Winter hazards for condo life

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


I hear from dozens of homeowners daily. So many of them have told me that they purchased their condo, townhouse, or senior living home because they thought it would relieve them of certain homeowner chores and maintenance. No more shoveling snow or mowing the lawn! They also liked the idea of having a smaller interior space with less to clean, heat and cool, and maintain. The idea that they could “lock and go,” with someone else (the association) to look after their property was appealing.

But then reality sets in.

You see, what buyers and owners still in the honeymoon stage don’t realize is that when you rely upon a third party to maintain or supposedly “look after” your private property, you give up a great deal of personal control over your circumstances.

The following two reports are great examples of things that can – and often do – go wrong in Association Governed Housing Communities during the winter season.


Problem number one: leaky fire sprinkler systems. In Fayetteville, NC, residents of Stewart’s Creek Condominiums are dealing with extensive water damage, caused by frozen water pipes in the fire sprinkler system.

The reported cause: heating utilities were turned off in a vacant unit.

How can this happen?

There are several possibilities. First, because condo units are privately owned, the condo association might have been unaware of the utility shut off. Even if the Association was made aware, because the condo is private property, condo management likely would have to provide advance notice of entry (except in an emergency) to turn on the heat, and the private owner might prove to be uncooperative. Sometimes, condo owners even change the locks without permission of the condo association! We don’t know the full details of this case, but any of these factors would have made it difficult for the condo association to prevent pipes from freezing.

Besides, the condo association may be reluctant to pay utility bills for property owned by someone else. It may be a foolish decision, but as a condo owner, you have very little to no control to prevent poor decision making by the Association or its hired management representative.

Compare that to a typical apartment community with one landlord. Of course, it’s in the landlord’s best interest to prevent this kind of catastrophe. When a tenant moves out, management usually knows about the vacancy. The landlord then takes over paying the utility bills, so the heat can remain turned on, even if it’s at a minimum temperature. The pipes would not have frozen and burst, sending a deluge of water to the vacant apartment and adjacent units.

Because Stewart’s Creek is a condo association, I can guarantee that there will be plenty of conflict and back-and-forth between insurance carriers – one for each policy holder with damage to their units, plus the Association’s insurance company. And if any of these policies is inadequate, condo owners will either get shortchanged or they will have to make up the difference in repair costs.


Thawing after weekend freeze setting off sprinkler systems

Posted 6:16 p.m. yesterday
Updated 6:19 p.m. yesterday

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Fayetteville firefighters have been busy the past couple of days – not because of fire, but because of ice. Sprinkler systems damaged by frozen pipes have kept them on the move.

Read more: (Video)


The next example is from Boise, Idaho. Yes, HOAs exist in all states, even sparsely populated ones like Idaho!

Willowbrook Estates is a senior living community. From the video, it appears to be townhouses. Everyone who lives in Willowbrook is on a fixed income, and they rely on the Association to take care that their roads and sidewalks are kept clear of ice and snow.

But what happens if your Association fails to do its job?

Well, you’re pretty much out of luck. So much for low maintenance, carefree living. And, take notice that there is lawsuit pending against the association. More liability for homeowners, not to mention the obvious hazardous conditions for residents.

Senior housing in Garden City slushed in, residents say HOA has given few answers

Ian McGrady
5:02 PM, Jan 10, 2017
9:30 PM, Jan 10, 2017

BOISE, Idaho – The President of the Willowbrook Estates senior living in Garden City says they can’t comment about the slushy conditions in the senior housing development due to a threat of litigation by a resident. But one resident called Six On Your Side to see what could be done about the slushy conditions pervasive throughout the development.

Read more (Video)

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