New Neighborhoods–Responsibility for Pipe Maintenance and Non-Owners on Board

New Neighborhoods

By Gary A. Poliakoff and Ryan Poliakoff

Responsibility for Pipe Maintenance and Non-Owners on Board

Dear Poliakoffs,

First, let me tell you that your column is always informative, and condo owners appreciate your efforts.  Now it is my turn to write to you looking for your input.  I need information and advice ASAP if I’m going to go to mediation, and spend more money.

On February 14, 2012, our thermostat read a message that indicated that our AC system was malfunctioning, and to call technicians.  We did that, and after researching where the problem was, the technicians said it was a leak in the copper pipes that go from the roof, where our compressor is located on our seven-story condo, to our air handler inside our first floor condo unit.  This copper pipe is for the exclusive use of my condo.  Both the compressor and air handler belong to me.  The whole system is about 9 months old, fairly new.  The technicians disconnected and removed our air handler, cut the drywall/sheetrock, and used their probes and meters to locate the leak.  The leak was not in our first floor unit, so technicians went to the second floor unit, performed the same chores (air handler disconnect & cut in drywall), and again found no leak.  The leak was finally found in a third floor wall inside the closet where the third floor air handler is located.  The large copper pipe was the culprit.  Repair was made to the tune of $3,350.00.

I filed a claim with my insurance company.  Yesterday I received a letter from the insurance company denying my claim, stating that the Florida Statute 718.111 overruled the condo association by-laws.  Our condo association by-laws indicate that “unit owners are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the mechanical equipment such as heating and air conditioning systems, and all other property not constituting part of the common elements.”  Therefore, the insurance company claims that the association is responsible for the AC system provided to the unit owners.  Keep in mind the AC system is mine, as I purchased it and it was properly maintained, and not provided by the condo association. What specific paragraph, sub-paragraph in FL Statute 718.111 covers this subject?

Seems to me that I remember not too long ago the Florida condo law changed and made the AC systems the responsibility of the condo associations.

I have 21 days from the date of the letter received to participate in a non-binding mediation.  My insurance company does not cover loss for wear and tear, marring, deterioration, inherent vice, latent defects, or mechanical breakdown–therefore they are not paying a penny.

I’ve given a copy of the insurance company letter to the condo association board president to look into this matter from their perspective.  Signed, R.P.

Dear R.P.,

The Condominium Act distinguishes between the maintenance of a unit component, including the AC compressor, the air handling unit and the pipes servicing only your unit, and repair and/or replacement of the same caused by a casualty. The Condominium Act does provide that unit compressors, even those placed on the roof or ground, are the responsibility of the association in the event that they are damaged by a casualty (hurricane, fire). Your condominium documents state that maintenance and repair is a unit owner responsibility. From what you have stated, even though the insurance company advised that the association is responsible for the cost of the repair, unless you can show that the break in the pipe was caused by a casualty, this sounds like a maintenance question for which you are in fact responsible.

Dear Poliakoffs,

The board of directors to our townhome development association is elected at the annual meeting.  Our by-laws state that the legal owner on record with the property appraiser’s office can vote and/or run for office.  As a spouse of a legal owner, but not listed on the property appraiser’s record, am I eligible to run for office?  Signed, P.M.

Dear P.M.,

Most shared ownership by-laws provide that only record title owners (that means the individuals whose name(s) appear on the deed of record) are eligible to serve on the board and vote.  We are aware of a few documents which allow non-owners to serve, if elected, and provide that the spouse of an owner can qualify to run and serve.  Other than voting for the board, a unit owner can give their proxy to a non-owner to vote at association meetings.

Gary A. Poliakoff and Ryan Poliakoff are co-authors of New Neighborhoods—The Consumer’s Guide to Condominium, Co-Op and HOA Living.  Gary Poliakoff is a founding principal of Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., and Ryan Poliakoff is the Vice President of Management at AKAM On-Site.  Email questions to condocolumn@becker-poliakoff.com.  Please be sure to include your hometown.

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