Do Residents Have to Pay for Termite Control?

Hickenbottom is past president of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI), a national nonprofit research and educational organization

QUESTION: We recently discovered that termites are present in our townhouse and other townhouses adjoining it. When we contacted the management company, we were told that we live in a "planned unit development" (PUD) and the homeowners association is not responsible for termite treatment in a PUD.

We bought this townhouse in 1978 thinking that the common areas and structure of the buildings were the maintenance responsibility of the association.

If the association is not responsible for the termite control, how do we get the cooperation of the adjoining unit owners to allow the treatment and share in the cost?

ANSWER: Read your association's legal documents. Even if your association is described as a planned development or a PUD, the association documents may state that the association is responsible for abatement of wood-destroying pests. In a condominium, cooperative or "own-your-own" community apartment project, the association is responsible for the termites unless the legal documents of the association state otherwise.

If the association's documents state that the association is a PUD but there is no mention of the association's responsibility for termite treatment, then it is the individual owners who must pay for the treatment.

Meet with the other owners in your building to talk about the necessity for treatment and the cost. If your building has four or five units, it may be easy to reach an agreement on the type of treatment and sharing the cost.

California law states that planned unit developments can take over the responsibility for wood-destroying pests by getting the approval of a majority of the members of the association. The association is then entitled to recover the cost of the treatment and repairs from the individual owners as a special assessment.

When a Unit Owner Wants to Double Space

Q: A unit owner in our condominium is considering purchasing the adjacent unit and expanding to make his unit larger. Our association's legal documents state that there are a certain number of units in the condominium. Is changing the number of owners subject to the consent of all the owners?

If the two units are combined into one, would the owner have to pay assessments for one unit or two?

A: Before the association addresses the issues that you have raised, I recommend that the board require the owner to hire an architect and a structural engineer to determine whether fire barriers and load-bearing walls will be affected. The cost of these consultants should be paid by the owner who wants to combine the units.

The percentage of ownership and assessment amount are legal issues that should be referred to the association's attorney. I am aware of several condominiums where an owner has combined units. In most instances, the owner simply owns two units, pays assessments for two units and votes accordingly. Changing the percentage of ownership for the whole complex would require a vote of the entire membership to amend the association's legal documents. In my opinion, this would be unnecessary and unfair to the other owners.

New Tenants Should Get Copies of the Rules

Q: Our condominium board of directors has not been successful in getting the cooperation of a unit owner whose tenant refuses to obey rules and regulations of the association. The owner of the unit says that it is not his problem.

When a condominium owner rents the unit to a tenant, who is responsible for problems arising from rule violations? Who pays the fines? Can the association evict the tenant?

A: How convenient for the owner to say "It's not my problem!" Some owners think that as long as they pay their monthly assessment, they have fulfilled their obligation to the association. Not true.

Owners who rent their units should provide the tenant with a copy of the association rules. In my opinion, the tenant's requirement to comply with the rules should be stated in the rental agreement and repeated failure to comply with rules should be grounds for eviction.

By virtue of ownership, the unit owner agrees to comply with the association's legal documents and rules. However, the association does not have this type of agreement with the tenant. Therefore, when the tenant disobeys a rule, the association's recourse is against the owner. The association does not have the right to evict the tenant unless the association's legal documents and the rental agreement have a provision for tenant eviction.

It is wise for the board or management company to send copies of rules to new tenants. Then if a violation occurs, the board can assume that the tenant knows about the rule. Sometimes a neighborly verbal reminder to the tenant will resolve the matter.

If the violation is serious enough to warrant a written notice, the notice should be sent to the owner. It is a good idea to send a copy of the notice to the tenant, also. Fines should be levied against the unit owner because the association is limited in its ability to collect from the tenant.

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