Posted 3 years and 3 months ago
Topic: Condominium Law
Q: One of our resident’s gas meters has been removed and locked by the gas company. Does the condominium association have any legal obligations about this? We’re concerned that the water pipes inside the home could freeze and burst. This is an inside unit with units on both sides. —Lancaster, Pa.
A: The Association may have an obligation to act in some affirmative manner given the presented scenario. Many condominium declarations contain provisions which allow the association to act in order to prevent damage to the common elements and/or other units. The obligation of the association to act is triggered by the particular danger or risk that is involved. The greater the risk or danger, the greater the obligation. Freezing water pipes (supply or sprinkler) in a condominium can lead to tens of thousands of dollars in damage to the unit in question, the common elements and the adjacent units — this can obviously be considered a great risk that the association should try and prevent from occurring. Check the association’s declaration to see what language would support proactive involvement by the association to prevent the pipes from freezing. This action may be as simple as contacting the gas company, advising of the situation and asking them to turn on the gas to the unit (any billing issues can be arranged as needed). If the unit is not occupied and access is required to have an HVAC inspection performed by a qualified contractor and to get the heat running, check your declaration for an emergency access provision (I also note that if the unit is not occupied and is in foreclosure, the bank may want to be advised, through its counsel, of the potential risk to its investment — the bank may then, pursuant to any applicable provisions in the mortgage or otherwise, have the unit winterized at their expense). If the declaration is silent on the issue of access to a unit, the Pennsylvania Uniform Condominium Act, 68 Pa.C.S. § 3101 et seq., at section 3307(A), may allow for access to the unit under certain circumstances. A motion may need to be filed with the court to properly gain access to the unit whether or not the declaration allows for access — of course this is factually dependent on the emergent nature of the particular situation. Finally, the association should consult with its legal counsel to ensure that any actions taken by the association are legally supported and to discuss other potential [related] pitfalls such as insurance notice issues.
Edward Hoffman, Jr., is a shareholder in the Litigation group at Fitzpatrick Lentz and Bubba, P.C. Mr. Hoffman frequently speaks to industry trade groups, boards, property managers and management companies about community association topics. Mr. Hoffman has represented Community Associations in the following Pennsylvania counties: Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Pike, Susquehanna, and Wayne. The law firm has been named "Who’s Who in Business Lehigh Valley" each year since 2008, and was ranked as one of the 100 Best Places to Work in PA in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Contact Mr. Hoffman at 610-797-9000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: One of our resident’s gas meters has been removed and locked by the gas company. Does the condominium association have any legal obligations about this? We’re concerned that the water pipes inside the home could freeze and burst. This is an inside unit with units on both sides. —Lancaster, Pa.A: The Association may have an obligation to act in some affirmative manner given the presented scenario. Many condominium declarations contain provisions which allow the as