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Subject: Required HVAC and Plumbing Maintenance
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10/29/2009 2:51 PM  
Our HOA enacted a rule about 4-6 years ago requiring that all homeowners have their HVAC and plumbing inspected annually. Every 3 years they are required to have their dryer vents cleaned. The HOs must send proof (e.g., legible work order or receipt from verifiable company) to the management company before June (I think it's the 15th, but I'm not sure and it's not relevant to my question) of each year or they will be fined. Needless to say, this is not a popular rule. But the BOD believes it is necessary because our buildings are reaching 16-18 years old (they were built over a period of two years) and "parts" are getting old. We are self-insured up to a certain amount and we were experiencing quite a few very expensive repairs, mainly due to water damage from plumbing and air conditioning units.

At our monthly board meeting last night, one of the nonresident HOs, who is a lawyer, threatened to sue the HOA over the rule and the fines and stated that no one that he knew who lived in a condo had ever heard of a rule requiring preventative maintenance. While that may be true, we believe that condo associations must exist that require such maintenance because it was our management company that originally told us that other associations were enacting the rule.

The BOD has agreed to review the rule to decide whether or not we should revise it; for example, by requiring maintenance every other year rather than every year, or making the Association responsible for the cost. I didn't see any previous forums that addressed this issue (sorry if I missed them and this is a repeat) and I would like to find out if anyone knows if condo associations are discussing or enacting rules requiring preventative maintenance? And, if so, how are they being implemented? What inspections are they mandating? How often are the inspections required? How are they justifying the expense and hassle to their HOs, and is it working? What inducements are they giving to get compliance, and is that working? LOL!

Thank you for taking the time to read this long message, and thank you in advance for your replies.


10/29/2009 3:02 PM  
Although your reason sounds logical on the surface, annual inspection sounds excessive for what you hope to accomplish. The majority of plumbing is behind the walls so even annual inspection isn't going to inspect the majority of the home's system. Now if you got some huge insurance discount in exchange for forcing residents to incur this needless expense, maybe, but I don't think annual inspection achieves what you hoped would be achieved.


10/29/2009 3:23 PM  
I think I'd be right there with your "renegade"...

I wonder if it depends on the type of development... I'm in a townhome association (connected, like row houses), so if anyone should have fire prevention stuff, it should be communities like mine. Are you condos/townhomes (connected) or single-family (detached)?? If you're condo (you mention condo in your post), I can see how the association would be concerned about maintenance IN BETWEEN units, but not within...

I clean my OWN dryer vents, usually twice a year. How would I submit appropriate documentation to your association, when I clean my own? How would "handy" people do their own repairs/maintenance...

I'm also incredibly interested in how you're "self-insured"... Please, provide more details...

I'm afraid I don't have any advice for you, especially since I think I'd be on the other side... HOWEVER, if your BOD has, in fact, researched this on their own (YOU CANNOT just take your MGT company's word on this), then keep with it! Don't let a lawyerly blowhard knock you guys around just because he doesn't like a rule! I think it's a good idea, in theory... I just don't think the execution/enforcement is there.

FINALLY...why is your association paying for water damage that results from plumbing issues? Do the leaks happen in a person's unit? If so, then THEY are the responsible ones...and leaks in between units (without being caused by a specific unit) would be few and far between.


10/29/2009 4:30 PM  
Melanie I too am perplexed as to why the COA is paying for repairs caused by leaking pipes or AC units. If it's the COA's responsibility to pay for the repairs then IMO it's the COA's responsibility to pay for the preventative maintenance on those units. As far as dryer vents are concerned we were advised by our attorney several years ago that it was a COA responsibility so we have a company come every three years to clean them out at the Association's expense.

Now as to the rule, if it were properly enacted then it is most likely a valid rule unless something in Maryland law would prohibit it and you are not allowed to fine. Somewhere in your CC&R's should be a phrase similar to: may adopt such reasonable rules and regulations and from time to time amend the same, supplementing the rules and regulations set forth in the Declaration and these By-Laws as it may deem advisable for the maintenance, conservation and beautification of the Condominium Property, and for the health, comfort, safety and general welfare of the owners and occupants of the Condominium Property. Written notice of such rules and regulations shall he given to all owners and occupants and the Condominium Property shall at all times he maintained subject to such rules and regulations. In the event such supplemental rules and regulations shall conflict with any provisions of the Declaration or these By-Laws, the rules and regulations of the Declaration and of these By-Laws shall govern.

Now the lawyer can sue (he probably needs the work) but he would have to prove the rule is unfair or that it was improperly enacted. The Association on the other hand could argue that it was simply following the recommendations of various safety groups i.e. US Consumer Product Safety Commission

(Dryer Vent)

Studies show that 5 out of 4 people have problems with fractions


10/30/2009 3:49 PM  
I’ll try to answer your questions. First of all, we are condos in a “garden apartment” configuration (8 buildings with breezeways, 12-14 condos per building). We have had MAJOR water damages. In the past 5 years my apartment has been flooded, gutted and rebuilt 3 times. That was due to a problem with the sprinkler lines freezing and bursting in the top-floor condo, which is right above mine. Two years ago we spent $40,000 rebuilding several condos due to a condensate line flood, and we seem to always have smaller water damage and repair work going on in condos all over the property. We don’t think very highly of the builder and we suspect minimum grade materials were used throughout the project.

We are in Maryland where, up until last spring, the condo association was responsible for repairing ANY damages to the units. And that was why we were so adamant about HOs maintaining their HVAC, plumbing and dryer vents. (Although, as you pointed out, the damage to my condo was caused by sprinkler lines inside the wall that couldn’t be inspected so the rule was useless to help me and the condos above and below mine.) But as far as it was possible, we wanted to head off any leaks (or fires) that we could. It would take only one clogged dryer vent to burn down 14 apartments. Or one clogged AC line to cause $40,000 worth of damage. And, I don’t know about your projects, but we have some very apathetic HOs who can’t be bothered to throw away a flyer placed on their door, much less inspect and clean their AC lines and dryer vents.

Then last spring the Md. Supreme Court ruled against the law that the HOA had to repair the damage and now the HO that causes the damage has to pay. So we really could rescind the rule, I guess, but now that the HOs are used to it ….

We are self-insured in that we paid for damages, I know up to at least $40,000, by borrowing from our reserves (and repaying our reserves over time), so we don’t have to file insurance claims. Our insurance carrier covered the first sprinkler break but then raised our premium to somewhere around $30,000 so we started covering anything less than a catastrophic loss. Now our insurance premium has gone back down to less than $10,000.

I believe we’re OK legally with making the rule and imposing the fines. We just don’t want to have to pay a lawyer to prove that to our renegade HO. And, since our meeting the other night, we’ve heard from one of our HOs who works for lawyers who do a lot of condo association work and they said they also have HOAs that have enacted maintenance rules. Probably because up until last spring the HOAs were responsible for repairing any damages!

Thanks again for your thoughtful comments. I really appreciate it. I’m so glad I found this website!
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Forums > Homeowner Association > HOA Discussions > Required HVAC and Plumbing Maintenance

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