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Owner of defective water softener liable for damage to common area

Published May 19, 2007


Q: One of our unit owners had a water softener installed; it malfunctioned and required extensive work in the common area. Since this was not our equipment - it was purchased by the unit owner - I, as treasurer, think he should be responsible for the cost of repairs.

A: My first question concerns why the water softener was installed in a common area. No owner has the right to use common space for personal use. Based on the information you provide, these repairs are the responsibility of the owner. Maybe his homeowners insurance will cover the cost.

Cut those legal fees

Q: I think our association spends too much money on legal fees for collections and rules enforcement. It seems to me that a better course of action is to start with a courtesy phone call from the manager or treasurer politely reporting that the monthly maintenance fee has not been received.

A: Making a phone call or knocking on the door to remind the owner of a payment or to point out a rules violation is not a wise first step. The owner may become angry or violent. If the situation ends up in court, a judge's first question will be whether the unit owner was notified of the delinquency. If you started with a phone call or visit you have no evidence of whom you spoke to or what was said. Put everything in writing.

In delinquencies, the legal costs should be added to the amount in arrears and paid by the owner.

In actions on rules violation, if the association prevails in court, the judge will determine whether the violator must pay the legal expenses.

Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him c/o Community Living, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Sorry, he can't take phone calls or provide personal replies by mail, but you can e-mail him at

[Last modified May 18, 2007, 11:49:30]

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