Recall of Entire Board Is Not Best Solution

<i> Hickenbottom is president of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI), a national nonprofit research and educational organization. </i>

QUESTION: In a recent column you responded to a letter writer who complained about a tyrannical condominium board. Our association had the same problem until some of the owners came up with the answer--recall.

We recalled our entire board, despite their objections and despite their using our association attorneys at the association’s expense to try to keep their jobs!

We now have a board that is much more responsive, simply because they know that malfeasance, favoritism and ignoring board responsibilities will no longer be tolerated. Please comment.

ANSWER: If you are a regular reader, you know that I always recommend working with the board and supporting them if possible. Sometimes board recall is the only solution, and I’m glad that you are bringing it to the attention of our readers.


However, I must add a few words of caution. One should not enter a recall endeavor without considering all of the consequences. Recall is unpredictable. Sometimes, it is unsuccessful.

Whether the recall election unseats the board or not, it always causes dissension and leaves resentments that linger. Neighbors end up not speaking to one another and sometimes personal vendettas continue long after the matter is resolved.

A new board that takes office as the result of a recall election often has a difficult time because of the lack of continuity and the criticism from former board members who are still trying to defend their honor.

I know of an association whose members were dissatisfied with the board’s decisions, so some of the dissenting owners organized the recall effort and a recall election was scheduled. The board members defended themselves with eloquent speeches and impassioned pleas and when the votes were counted, all of the board members were reelected, as the dissenting owners stood by with “egg on their faces.”

These warnings should not discourage those who really have valid reasons for wanting to recall errant board members. When a board blatantly disobeys CC&R;'s and ignores the wishes of the majority of the owners, then they should be replaced. This can often be done at a regular annual election, however, which takes less effort and causes fewer resentments.

Association Should Fix Noisy Plumbing

Q: Four months ago, I purchased a condominium on the second floor of a three-story complex. I am very happy with it and quite pleased with the increase in value in just a short time.

However, I am concerned about the noise from the unit above me, especially plumbing noise. When the toilet is flushed, the water sounds as though it has burst the pipes and is just gushing across my ceiling. After the water sounds cease, there is a ticking noise that sounds like a small hammer tapping on the pipe. I’ve now adjusted to these weird noises, but I am concerned about resale when the time comes to sell my unit.


Should the previous owner have disclosed this as a defect or are these noises considered typical for a condominium? Should I consider some kind of insulation to muffle the noise? Can you offer any suggestions?

A: It is typical to hear noises from other units, but the plumbing noises that you describe would be difficult for many people to tolerate. I believe there is a loose pipe that is vibrating when the flow is abruptly shut off.

A good plumber should be able to correct this condition, called “water hammer,” but it may be necessary to cut through the ceiling to do so. There are several ways of correcting water hammer. A Reader’s Digest book, “How to Do Just About Anything,” offers some solutions.

Your plumbing problem should be corrected at the expense of the association since the piping is in the ceiling above your unit (common area).


If the ceiling has to be opened, you may want to take advantage of the opportunity to have some insulation or soundproofing added after the plumbing work is done. The insulation work would probably be at your expense. You will need to get the cooperation and permission of your association before proceeding with either project.