Winterization Tips for Condos
The last week saw high winds, power outages, and colder temperatures sweep into the Pacific Northwest, announcing that winter is on its way. For condominium owners, cold weather brings a variety of risks that, if left unaddressed, can impact not just their own unit, but the units of their neighbors. Thankfully, there are a number of simple steps owners can take to avoid these risks and make in through winter unscathed.
As we all know, condominiums come in all shapes and sizes, with a wide variety of amenities, common and limited common elements. Just like with traditional single-family homes, condos with exterior hose hook-ups should disconnect the hose because it can freeze and rupture. Further, the faucet should be protected by an insulated cover for the winter. Owners may be responsible for maintaining certain limited common elements under their condo’s governing documents, so they should double-check their documents to make sure they understand their obligations.
With the holidays fast approaching, many owners travel to visit family and friends, or simply seek warmer climates. This can mean leaving their unit vacant for weeks in freezing weather. Some associations have a rule regarding the minimum temperature for a unit, which is intended to prevent frozen pipes. It is generally recommended to keep the unit heated to at least 60 degrees. Beyond keeping the unit heated, owners should keep bathroom and kitchen sink cabinets open to allow warm air to reach the pipes inside. This further decreases the risk of frozen pipes inside the unit.
Many condominiums have water supply valves that can turn off the water inside individual units. When owners are away for an extended period of time, they should consider shutting off their water. Again, this can decrease the chances of frozen pipes and catastrophic leaks. However, before turning off their water, owners should check with their association management company regarding their association’s policies on water shut-offs. Regardless, owners should know where their primary water shout-off valve is located in the event of a pipe rupture or other leak.
While water leaks are a major concern in freezing weather, vacant units are also targets for break-ins. To minimize this risk, owners should consider having lights set on timers to make the unit appear inhabited. Owners can also inform their management company when they are away, so any suspicious activity in the unit can be reported. However, there is simply no substitute for help from those who know the community and its routines best, so owners should not be afraid to ask their neighbors to help keep an eye on their unit.
Losses are going to happen. Proactive maintenance and care help minimize risk but risk is never removed. As always, Barker Martin is ready to provide legal counsel for your community to evaluate and manage risk and guide you through the assessment, insurance, governance, and contracting gauntlet that comes with actual loss or repair. Please feel free to contact any of our attorneys if you have questions related to your specific community.