It’s that time of year again… when extreme cold can cause pipes to burst in vacant units. In light of this, it is important that managers gain access into known vacant units to winterize them. This avoids unnecessary insurance claims and premium increases caused by ruptured water lines.
The Condominium Act provides authority for condominium associations to gain access into a unit for the purposes of protecting the common elements and adjoining units. The statute, N.J.S.A. § 46:8B-15(b), also permits the condominium association to charge any costs incurred in gaining access and winterizing the unit back to the unit owner. However, prior to gaining access into the unit, the Association should provide reasonable notice to the unit owner and advise that the unit owner that they will be liable for any costs incurred in gaining access and winterizing the unit.
Further, N.J.S.A. § 45:22A-44(b) authorizes homeowner and townhome association boards to exercise its powers in a way that protects the health, safety and general welfare of the residents of the community. In addition, each association’s governing documents typically provide additional authority permitting the Association to gain access into units in the event of an emergency. Between the authority granted in the association’s governing documents and N.J.S.A. § 45:22A-44(b), homeowner and townhome associations generally have sufficient authority to gain access into vacant units upon reasonable notice to the owner to winterize them for the purpose of protecting adjoining units and common elements.
So, if there is any indication that a particular unit is vacant and not winterized, then we advise that management or our office send a notice to the owner advising that the Association will gain access to the unit to determine whether it is vacant and whether it has been winterized. If vacant and not winterized, then the association will winterize the unit and charge the unit owner back any costs incurred.