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Subject: Power to Enforce Insurance Requirements
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Author Messages
BruceG5
(Texas)

Posts:4


01/07/2020 1:19 PM  
I am the Board Treasurer for a 30 unit condo association. The units were built in the 1970's and have aluminum wiring. We were recently advised by the insurance company that remediation of all connections is a condition of the policy. It appears that all other underwriters now require the same. Given that the "aluminum connections" (outlets/switches) belong to the unit owners, how can the HOA effectively require the owners to perform the remediation? Our bylaws allow the right to enforce "common area" maintenance, but of course this issue is not related to common areas. Would greatly appreciate any insight you might have.
JaredC
(Texas)

Posts:264


01/07/2020 1:33 PM  
This is only anecdotal but our HOA had the same issue. In the end the board hired an electrician make the necessary repairs to each unit. I believe they even had to go so far as to require a police officer to force the issue for the few homeowners that were being jerks. It was a process.

If I were in your position I would contact an attorney with knowledge of Condo laws and let them guide you through the process.
AugustinD


Posts:3677


01/07/2020 1:36 PM  
Do your HOA's governing documents require that the HOA have insurance? Probably.

Could the aluminum wiring connections be deemed an unsafe activity in each unit? Probably.

Consult the HOA attorney. For now, I think a letter to owners could be crafted stating each owner is required to convert the connections. The letter would explain that the hazard is high enough that (1) the HOA cannot get insurance without the conversion, and yet the governing documents require the HOA to have insurance; and (2) the HOA feels it is in its rights to require replacement, under CC&R ____. Offer the name of a few electrical companies who will do this. Require each member to provide a receipt describing the work. Give them a deadline to have the work completed. Be apologetic but firm. Maybe mention that infrastructure standards change all the time. The HOA is stuck with keeping up. Sometimes this means requiring owners to keep up as well.

I do not think this is unusual. Many condo associations, where the units have chimneys, require owners to prove they have had the chimney cleaned periodically, all because the condo association's insurer said it would not provide insurance otherwise. This is despite the governing documents being silent on the specific requirement to clean chimneys.
JeffT2
(Iowa)

Posts:548


01/07/2020 5:05 PM  
It really doesn't matter whether each owner pays an electrician directly, or each owner pays the association (through assessments) to have the association pay the electrician. The amount of the money will be the same either way for the owner.

I recommend that the board hire an electrician, as was done by Jared's association, and get it done. It will be a lot easier and better than forcing all the owners to do it on their own and checking on each owner.

Your governing documents most likely give the board the authority to take on such a project and make it a common expense. I wouldn't bother asking a lawyer. This is both an insurance issue and a safety issue since aluminum wire connections can cause fires.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:7395


01/07/2020 5:22 PM  
The CC&Rs in our condo high rise give the Board's agents the authority to go into units and make repairs to protect the common areas, other condos and Assoiation property. This seems to be the case here.

As Augie points out, the CC&Rs probably also require the association to carry insurance on the building.

So just write a letter educating Owners to the fact that this repair is required, why, etc. as Augie suggests. No attorney needed.

I'd agree with Jeff, it'll be more efficient it one contractor does the work in all the units. Ownrrs pay, but they might get a bulk-rate break if all are done by the same firm on a well laid out schedule.
LetA
(Nevada)

Posts:997


01/07/2020 6:07 PM  
You have a code issue, I would contact your HOA attorney and work with code enforcement. You should ask your attorney if you can compel the owners to make the HOA a named insured on their owners policy.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:2902


01/07/2020 6:19 PM  
To my knowledge, this is not a code issue, per se.

This is merely an insurance company saying that in order to provide insurance they want switches and outlet connection points to be replaced. Now, an electrician can only install code compliant components, but this is only if the old ones are removed.

I could be wrong, 😀
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:9445


01/08/2020 4:55 AM  
It is probably best to explain it to all the residents the situation. It may require a special assessment to cover the costs. It sounds like they only want the actual connections like outlets replaced not all the wiring. Reason being that dissimilar metals connected together can cause heat. Which then can cause fires.

I've replaced outlets before and depending the number it can take a few hours per home. You all may be able to save some money if you buy the supplies separately. Pay for the installation. That can help avoid a few pitfalls of questionable contractors.

Don't cause a panic over this would be my biggest concern. Many won't understand the risk or why it's okay to keep the wire. So be prepared to answer those questions.

Former HOA President
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:2902


01/08/2020 6:56 AM  
It is not so much that the dissimilar metals can cause heat by being connected together, but rather the differences in expansion when aluminum wire is connected to commonly installed copper connectors on switches, outlets, panels (aluminum wire clamped down at the connection point) and that aluminum creeps due to this expansion and contraction - the difference allowed the aluminum, in some cases to become loose at the connection point and then start overheating. Special switches, outlets, wirenuts, etc are now available that allows safe connection of aluminum wiring.

Aluminum wiring can be made safe by using the correct outlets, switches, connectors, panels, etc.

Sounds like something everyone should be interested in supporting.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9672


01/08/2020 8:57 AM  
Posted By LetA on 01/07/2020 6:07 PM
You have a code issue, I would contact your HOA attorney and work with code enforcement. You should ask your attorney if you can compel the owners to make the HOA a named insured on their owners policy.




If it is in your Covenants, as it is in ours, the answer is yes.
MarkM31
(Washington)

Posts:494


01/08/2020 9:41 AM  
Posted By LetA on 01/07/2020 6:07 PM
You have a code issue, I would contact your HOA attorney and work with code enforcement. You should ask your attorney if you can compel the owners to make the HOA a named insured on their owners policy.




Actually not a code issue at all
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:2902


01/08/2020 10:42 AM  
It only becomes a (likely) code issue if an outlet, switch, etc, is removed and replaced with a non-aluminum to copper device.

In addition to the approved devices for connecting to aluminum wiring, there is a method that I would probably do if I had a home with aluminum wiring.

This CPSC pub points to three methods - I like the concept of connecting a pigtail of copper to the aluminum using a special connector and tool to ensure what is basically a high pressure welded connection. Once done, any common approved device can be connected without reference to the aluminum wiring - as the aluminum no longer touches the device.

Note - the "COPALUM" process could be more expensive than replacing with accepted aluminum qualified devices - but, further reading will show some issues even with these special switches and outlet devices - so, the only two recommended permanent fixes are rewiring with copper, or the copper pigtail process.

https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/516.pdf
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