Q&A: Getting Rid of the Lint in Dryer Vents

Q Owners who don't have dryer vents cleaned every two years are fined but they still refuse to hire a vent cleaner. In one case, an owner on the second floor had it done inside but the outside lint screen is clogged because some vendors will not use a ladder. Are there other remedies available to force owners to do this? Clogged lint can cause fires and affect all residents in the building.

—Lint-Free Advocate

A "Condominium concerns vis-a-vis dryer vents and fires are legitimate and growing in numbers,” says attorney David Byrne of Stark & Stark, a law firm based in Lawrenceville. “So long as the board has adopted a policy by which owners are to clean them, along with related regulations governing how that is to take place, etc., at a board meeting open to attendance by owners (or ratified at such a meeting), such policy should be enforceable.

“It is not necessary that such a policy be memorialized in a formal resolution, but it should be part of the open session minutes and inserted into the condominium's published rules and regulations. So long as the condominium's master deed and/or bylaws authorize the use of fines, fines are certainly one approach to secure compliance and/or deter misconduct.

“A board can also consider—depending upon the master deed and/or bylaw provisions—denying common element and/or amenity use and/or access to owners in violation of the dryer vent-related policy. In the end though, the condominium may have to utilize the law and the legal system to secure compliance.

“If the condominium is concerned enough to have adopted the policy in the first place (i.e., unclean dryer vents could cause a fire and kill someone), then it must be concerned enough to actually enforce the policy. Once it is known that individual owners refuse to comply—despite fines, etc.— owners, their property and the common elements are at risk. The condominium can commence a legal action against the individual seeking an order compelling compliance. Depending on the language of the master deed and/or bylaws, the condominium may be entitled to a recovery of its legal fees and/or fines as well.

“There are creative ways to address such a necessary legal effort so that the outcome is secured quickly, with little drama and minimal cost. Management and/or legal counsel should be skilled and experienced enough to assist the condominium in that regard.”

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