Q&A: Investigating a Water Leak

Q My property manager told me that the moisture meter in the hallway adjoining my bathroom has a high reading. There’s no visible damage on the wallpaper in the co-op hallway, there’s no visible damage, and there’s no leaks in the bathroom. The manager is pushing me to demolish my bathroom completely to investigate inside the walls for the source of the moisture reading. This work should cost around $15,000 with no guarantee from the contractor. If I don’t agree to this, the manager will not allow me to let my renters move in. Are the manager’s actions legal?

—All Wet in Wildwood

A “With regard to the moisture issue, the answer largely depends on the governing documents,” says Ronald Perl, an attorney and a partner at the law firm of Hill Wallack, LLP in Princeton. “The declaration and/or bylaws usually defines the rights of an owner to rent a unit as well as any rights of approval or conditions precedent that may exist. Many documents, for example, specifically say that the owners may rent their units, provided that the leases are for a minimum term of one year and there are no hotel-type services provided.

“Associations very often adopt rules requiring notification of rentals and even requiring “lease riders” addressing association issues such as compliance with the governing documents by tenants. However, prohibiting occupancy is not a right or remedy typically contained in governing documents, although it could certainly appear in some (especially in cooperatives).

“The bottom line is that associations and their managing agents must act in accordance with the authority granted or necessarily implied from the governing documents, and if this is an arbitrary decision of a managing agent without legal support, it could be actionable. I recommend a consultation with an attorney knowledgeable in community association law.”

Related Articles

Q&A: HOAs and CCRs

Q&A: HOAs and CCRs

Q&A: Being on Two Boards

Q&A: Being on Two Boards

Q&A: When a Sex Offender Lives in My Building

Q&A: When a Sex Offender Lives in My Building