Q&A: Giving Access to Your Condo Unit

Q Last month a minor flood occurred in the condominium unit above me from a clogged pipe. The above unit that was affected wants the pipe replaced. The problem is the only way to get access to the repair is through my unit. I objected to the work and now the association board is threatening to sue me for not allowing them access. What are my rights and what can I do to make this go away or should I allow them access and move on with life?

—Pipe Woes

A The New Jersey Condominium Act provides that a condominium association is responsible for the 'maintenance' and “repair” of the common elements, and 'shall have access to each unit . . . as may be necessary for the maintenance, repair or replacement of any common elements therein or accessible therefrom or for making emergency repairs necessary to prevent damage to common elements or to any other unit or units,'” says Donna Shahrabani, an attorney and partner at the law firm of Buckalew Frizzell & Crevina LLP in Glen Rock.

“Moreover, the governing documents of many condominium associations in New Jersey provide that the condominium association: 1) has an easement over certain property, such as an individual unit, for the maintenance of a common element component; and 2) through its Board of Directors or its property manager, has a right of access to individual units to perform certain repairs, as long as the request for entry is made in advance, in writing, and for a time that is reasonably convenient to the unit owner. Of course, in the event of an emergency, most governing documents provide that such right of entry is immediate, regardless of whether the unit owner is present at the time or not.

“The governing documents of many condominium associations also provide that, if a unit owner violates the provisions of the master deed, bylaws or rules and regulations, that association has the right to sue the unit owner and seek a court order requiring the owner to provide access to the unit, fine the unit owner, and/or suspend the unit owner’s membership privileges. Accordingly, this unit owner should allow the association to enter his unit for the purpose of repairing the clogged pipe.”

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