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Subject: Condo Board Performing Maintenance on Unit Components
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Author Messages
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/10/2021 11:17 AM  
Not sure how much of a fuss to make about this.

We received a notice that a company would be in the community performing maintenance on something that is identified in our CC&Rs as part of the unit. The article outlining Unit Owner Responsibilities also lists this item specifically as one that is the owner's responsibility to maintain.

I emailed the board and PM, quoting the relevant portions of the CC&Rs. Their response was that the board has decided to add this service to prevent fires and as a "service".

In other words, the board thinks it's a good idea and intends to keep doing it (which answered my question whether this was ignorance or deliberate misbehavior).

My dilemma: I don't give a hoot about the item in question. I do give a hoot that the board thinks it can ignore the CC&Rs if they think it's a good idea. I also don't like the idea is that this particular decision can increase liability for the association if owner property is damaged and is basically asking to be sued if someone is paying attention.

So... do I dig in my heels now over something that's pretty low stakes (the item in question is low stakes, not the fact that the board is violating the CC&Rs) or do I wait until something bigger hits the fan? Or just head for the hills...?

MaxB4
(California)

Posts:1594


11/10/2021 11:22 AM  
What's the item in question?
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:8720


11/10/2021 11:46 AM  
I'm in a multi-story condo HOA too, Cathy. I know you're seasoned and skilled at reading your governing docs. Do your CC&Rs give the HOA the right to enter units whenever they feel like it? Or does the CC&Rs say the HOA can enter only for certain purposes? (beyond emergencies, of course)

Has the Board budgeted for this "maintenance service?" Or are Owners going to be charged?

Is the Board making this service mandatory?

I'd be concerned too about liability. I agree that the Board thinking it's a "good idea" is insufficient to ignore your covenants.

Knowing what this maintenance comprises would help. Doesn't seem like it's ceiling sprinklers as, at least here, they're required to be inspected annually. Our owners are then sent a list of sprinkler heads that need to replaced, if any, etc. Is this related to clothes dryer duct cleaning??
LetA
(Nevada)

Posts:1462


11/10/2021 11:55 AM  
After Surfside in Florida, Condo boards are under the microscope. Depending on the item, I would not second guess it.

What is the item in question.
AugustinD


Posts:1901


11/10/2021 12:09 PM  
Posted By CathyA3 on 11/10/2021 11:17 AM
Not sure how much of a fuss to make about this.

We received a notice that a company would be in the community performing maintenance on something that is identified in our CC&Rs as part of the unit. The article outlining Unit Owner Responsibilities also lists this item specifically as one that is the owner's responsibility to maintain.

I emailed the board and PM, quoting the relevant portions of the CC&Rs. Their response was that the board has decided to add this service to prevent fires and as a "service".

In other words, the board thinks it's a good idea and intends to keep doing it (which answered my question whether this was ignorance or deliberate misbehavior).

My dilemma: I don't give a hoot about the item in question. I do give a hoot that the board thinks it can ignore the CC&Rs if they think it's a good idea. I also don't like the idea is that this particular decision can increase liability for the association if owner property is damaged and is basically asking to be sued if someone is paying attention.

So... do I dig in my heels now over something that's pretty low stakes (the item in question is low stakes, not the fact that the board is violating the CC&Rs) or do I wait until something bigger hits the fan? Or just head for the hills...?

I am pretty sure I would not like what this board is doing either. The item being "low stakes" does not matter to me. A buck's a buck, and they should not get in this frame of mind of ignoring the CCRs and substituting their own judgment, as unvoted-on, and so legally invalid, board-created amendments to the CCRs.

I agree with those who think liability is being created when the board does maintenance on a unit that the CCRs do not support

What does 'dig in your heels' mean? I say at least raise it at an open board meeting. Then go from there.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:11659


11/10/2021 12:40 PM  
I am guessing at duct cleaning. If so and a central system, they might well be within their rights to enter and clean.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/10/2021 12:45 PM  
Posted By KerryL1 on 11/10/2021 11:46 AM
I'm in a multi-story condo HOA too, Cathy. I know you're seasoned and skilled at reading your governing docs. Do your CC&Rs give the HOA the right to enter units whenever they feel like it? Or does the CC&Rs say the HOA can enter only for certain purposes? (beyond emergencies, of course)


The association has the right to enter units "in connection with any maintenance or construction for which the association is responsible". The issue here is the part in bold, since the association is not responsible in this case. Elsewhere it says that the association has the right to enter in the case of emergencies, whether or not the owner is present.

Has the Board budgeted for this "maintenance service?" Or are Owners going to be charged?


There was no mention of a special assessment or fee.

Is the Board making this service mandatory?


The reply email told me that I could opt out. However, the original email said nothing about opting out, nor whether the company was expecting to enter homes or just handle it from the outside - I guess they figured that people would yell if they had an issue.

I'd be concerned too about liability. I agree that the Board thinking it's a "good idea" is insufficient to ignore your covenants.

Knowing what this maintenance comprises would help. Doesn't seem like it's ceiling sprinklers as, at least here, they're required to be inspected annually. Our owners are then sent a list of sprinkler heads that need to replaced, if any, etc. Is this related to clothes dryer duct cleaning??


It's dryer duct cleaning. All of the ducts here serve only single units - otherwise the association would be able to service them. Our buildings are also only two stories - I can understand why you'd want the association to handle such things in high rises and the CC&Rs would be written accordingly.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/10/2021 12:53 PM  
Posted By AugustinD on 11/10/2021 12:09 PM
... snip ...

I am pretty sure I would not like what this board is doing either. The item being "low stakes" does not matter to me. A buck's a buck, and they should not get in this frame of mind of ignoring the CCRs and substituting their own judgment, as unvoted-on, and so legally invalid, board-created amendments to the CCRs.

I agree with those who think liability is being created when the board does maintenance on a unit that the CCRs do not support

What does 'dig in your heels' mean? I say at least raise it at an open board meeting. Then go from there.



"Dig in my heels" means fight this now (think demand letter from an attorney at a minimum). My reaction is the same as yours, especially since some of the board members have a long-standing belief that they should be able to do what they want. I resigned because I didn't want to keep fighting stuff like this when I was outnumbered.

The reason this is hard is because in general I'm in favor of proactive safety measures. But the board needs to decide that the current CC&Rs don't support this goal and take steps to amend them. In other words, I have no problem with the goal, only with the means of achieving it.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/10/2021 12:58 PM  
Posted By JohnC46 on 11/10/2021 12:40 PM
I am guessing at duct cleaning. If so and a central system, they might well be within their rights to enter and clean.



Not a central system - each unit has its own duct that is defined as part of the unit. Our CC&Rs are unambiguous about this. I checked to make sure there weren't any provisions elsewhere that would allow the board to override this definition in some circumstances - the only thing I found was the right to enter a unit in an emergency (eg, a fire in the duct). What the board is doing is purely preventative and falls under the definition of "maintenance" which is the unit owner's responsibility per the CC&Rs.
MaxB4
(California)

Posts:1594


11/10/2021 1:00 PM  
head for the hills...

KerryL1
(California)

Posts:8720


11/10/2021 1:53 PM  
Thanks for clarification, Cathy. Our dryer ducts serve individual units too and our CC&Rs make them Owners' responsibility to maintain/repair, etc. Our HOA attorney advised that we not make an inspection & cleaning mandatory for each owner. Among the dozens of high rises around us, including ours, there have been no dryer duct fires.

Our ducts run about 30 feet from the laundry closet to the termination vent on the ceilings of our balconies. The main threat is leaks & water. IF residents don't clean out their (dryer&) ceiling lint traps once a month or so and fail to run their booster fans, lint can clog the duct, which then gets situated with moisture. Occasionally this causes water leaks in a unit and a few times has leaked to the unit below.

Do dryer ducts in your buildings, Cathy, just run a short distance? Or do you need booster fans too?

So Our HOA offers the service once annually, which just occurred. Owners pay. It cost $95 and about 1/2 of Owners signed up for the service.

Yes, your board is overstepping and for no good reason. Companies that do this work love to shout "fire.." The board should have gotten your HOA attorney's opinion and advice. I'm sure it concerned you greatly, when the board kept doing what it "believes is right." I heard that a lot too when I was on the Board and didn't seek reelection for pretty much the same reason (well, there also was arrogance & secrecy) It was made worse given two directors were attorneys.

I think you've written your board doesn't hold open meetings? So maybe start with a good letter to the Board asking by what authority they are ordering this work. Also ask who's paying for it. Part of this is Owners rights to privacy--the board MAY NOT enter units on a whim.

MaxB4
(California)

Posts:1594


11/10/2021 2:05 PM  
https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/US-Fire-Problem/osdryer.ashx
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/10/2021 2:23 PM  
Posted By KerryL1 on 11/10/2021 1:53 PM
Thanks for clarification, Cathy. Our dryer ducts serve individual units too and our CC&Rs make them Owners' responsibility to maintain/repair, etc. Our HOA attorney advised that we not make an inspection & cleaning mandatory for each owner. Among the dozens of high rises around us, including ours, there have been no dryer duct fires.

Our ducts run about 30 feet from the laundry closet to the termination vent on the ceilings of our balconies. The main threat is leaks & water. IF residents don't clean out their (dryer&) ceiling lint traps once a month or so and fail to run their booster fans, lint can clog the duct, which then gets situated with moisture. Occasionally this causes water leaks in a unit and a few times has leaked to the unit below.

Do dryer ducts in your buildings, Cathy, just run a short distance? Or do you need booster fans too?

So Our HOA offers the service once annually, which just occurred. Owners pay. It cost $95 and about 1/2 of Owners signed up for the service.

Yes, your board is overstepping and for no good reason. Companies that do this work love to shout "fire.." The board should have gotten your HOA attorney's opinion and advice. I'm sure it concerned you greatly, when the board kept doing what it "believes is right." I heard that a lot too when I was on the Board and didn't seek reelection for pretty much the same reason (well, there also was arrogance & secrecy) It was made worse given two directors were attorneys.

I think you've written your board doesn't hold open meetings? So maybe start with a good letter to the Board asking by what authority they are ordering this work. Also ask who's paying for it. Part of this is Owners rights to privacy--the board MAY NOT enter units on a whim.




No booster fans. Most duct work runs 20-30 feet to the outside.

Allowing owners to opt in to something that is between them and the company doing the work makes sense. However, we wouldn't have even gotten the association in the middle of it - there's always a chance of something going wrong between an owner and a worker, and we didn't want to act as a guarantee of any sort. (This was at the recommendation of our PM at the time, and our attorney agreed with that.) And now with covid, I want to vet the folks I hire to do work in my place - some companies are more responsible than others.

We used to have open board meetings while I was a director. Those have gone by the wayside, along with announcements, published meeting minutes, and a whole lot of other stuff. (You won't be surprised to hear that the current board members made a big deal of how they were all about the transparency. We're so transparent that we're invisible.) So it looks like I'll be writing a letter, unless I do as Max said and head for the hills.
MaxB4
(California)

Posts:1594


11/10/2021 2:45 PM  
Let me see i I understand this correctly.

Both you and Kerry live in condos that have dryer vents that are the responsibilty of the owner to maintain. Kerry's HOA appears to engage a company to clean the vents for a fee of $95 and the owners can opt out.

Isn't Cathy describing the exact same thing, as she mentions in the first post, "that the board decided to add this service". Cathy later added there was no special assessment or fee.
JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:792


11/10/2021 2:56 PM  
Posted By MaxB4 on 11/10/2021 2:45 PM
Let me see i I understand this correctly.

Both you and Kerry live in condos that have dryer vents that are the responsibilty of the owner to maintain. Kerry's HOA appears to engage a company to clean the vents for a fee of $95 and the owners can opt out.

Isn't Cathy describing the exact same thing, as she mentions in the first post, "that the board decided to add this service". Cathy later added there was no special assessment or fee.




In Kerry's community the owner pays the bill. In Cathy's, HOA funds are being used. Apples and Oranges.
MaxB4
(California)

Posts:1594


11/10/2021 3:03 PM  
Posted By JohnT38 on 11/10/2021 2:56 PM
Posted By MaxB4 on 11/10/2021 2:45 PM
Let me see i I understand this correctly.

Both you and Kerry live in condos that have dryer vents that are the responsibilty of the owner to maintain. Kerry's HOA appears to engage a company to clean the vents for a fee of $95 and the owners can opt out.

Isn't Cathy describing the exact same thing, as she mentions in the first post, "that the board decided to add this service". Cathy later added there was no special assessment or fee.




In Kerry's community the owner pays the bill. In Cathy's, HOA funds are being used. Apples and Oranges.



Could you point out where Cathy said the HOA paid?
JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:792


11/10/2021 3:07 PM  
Posted By MaxB4 on 11/10/2021 3:03 PM
Posted By JohnT38 on 11/10/2021 2:56 PM
Posted By MaxB4 on 11/10/2021 2:45 PM
Let me see i I understand this correctly.

Both you and Kerry live in condos that have dryer vents that are the responsibilty of the owner to maintain. Kerry's HOA appears to engage a company to clean the vents for a fee of $95 and the owners can opt out.

Isn't Cathy describing the exact same thing, as she mentions in the first post, "that the board decided to add this service". Cathy later added there was no special assessment or fee.




In Kerry's community the owner pays the bill. In Cathy's, HOA funds are being used. Apples and Oranges.



Could you point out where Cathy said the HOA paid?




"... the board has decided to add this service to prevent fires and as a "service". Adding a service implies that the HOA is funding it. If I'm wrong I'm sure Cathy will say so.
MaxB4
(California)

Posts:1594


11/10/2021 3:18 PM  
And this is what Kerry stated:

So Our HOA offers the service once annually, which just occurred. Owners pay. It cost $95 and about 1/2 of Owners signed up for the service.
JeffT2
(Iowa)

Posts:637


11/10/2021 3:30 PM  
It seems the law allows the board to do this. Are you subject to The Ohio Condominium Act, Chapter 5311 ?

Section 5311.081 Powers and duties of board of directors.
...
(B) Unless otherwise provided in the declaration, the unit owners association, through the board of directors, may exercise all powers of the association, including the power to do the following:
...(4) Regulate the use, maintenance, repair, replacement, modification, and appearance of the condominium property;
(5) Adopt rules that regulate the use or occupancy of units, the maintenance, repair, replacement, modification, and appearance of units, common elements, and limited common elements when the actions regulated by those rules affect common elements or other units;
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:4284


11/10/2021 4:29 PM  
It's one thing to provide a service, but since we're talking about something that's supposed to be homeowner responsibility, there should have been a discussion with the association's master insurance carrier and the attorney, and then homeowners should have been notified of the potential impact - namely increased assessments because (1) the documents would have to be changed and a certain percentage would have to approve it, (2) the master insurance policy would have to be updated to cover the vents - and the premium adjusted accordingly and (3) homeowners would have to prepare to allow the association to bring in a vendor to clean the vents every year (in fact, I need to do that for my own house). If anyone wanted to opt out, I'd want to require annual verifiable proof they had the vents cleaned by a qualified vendor - or risk covering the association's deductible if there was a dryer fire. So, I think you should bring it up - what is it they say about hurricanes are announced through the flap of a butterfly's wings or something like that?

It's an interesting question that applies to my townhouse community, although the association doesn't pay for dryer vent cleaning. When the community was built in the 1970s, the developer installed roofs where all the dryer vents went to the one shared roof and the hot air would leave through those vents. However, the cheap-A developer didn't install enough vents - the number installed was compliant with the current city code. Years later, when moi showed up, my home inspector noticed this and said there was a chance the association would be on the hook for repairs/replacement of the entire roof if it failed and the manufacturer said tough shit - y'all didn't install the number of vents according to our specifications and now you voided the warranty.

When I asked the board about this, most everyone was surprised - one commented he couldn't figure out why one part of his home was so much hotter than the other - and now he knew why. It wasn't addressed at the time because handling delinquencies was a major issue at the time. Happily, there was never a fire and a hailstorm resulted in us getting new roofs with the proper number of vents.

I don't know how many people go about getting the vents cleaned (in fact, I'm behind in getting my own done, which I'll take care of in the next two weeks). I may attend next week's board meeting and ask about this, as it would be helpful if people started doing this regularly. In the meantime, feel free to use this story as a way to jab the board into doing some more thinking on the subject.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:8720


11/10/2021 4:45 PM  
JeffT's quote is interesting: (5) Adopt rules that regulate the use or occupancy of units, the maintenance, repair, replacement, modification, and appearance of units, common elements, and limited common elements when the actions regulated by those rules affect common elements or other units;

B (4) doesn't seem to apply to Cathy's case, but B (5) seems appropriate: "(5) Adopt rules that regulate ... the maintenance, repair, replacement, modification.... when the actions regulated by those rules affect common elements or other units;" I suppose the Board could argue that it's possible that some day someone's dryer vet connection might catch fire, so we mandate inspections annually. Look, a director who didn't last long on our Board wanted the Board to ban washing machines over 15 years old because they might possibly cause a flood someday.

But Cathy's Board did not make a "rule."

In our HOA, Owners do not "opt out" from having their dryer ducts inspected, they opt in. They make the schedule with the firm and pay it directly. Our PM sends a notice saying the service is available, the general dates the techs'll be on he premises and contact info.

Since Cathy's board isn't (it seems) forcing all units to have the inspection, it seems OK. I'd still want to know "who pays? and how?

sorry your board's so creepy, Cath. I do know exactly what that's like!
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/10/2021 5:27 PM  
Posted By KerryL1 on 11/10/2021 4:45 PM
JeffT's quote is interesting: (5) Adopt rules that regulate the use or occupancy of units, the maintenance, repair, replacement, modification, and appearance of units, common elements, and limited common elements when the actions regulated by those rules affect common elements or other units;

B (4) doesn't seem to apply to Cathy's case, but B (5) seems appropriate: "(5) Adopt rules that regulate ... the maintenance, repair, replacement, modification.... when the actions regulated by those rules affect common elements or other units;" I suppose the Board could argue that it's possible that some day someone's dryer vet connection might catch fire, so we mandate inspections annually. Look, a director who didn't last long on our Board wanted the Board to ban washing machines over 15 years old because they might possibly cause a flood someday.

But Cathy's Board did not make a "rule."

In our HOA, Owners do not "opt out" from having their dryer ducts inspected, they opt in. They make the schedule with the firm and pay it directly. Our PM sends a notice saying the service is available, the general dates the techs'll be on he premises and contact info.

Since Cathy's board isn't (it seems) forcing all units to have the inspection, it seems OK. I'd still want to know "who pays? and how?

sorry your board's so creepy, Cath. I do know exactly what that's like!



I appreciate all of the questions and comments, they're helpful.

No, there was no rule. I suppose that in condos, almost anything that is the owner's responsibility to maintain has the potential to affect the common elements somehow. Some boards may view this as an excuse to adopt a lot of intrusive rules, but I'd rather have the rules out in the open rather than finding out that they've hired a company to perform work on my property and workers are showing up in a few days.

And yes, operating funds are being used to pay for this. (Speculating here: the board may have discovered that doing something like this will lower our insurance premiums enough to pay for the work.)

The announcement we received did not mention being able to opt out, so in effect they are forcing everyone to have this. I was told that I could opt out only after I objected and sent them the quotes from our CC&Rs showing that they have no authority to do this.

As I'd mentioned earlier, I'm in favor of the board being proactive about safety and saving money. I only object to the way they're going about it since it amounts to an unlawful amendment to our CC&Rs with no homeowner input. Unfortunately, based on past experience with the current directors, I'm afraid it will come down to accepting it, hiring a lawyer (because this crew will double down rather than admit they're in the wrong), or rallying the rest of the community to unseat them. ("Live with it, fix it, or move" - as I'm fond of telling others.)
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:8720


11/10/2021 6:02 PM  
So, yes, your board is completely in the wrong to force this on owners since it conflicts with your CC&Rs. I also doubt you'll get a break on insurance. As th citation that Mex posted shows, dryer fires are exceptionally rare given ALL the dryer cycles that must have been run during the 4 year period analyzed. bring one period in my life, I bet we ran a dozen dryer load a week.

So it does become whether you're ready to gather some owners and throw out part of the board at the next election. I'm pretty sure you know how much effort, coordination & unity that takes. But we did it here, and my return to a civil, truly transparent, civil decent Board has been wonderful for me and our whole team has been really good for ou community.

Meantime, I think you really want to see what those meeting minutes say when this intrusion was approved. Is it difficult getting such docs form this board?

The Board that I left also wanted more intrusion into our units but could NOT justify a huge program they "crafted." The wanted to tear out all of our Italian tile balcony surfaces and replace them with an "alternative traffic material," which I called "industrial linoleum." They speculated that some balconies MIGHT have some flaws involving leaks that MIGHT someday cause damage to the units below or the common areas. Workers would have to travel through units to do the demo & replacement. I'd had access to inspections and knew the situation was not so dire.

They were defeated at the next election & I got on the Board again.. Only balconies needing tiles replaced for safety reasons will have their surfaces replaced and the materials will be very nice tile that matches the existing. Meantime all 300+ balconies were inspected by a certified architect and he has a stamped opinion saying they are stable, solid and structurally sound (steel & concrete). I asked our agent when we recently met with him if we might get a break with our insurance and he said possibly.

CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/11/2021 6:27 AM  
The two fires we've had in this community were the result of food burning in the kitchen.

The ironic thing about this is that many of our condo buildings are equipped with sprinkler systems that are serviced and inspected annually. If some dryer lint ever does catch fire, the unit owner will be dealing with more water damage than fire damage. :-) And since our community is fairly young, all of our smoke detectors are hard wired - owners can't disable them by pulling out the batteries. And the fire department is less than 1/2 mile from here. It would be pretty difficult to burn down a building here.



KerryL1
(California)

Posts:8720


11/11/2021 8:52 AM  
We too have had only two minor fires in our 20 y.o. towers and they both were from burners left on and food burning, too. They didn't set off the sprinklers. Wait, we did have a resident hang a damp garment over a fan to dry it; the garment somehow got into the fan which ultimately burned the fan motor setting off the sprinklers. Thousands of $ in damage and the unit owners below had to stay in a hotel for about a month while their floors, etc., were replaced.

Our dryer ducts were designated as a construction defect 12 years ago. The then-board made it a priority to fix which would've been hugely expensive. They, especially one hysterical man, were afraid of fire. The defect report did NOT say fire was a concern. Our PM convinced them to get an opinion from a specialist (who doesn't DO duct cleaning or repair), who wrote that yeah, there's a defect, but if we'd have the ducts cleaned annually, there'd never be water damage from soggy lint-build-up in the duct. So that's what we do. Those who don't opt in to the inspection & cleaning eventually have water dripping from their laundry closet celling & get the work done.

I'd really like to see a quote from meeting minutes on this decision, Cathy, when you can get them.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/11/2021 10:01 AM  
Posted By KerryL1 on 11/11/2021 8:52 AM
... snip ...

I'd really like to see a quote from meeting minutes on this decision, Cathy, when you can get them.



None of the 2021 meeting minutes available on our website mention this decision. It's possible that it came up during the last meeting and the minutes haven't been posted yet, but the timing would be pretty tight for approving a non-emergency decision, going out for bids and approving a final selection - so I'll go out on a limb and say there is no evidence of this decision having been made during a board meeting this year. I don't believe that homeowners are entitled to view bids, only contracts - so that wouldn't get me anywhere either.

Ohio allows email decisions as long as they're unanimous and the decisions appear in meeting minutes, so it's possible the board discussed it via email and never added it to the minutes.

The dryer vent folks showed up this morning. They posted a notice on my front door, so I expect I'll have to be here to enforce my "opt out" when they come back after lunch. Good times...
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:8720


11/11/2021 11:30 AM  
Good luck today. Right, could be the minutes haven't been approved yet. But I'm really curious about the wording they used to justify this violation of your CC&Rs, AND what budget line item they state will pay for this.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:11659


11/11/2021 12:30 PM  
Cathy

Does any of the dryer vent run through a pipe in the wall of ceiling to the outside versus a direct to the outside hookup? If a pipe, I can understand the BOD's concern as the pipe runs thru common/shared walls/ceilings, etc.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/11/2021 1:52 PM  
Posted By JohnC46 on 11/11/2021 12:30 PM
Cathy

Does any of the dryer vent run through a pipe in the wall of ceiling to the outside versus a direct to the outside hookup? If a pipe, I can understand the BOD's concern as the pipe runs thru common/shared walls/ceilings, etc.



Mine runs through the ceiling, does a 90 degree turn, and runs through the attic to exit on an exterior wall. Everything is part of my unit except for the exterior wall. I'm in a townhome but the condos can be different - some exit through the roof, others through an exterior wall depending on the building's construction.

As I'd said earlier, I understand the concern. I only object to the way the board is going about dealing with it. They have options for handling the dryer vents in ways that comply with our CC&Rs, or they can look into amending the CC&Rs if they believe that the current language doesn't serve our needs. I also worry that this sets a bad precedent - what happens when the board finds some other inconvenient language that they think should be ignored?
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:8720


11/11/2021 4:24 PM  
Our ducts also run about 30 feet, straight shot outs to l our Blanca ceilings. but why should that concern the HOA, HJohnC?
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/11/2021 6:33 PM  
I was thinking some more about the language in our CC&Rs that give the board the right to make rules in cases where homeowners' maintenance of the unit can affect the common elements. Jeff had also mentioned the Ohio Condominium Act, Chapter 5311, that says something similar.

There was no rule in this case, but do these provisions justify the board taking the action that it did?

I'm thinking back a number of years to when we notified a couple homeowners that they had to remove the satellite dishes that they'd installed on the roof without permission. Our lawyer said that we had to give the owners time to remove the dishes themselves. The association could only step in and remove them after the homeowners failed to act after a reasonable amount of time - even though you could argue that having the association handle it would probably guarantee better results.

Not totally the same situation, but still it argues against the association pre-empting something that is the homeowner's responsibility. I still think enacting rules are OK (per the CC&Rs and Ohio law) but these laws refer only to rules, not to acts by the association.
AugustinD


Posts:1901


11/12/2021 5:12 AM  
From Section 5311.081 | Powers and duties of board of directors:

(B) Unless otherwise provided in the declaration, the unit owners association, through the board of directors, may exercise all powers of the association, including the power to do the following:
...

(5) Adopt rules that regulate the use or occupancy of units, the maintenance, repair, replacement, modification, and appearance of units, common elements, and limited common elements when the actions regulated by those rules affect common elements or other units;


My observations:
-- From the sound of what CathyA3 posted, I think it's clear each vent serves exactly one unit, and per the declaration therefore the vent is the unit owner's responsibility. Since the declaration appears to be clear that the dryer vents are the owner's responsibility to maintain, then because of the phrase "nless otherwise provided in the declaration... ," the statute section above about adopting rules does not apply.

-- Similar to what KerryL1 posted, I think board-created "rules" refer to rules for unit owners. I do not think board-created rules are for the purpose of creating new corporate obligations for maintenance. In this case, the rule is something like, "Owners do not have to clean their dryer vents, because a vent full of lint could cause overheating of the lint in the vent and a fire in a unit's dryer, likely affecting other units. Instead, the corporation will ensure dryer vents are cleaned, unless an owner wants to arrange and pay for his/her own cleaning of his/her unit's vent." This is pretty wishy-washy.

-- A condo Board can, say, instruct owners not to keep woodpiles on their patios (for their fireplaces), on account of the risk of termites. But this is rule adds no new financial obligation to the COA.

-- A far more appropriate rule in my opinion would be: "Owners shall have their dryer vents professionally cleaned once [twice?] each year and provide proof of this cleaning within three days of its being performed."

-- IIRC my former condo association cleaned some dryer vents up to a certain short distance, where some of the vents penetrated the corporate owned wall and were accessible by leaning a ladder against the corporate-owned wall? The unit owner was responsible for the rest? I believe some vents went to the roof and the Board was clear these were entirely the unit owner's responsibility to keep clean.

-- Regarding slippery slopes all to prevent an event in a unit that may affect other units or the common elemens: What's next? A board-created rule that says, "No cooking in units unless the cook is certified in the use of fire extinguishers"?

-- One of the problems in fighting this may be that many owners feel that, yes, vents should be cleaned at least once yearly, and if this can be done collectively by the corporation, it might save all some money and ensure safety. Yes, this should be done by a formal amendment vote. But if say owners come to board meetings and just want their darned vents cleaned and the assurance that their neighbors' vent cleaned, then this is a lot for one person to go up against. Pariah status may be likely.

-- I too wonder about insurance companies' position on this. At my former condo, about a third of the units have fireplaces. The board created a rule requiring proof of chimney cleaning once every two years. I believe this was something the insurer asked for et cetera. But again, this was a rule that did not add a new expense for the corporation.

-- I agree with others that there is a line a court would draw. The line is what is "fair and reasonable." Toss a coin on what a judge would rule. CathyA3 is talking a sequence of demand letters. Unfortunately, and with the Florida Surfside condo disaster now being a compelling example of why condo boards need to think safety, I am not sure how far I would take this. I might start with a letter pointing out much of what I post here (and other sound reasons that I know CathyA3 is more than capable of preparing), including the slippery slope argument, and asking the board to consult the COA attorney. If the attorney rules in favor of the board, I would give up on this one. But it might be a partial victory, too: It might enlighten the board on when it can undertake a maintenance responsibility.

AugustinD


Posts:1901


11/12/2021 5:27 AM  
I will add the general rule about sewage lines in condos in my former hometown: Blockages in lines serving only one unit are the responsibility of the unit owner. This is even when the sewage line goes through common area. (Though my former condo eventually conceded that if the common area tree roots were the cause of the blockage, the COA would pay for the repair. Basic tort law yada: The COA caused the problem by not maintaining the COA's trees and their roots. The COA pays for it.)

Really this is all too complicated to convey to a board that is simple minded when it comes to covenants. One's best strategy may be to try to get the COA attorney involved and see if the COA attorney is a thoughtful one or not.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/12/2021 5:44 AM  
Thanks, all.

I'm leaning toward letting this one go, even though I'm satisfied that the board is in the wrong. Too much time and effort needed on my part, too little outrage among my neighbors and potential allies, and I still view duct cleaning as a fairly low-stakes item. The board would have to do something more in-your-face to get the community up in arms.

I don't think we'll see anything in the minutes about whatever decision was made. The missing/unapproved meeting minutes would have covered budgeting for 2022, and budget board meetings always took a long time and didn't cover anything else other than emergencies.

Unfortunately with this particular board, trying to educate them is counterproductive - they're just more determined to do things their way, CC&Rs be [email protected] It would take a lawyer. And having an adversarial relationship with the board is also counterproductive, no matter who's to blame for it.

My time and money will be better spent house hunting.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:8720


11/13/2021 4:23 PM  
It sounds like your decision is the best for you, Cathy. It's NOT a big deal. And you DO know that this board is problematic for your community. Best to you.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/15/2021 6:03 AM  
Meanwhile back on the slippery slope:

We received our 2022 budget information last week. The cover letter noted that the late fee will be a flat dollar amount for everyone.

The CC&Rs say that the late fee will be a percentage of the amount of the late assessment - think 10%. The board has no discretion to change this, any change requires a legal amendment and homeowner vote.

Since we have three tiers of assessments based on things like square footage of the units, the change will overcharge the folks in the smaller units and undercharge the ones in the larger units.

Honestly, is the board *trying* to get sued...?!

I can't see what benefit this change provides to anyone other than maybe the PM, who continues to not impress.
AugustinD


Posts:1901


11/15/2021 6:42 AM  
Regarding the incorrect assessment of late fees: I would write the board a letter of inquiry (what I call a "demand letter lite"), quoting the covenants on the point and asking the board to consult with the HOA attorney, if it has not already.
JeffT2
(Iowa)

Posts:637


11/15/2021 7:45 AM  
Is it possible that a flat fee is within (less than) the amounts allowed by your documents, when including late fee plus a charge for collection efforts?
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


11/15/2021 8:10 AM  
Posted By JeffT2 on 11/15/2021 7:45 AM
Is it possible that a flat fee is within (less than) the amounts allowed by your documents, when including late fee plus a charge for collection efforts?



It will depend on the unit's assessment amount, which depends on par value (essentially a percentage of ownership).

For me, the issue isn't whether or not the flat fee is less than the amount allowed - it's that the CC&Rs are clear about how this fee is to be calculated, and there is no language allowing any room for creativity. In addition, the late fee is supposed to be punitive to some extent, and a flat fee favors those with higher assessments that have a greater effect on the association's income if they're late.

As with the dryer vent cleaning, the dollars aren't huge and since I'm never late with assessments it won't affect me. My objection is that the board feels free to ignore the CC&Rs if they think they have a good reason. I'd be less bothered by them ignoring bylaws or community rules, although that's not good either. But to me the CC&Rs are "sacred" - they're a contract and no one should be able to unilaterally change the terms of a contract.
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