washers or dishwashers when not at home or when asleep. We have these tips & others in our Welcome Package.
SamE2
(New Jersey)

Posts:92


04/25/2019 5:21 AM  
My HOA would communicate the known risk, advise the unit owners their insurance carrier may not cover damage caused by a known risk that was ignored, and offer to coordinate the replacement at a cost to each unit owner. The choice would be up to the unit owner. By the way we are a vacation home HOA and we require owners to turn off their water if they are away for more than two days.
AugustinD


Posts:1594


04/25/2019 7:03 AM  
Posted By PaulM30 on 04/22/2019 2:54 PM
Typically speaking, can an HOA mandate maintenance work within the confines of a condo unit and asses the owners for that maintenance? My building recently had an issue where a valve failed in a higher floor unit, which caused serious flooding to the units below. The valve is of fairly poor quality, and was installed at the time the building was constructed around 10 years ago.


Posted By PaulM30 on 04/22/2019 4:51 PM
It was the valve in the toilet cistern which is responsible for shutting the water off when the cistern is full. It failed while the owner was away so water kept running for days. The board want to do this purely as a preventative measure as all units have the same model, and several of our owners are part time residents.


This would be a double failure of sorts: First the valve is stuck open, and second the overflow tube was not draining the tank adequately. The overflow is a redundant safety feature and was not doing its job for some reason. This sort of failure is rare.

On the other hand, it is true that a cistern fill valve assembly (which is what failed) that is ten years old is pushing it. If any of these lasted ten years, I would not call this "fairly poor quality."

My bigger concern would be water waste due to a failed flapper valve. Does each condo unit have its own water meter? Or per chance, does the condo association pay all the water bills?

If each unit has its own water meter, then I doubt the governing documents permit entry for this item. If the condo association as a whole pays all the water bills, then I bet I could find justification in the governing documents to order owners to replace their fill valve assembly and flapper valve; provide a receipt to the front office; and subject each unit to a periodic inspection. Failure to do so could result in a fine.

A leaking flapper valve can waste 200 gallons per day (small leak) to a few thousand gallons per day (large leak).

For non-emergency situations, under no circumstances should the Condo Association replace that which is not the Association's maintenance responsibility. The liability risk is too great. The instant the Association contracts an agent to do this work, I'd argue the Association becomes responsible for maintaining the entire toilet.

One could rationalize all manner of entries into an owner's unit on grounds that xyz could damage the common area, because xyz is a fire risk; might leak water; weighs too much, could fall over and might damage areas between walls; and so on. The lines are never perfectly clear, but the lines have to be drawn.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8276


04/25/2019 9:31 AM  
Personally, in a multi unit building environment I believe the association can order "safety deficiencies" fixed and verify such.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6350


04/25/2019 10:59 AM  
It depends on what the documents say, John. "Safety deficiency" is too vague a phrase. In our CC&Rs, the HOA only can order inspections or make repairs in units if there's an emergency that threatens other condos or the common areas. Per ours, they cannot come in and replace something to save the HOA money. there COULD be a well-publicized voluntary program to replace flappers in toilets, whereby owners could pay a cheap bulk rate to replace their flappers. But, in the past few years they're been a lot of remodels here with more efficient toilets installed. We do not have separate meters for water.

In multi-story buildings, there are numerous potential sources of water leaks and floods. It's a risk that folks should understand when they purchase. We have dire warnings in our Welcome Packet. Several years ago, we had a gaggle of original garbage disposals fail when they'd reached the end of their lives doing some water damage to the unit involved and one or more below.

We've more recently had leaks from around shower pans due to 18 y.o. grout & caulking material that withered and cracked. Some damage to the ceiling below. A resident in one was a 350lb. NFL nose tackle, whose weight may have played a role. IMO, education of owners is key.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8276


04/25/2019 5:03 PM  
Posted By KerryL1 on 04/25/2019 10:59 AM
It depends on what the documents say, John. "Safety deficiency" is too vague a phrase. In our CC&Rs, the HOA only can order inspections or make repairs in units if there's an emergency that threatens other condos or the common areas. Per ours, they cannot come in and replace something to save the HOA money. there COULD be a well-publicized voluntary program to replace flappers in toilets, whereby owners could pay a cheap bulk rate to replace their flappers. But, in the past few years they're been a lot of remodels here with more efficient toilets installed. We do not have separate meters for water.

In multi-story buildings, there are numerous potential sources of water leaks and floods. It's a risk that folks should understand when they purchase. We have dire warnings in our Welcome Packet. Several years ago, we had a gaggle of original garbage disposals fail when they'd reached the end of their lives doing some water damage to the unit involved and one or more below.

We've more recently had leaks from around shower pans due to 18 y.o. grout & caulking material that withered and cracked. Some damage to the ceiling below. A resident in one was a 350lb. NFL nose tackle, whose weight may have played a role. IMO, education of owners is key.




Therein lies the rub: Safety deficiency.
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