Adams Stirling PLC


If the developer of a condominium project did not design the buildings to accommodate clothes washers in units, water usage, lost revenue, flooding problems, damage repairs, noise and vibrations, become issues. In addition, clothes dryers can create problems.  

Water Usage. Most condominium developments are master metered for water. That means everyone else in the association pays via their regular assessments for the increased water usage by the owner of an unauthorized clothes washer. It means all other owners in the development are subsidizing the increased cost.

Lost Revenue. Buildings that are not designed for an in-unit washer/dryer often have communal laundry rooms with coin-operated machines for residents to use. Associations rely on the income from those machines to offset utility costs. Owners who install their own washers and dryers deprive the association of the income it receives from communal machines (which raises the cost for everyone else). In addition, residents with in-unit washers are more apt to use their own machines more frequently than they would with coin-operated machines, thus increasing their use of "free" water.

Floods. Flooding can occur If an owner installs a washing machine without association approval. The sudden force and volume of water into a drain line during the rinse cycle can overload the line and lead to backups in other units. When developers build multi-unit developments, they calculate normal water flow and only install lines needed to handle those flows per applicable building codes. Clothes washers need larger lines due to the larger flow and turbulence of water plus the sudsing effect of the detergent. 

Damage Repairs. When floods occur, the association has a duty to repair damage even though it did not cause the damage. It has a duty because the common areas are affected. Condominium units are surrounded by common area walls, ceilings, and floors, all of which the association is responsible to repair and maintain. This is true regardless of who caused the damage. (Civ. Code § 4775(a).) The board must make sure that everything is dried out as soon as possible so as to avoid mold in the common area walls.

Noise and Vibration. Once the washer and dryer are installed, noise and vibrations can radiate through walls and floors into surrounding units. The problem may be minor or it may be significant depending on how the building was constructed. 

Clothes Dryers. Venting a clothes dryer can be problematic. Dryer exhaust lines cannot, under any circumstances, vent into the common area walls, ceiling or floor spaces. Doing so puts moisture into those spaces which can lead to dry rot that destroys the wood structure and mold that can create health problems for residents. It also puts lint into the space which can lead to a fire. If the dryer vents to the outside (as it should) there is a limit on the hose length (no more than 25') because of lint accumulation in the line and back pressure buildup. Where venting to the outside is not possible, a special indoor dryer vent can be used but they have their own problems. Every time a load is dried, a gallon of water or more is released into the unit, creating excessive humidity with possible condensation and mold.

Retrofit Option. There is a benefit to installing clothes washers and dryers in units. Associations can retrofit their buildings if larger drain lines can be installed and proper dryer venting can be installed. One association decided to upgrade its drain lines to accommodate washing machines. It installed larger drain lines whenever an owner requested approval for a clothes washer or a serious plumbing problem occurred in a stack. After eight years, all drain lines were replaced. If boards go this route, the work must be done by a licenses plumber and permits will likely be needed. In addition, with the increased flow of water into the vertical lines, the main line exiting the building may need to be enlarged.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

Adams Stirling PLC