Question: I live on the second floor of a four-floor condo complex. The pipes in my kitchen and bathroom shower are common lines, but when they clog I have to pay for their cleaning.
Our covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) state, "The following are not part of the unit: bearing walls, columns, floors, roofs, foundations, slabs, pipes, chutes, ducts, flues, conduits, wires, and other utilities, wherever located, except outlets thereof."
Because those pipes are common lines, shouldn't it be the responsibility of the association to maintain them?
Answer: Your association's CC&Rs spell out what is and is not the owner's responsibility, and the pipes are not. The board is not allowed to merely announce a change that makes the titleholder liable. Unless the change in responsibility was made to the CC&Rs in accordance with the steps for amending that document, which would have required a vote of all titleholders, repair of blocked pipes remains within the purview of the association.
If you think a request to have a blockage cleared by the association may go unheeded, hand-deliver a letter to the board giving notice that unless you hear back within 24 hours, you plan to have the work done yourself and will send the association an invoice for the cost. Any estimates you have for the work should be included with your notice to the board.
If the problem presents a health hazard and no resolution is obtained within that time frame, proceed with the work, then present the paid invoice to the association.
If the board does not reimburse your costs, you can take the association to Small Claims Court as long as the amount is less than $7,500. Bring copies of the paid invoice, CC&Rs and association's governing documents to show it was the association's obligation to fix the problem.
For amounts over $7,500, you could attempt mediating or arbitrating the problem before filing a lawsuit.
Send questions to P.O. Box 11843, Marina del Rey, CA 90295 or e-mail email@example.com.