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Community Living: Clogged drain damages are on owner

Q: While I was away for the summer, my air conditioner condenser water drain blocked and the water flooded my unit and ruined my walls and carpet. There is mold on the baseboards, walls and carpet. The board said it was my fault because I did not maintain the drain. I thought this was a common area drain and was the association's responsibility. I filed a claim with my insurance company and the unit is being repaired. Any information you have would be appreciated.

A: This is a common problem with air conditioners. It normally happens in the summer months when the humidity is high. Some AC units produce more sludge (a buildup of algae) than others. Most systems need to be cleaned two or three times a year. Many systems have a clean-out near the blower or AC unit. It is advisable to have an AC technician check out the unit every few months for proper operation and to clean it. In the AC industry there are two thoughts: One is to place special chlorine tablets in the condenser pan or put bleach in the drain or pan. The other is that this will cause corrosion of the system and should not be done. A technician should be able to tell you the best way to operate your system to prevent future blockage. As to who is responsible for cleaning the drain, check your documents. However, I have seen only a couple of documents that discuss AC drains. Your documents may in fact require the association to service and clean the drain, but the association would not be responsible for the damage except for the unfinished dry wall.

Trucks in without vote

Q: Our condominium documents clearly stated that no pickup trucks or motorcycles are allowed, but our board recently changed the rules to allow them. When asked if they would be allowing the members to vote to change our documents, they said that the association attorney said it was not needed. What gives here? Why have documents?

A: I don't know if your board has the power to make such changes. I do know there have been several court cases over the years concerning pickup trucks, allowing them to be parked in communities with similar document restrictions. As to the court findings, you will need to have an attorney review these cases to provide an interpretation. In your association, perhaps someone challenged the restriction and the board asked for the association attorney to render an interpretation. If the answer was to not enforce the deed restrictions, then the board would have the right to avoid a court case and allow the vehicles to park.

Lien power will stay

Q: There has been recent conversation between members of our condominium that the state is considering eliminating a board's right to lien delinquent unit owners. Is this true?

A: More than likely the rumor was started as a result of news stories about owners not paying their fees. But it is false. In fact several legislators are talking about strengthening the law when bank foreclosures happen. Without the power to force payment of maintenance fees, the associations would be at the mercy of the members and would fail. As bad as it is to force a delinquent owner out of his home, it is an indispensable solution to properly operate the association. Many boards do not use the lien and foreclosure action to force collections, resulting in serious problems. It is the duty of all boards to establish a rapid collection policy that does include liens and rapid foreclosure proceedings.

Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., #201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115. He cannot provide personal replies by mail, but you can e-mail him at Please include your name and city. Online:

Community Living: Clogged drain damages are on owner 12/26/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 26, 2008 3:30am]
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