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CONDO Q&A

Testing Can Solve Roof-Leak Dispute

August 06, 2000|JAN HICKENBOTTOM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: During heavy rains last winter, my condominium unit was damaged because of roof leaks. Water came into my unit in three or four places. My insurance company paid for the cleanup and repairs but the condominium association's board refuses to make any repairs to the roof. The board says that the roof drains were clogged and that is the reason that the leaks occurred.

I have contacted roofing companies and their workers have told me that the roof does need repairs. Even after a strong letter from my attorney, the board still refuses to address the problem. I can't sell my unit without disclosing the roof problems.

The condominium complex has many deferred maintenance projects that need to be done. The board recently increased the monthly assessments and a special assessment of $500 per unit was approved. However, I'm told that none of this money will be used to repair the roof.

My unit is the only one that leaks. It appears that because the board members don't have this problem, they do not care about making the repairs. Isn't the board supposed to represent all of the owners?

Answer: Yes, the board has an obligation to maintain the roof so that your unit is not damaged again. If the board believes that clogged drains were the cause of the original leaks, water testing could have been done to ensure that the roof did not require repairs. Water testing could be done now to alleviate your concern.

It appears that your insurance company paid for repairs before making sure that the leak was repaired. The insurance company knows that it is wise to take care of water damage quickly so that mold and mildew do not become a problem.

You do not have the authority to get bids and have work done on the common area. You followed the right course by having your attorney put the association on notice that you will hold the association responsible for future leaks.

Perhaps the next step would be to request evidence that water testing has been done and that a maintenance program has been put in place so that roof drains will be kept clear in the future. Follow your attorney's advice and document your concerns by writing to the board.

Paid Managers Handle Wealth of Daily Details

Q: What are the advantages to having a manager or management company for our association?

A: There are many laws that associations must obey. Most associations find it very difficult to comply with the legal requirements of record keeping, annual reports, disclosures and financial planning without the assistance of a professional manager.

Without professional management, the board is faced with doing the day-to-day tasks ranging from getting bids for maintenance projects, enforcing rules, paying bills and collecting assessments. A manager can handle many of these tasks more effectively.

Board members can tire of this very quickly because most association documents require that board positions be voluntary. Unless the governing documents state otherwise, board members are not entitled to pay, perks or privileges.

It is unfair for the rest of the owners to expect the board members to give endless hours of volunteer time to the association. However, paid board members do not have the same protection from liability that volunteers are granted.

The fairest way for associations to operate is to hire management to operate the association at the direction of the board. Board members can then serve as a policymaking body and delegate the day-to-day responsibilities to management.

All of the condominium owners share in the cost of management through the payment of their monthly assessments.

Agency Would Oversee Condo Associations

Q: Is there a state agency that oversees community associations to ensure that associations are being run legally? Our directors know they are not complying with some of the laws, but they will not change their stance.

A: During the development stages of a new complex, the builder-developer must comply with the requirements of the California Department of Real Estate.

After a community association (condominium association, homeowner association, planned development, stock cooperative or "own-your-own" apartment project) is beyond the marketing stage and the owners have control of the operation of the association, there is no state agency that oversees the association.

The owners should elect fair and conscientious board members because the board of directors has a great deal of authority in determining how the association operates. Some states require that board members have some form of education, but there is no such requirement in California.

Legislation that would require community association managers to meet educational and licensing requirements and would establish a state oversight agency is expected to be proposed in the next legislative session. You may contact your state legislators or visit the Web site of the California Assn. of Community Managers at http://www.cacm.org for more information.

Jan Hickenbottom is a community association management consultant and a founding director of the California Assn. of Community Managers. She selects questions of general interest for the column and regrets that she cannot respond to all questions. Send questions to: Condo Q&A, Private Mailbox 263, 4790 Irvine Blvd., No. 105, Irvine, CA 92620-1998.

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