QUESTION: What if a homeowner installed a washing machine without a building permit or HOA approval? Our condo was built in 1954. Our board would like to prohibit use of the illegally installed washing machine but the owner will not comply.
ANSWER: There are two three ways to approach the problem: (i) force him to remove the washing machine, (ii) allow him to keep the machine if he retrofits the drain line and records a covenant or (iii) the association upgrades the plumbing throughout the complex to allow all owners the opportunity to install washing machines.
Option #1 Remove the Washer. In older buildings, clothes washers can overload the drain lines because the lines were not designed to carry the amount of water ejected by a washer at high speed into the lines. Sometimes the lines can carry one washing machine but as more are added to the stack, it overwhelms the line. Thus, even if one person has bootlegged a washer and it’s not causing a problem, others will want to install their own (because you let the first one keep his) and then you have a problem.
The board can call the person to a hearing and levy daily fines against the owner until he removes the clothes washer. If he continues to ignore the association, the board can go into court for an order that it be removed. It is only a matter of time before the washing machine causes a flood. If the board does nothing and neighbors are damaged by a flood from the washer, the association could be sued for allowing the violation to continue.
Option #2. Require Proper Installation. The second option is to allow the owner to keep his clothes washer, provided he (i) meets installation standards set by the HOA and (ii) records a covenant that he (and all future owners) will be responsible for maintenance and damage related to the washer and (iii) agrees to carry insurance and indemnify the association. All other owners in the development would have the same right to install washing machines subject to the association’s standards and a recorded covenant. At some point, the next person in a stack to install a washer will need to install a larger drain line from his unit to the bottom of the stack so as not to create backups.
Option #3. Upgrade the Plumbing. The third option is the association replaces drain lines throughout the development so everyone can install clothes washers. One association took this route and replaced everything gradually rather than all at once.
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