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  #1  
Old 08-06-2008, 04:01 AM
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Any home structural engineers and/or attorneys here? we think we're getting duped

Hi folks,

My wife and I bought our first townhome 4 years ago. the complex was built in the mid 80s here in california. one thing i've learned is that home association and property management companies are the f'g devil. not to mention, we have this old couple who've lived here for years. they are the hypocritical rule mongers who report everything and anything. i cant even fart without being reported.

anyways, HOAs aside, we noticed about 2 years ago that our bedroom door closet door would not shut all the way. we thought this might be a seasonal thing as it closed during the winter just fine. well now in the same bedroom, the sliding glass door does not shut flush. when you close the door, there is a large gap that narrows as it gets towards the lock. so we called our HOA and they sent the president. the president noticed that the floor felt buckled, so he called an inspection company. the kid (probably a good 19 yrs old, says the wife) said "you need a new sliding door". we told him thanks and have a nice day. so we complained again and then they sent another inspection company. this guy said "oh man, you guys have a serious structural issue going on here." he noticed some cracks outside and told my wife that he'd make his report to the HOA.

so months go by and we do not see the report. i keep asking and asking, but get blown off. finally, worse comes to worse and I make a very polite yet somewhat veiled threat and then instead of the copy of the letter, we get the lawyer's interpretation of what the HOA covers and that structural issues are the home owner's responsibility. needless to say, that raised eyebrows. we didnt ask for a freakin' interpretation, we asked for a copy of the report.

so i said just that and the rep at the mgt company said "i'll have to ask the attorney if i can release it to you".

what a bunch of horse crap. seems to me something in that report is very damaging, hence the delay, blow offs, and the defensive response from their attorney.

perhaps i'm reading this all with too thick suspicion glasses, but i'm old enough and been around the block a few times enough to smell a rat.

so questions to structural engineers: what causes a house to settle abnormally? it seems that this seam that the president felt is the point where our unit is buckling. we've yet to pull the carpet, but i may do so in about 2 weeks when i have the time.

attorneys: if the HOA (or the mgt company---we're not sure who paid for the inspection) says "sorry, no you can't see the report", is that legal? or can we supboena a copy if we file a lawsuit? i mean shoot, its about our house. if there is something dangerous, we sure would like to know about it.

or would it just be better to hire an independent structural/engineering company to look at our property and make a legal case against the association? i would think that since we technically own a share of the building but do not own the land that it sits on (i think this is how it goes), anything related to the earth would be the responsibility of the land owner.

oh i dont know, i'm not a lawyer. but thats just my best guess why the mgt company's attorney kept stressing the building aspect of whats covered under structural damage.

thanks,
bob
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  #2  
Old 08-06-2008, 06:00 AM
t walgamuth's Avatar
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I don't know if its their responsibility or yours. That would depend on the language in the homeowners agreement and the other official documents.

The structural problems you describe, from what you have provided, are not clearly serious enough to worry about. It could be a relatively minor settling thing only and replacing the door might actually solve the problem.

Getting another lawyer involved will definately result in more legal action so if that is what you desire go for it.

Myself, I would recommend a second or third opinion by a good Architect or Engineer paid by you.

I'd say you have about an 85% chance that will solve your problem with the door.

If you have that itch for some fighting though, maybe only the attorney angle will solve it.

Good luck.

Tom W
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Old 08-06-2008, 06:19 AM
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Who paid for the reprt? If the HOA, and you are a member of the HOA, seems like you are entitled to have a copy.
The structural issues may be minor, or more serious. All houses settle and shrink. Installing a new door will aloow the installer to shim the assemble so that it sits plumb, and level. That may solve the problem.
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Old 08-06-2008, 08:11 AM
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Find out what state agency regulates condominium associations. In NJ it's the Dept. of Community Affairs. Try googling "Condominium state regulations Calif." for instance and see what you get.

From my experience, the MASTER DEED filed with the Condominium documents spells out everything, including the common areas.
It would depend on the wording or the master deed and possible state regulations, but, usually, at least here in NJ, the member/unit owner's interest begins on the interior wall surface. The studs, siding, roof, etc, etc are common elements. If your building/unit has structural problems it's likely the Association's property and responsibility to repair.
I'm assuming you live in a condominium, with common areas, not merely a Homeowners association with more limited responsibilites.
Get the master deed and review it. You as a member are entitled to it.

The old timers usually think they own the place.....

BTW, does your association have a reserve for major repairs and replacements??

Good luck.
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Old 08-06-2008, 11:38 AM
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dynalow,

great suggestion, thank you. im giong to read our master deed and cc&R over the next few weeks when i can make time.
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  #6  
Old 08-06-2008, 12:41 PM
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I'd send a letter to the managment company saying you will arrive at their office on X day and will want to see copy of the report. If denied, I'd go to the next homeowner's association meeting and ask for the report.
I've worked with condo association management companies in the past and a key element of their power is control over the information that is given to the association's board and individual homeowner's. I'd be VERY surprised if as a homeowner you do not have legal right to see all the paperwork of your association.
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  #7  
Old 08-06-2008, 03:38 PM
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Waiting for JD and or Howie to chime in. I live in a Condo and received a book that rivaled "War and Peace" with all the bylaws, insurance deeds and requirements by the Condo Association. You pay the fees for a reason- the condo board WORKS FOR YOU, THAT'S WHY YOU PAY THOSE FEES. Be firm yet gentle and in writing with a return receipt requested you can get a copy of the report. Whenever you purchase any property always get an inspection by someone of your choice, you pay alittle more but these things can bite you in the backside down the road. As for the octogenarians on the premises believe it or not one day you will become one of them.....
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Last edited by Mistress; 08-06-2008 at 03:49 PM.
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  #8  
Old 08-06-2008, 04:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mistress View Post
As for the octogenarians on the premises believe it or not one day you will become one of them.....

Say, just a minute! I resemble that remark!!
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  #9  
Old 08-06-2008, 04:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dynalow View Post
Say, just a minute! I resemble that remark!!
I'm the Noise Nazi of the 4th floor....
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  #10  
Old 08-06-2008, 05:01 PM
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Whew, this brought back flashbacks . . . I used to do construction lit, representing associations.

First, read the CC&R's with a particular eye to responsibilities. Generally, condo, horizontal property regime, or other names for this type of property designate who is responsible for what.

Typically, owners are responsible for things within the demising wall paint's skin, except for load bearing/structural items and certain utility items such as a supply and waste water piping; chilled water and HVAC systems.

Once had a case in a high rise condo building where a ground floor unit had an interesting problem. One of the bathrooms had a cabinet mounted above the toilet tank. In the summer, you could lift off the tank cover, but in the winter the tank cover was so close to the bottom of the cabinet you couldn't remove it.

The structural engineer had two opinions . . . the ground floor slab was rising and falling, OR that corner of the building was deflecting/sinking. We hired surveyors to "shoot" the exterior corner soffits of each floor with a laser to verify that the building was not deflecting.

It turned out that the slab beneath the unit was moving up and down based on the amount of water getting to the adobe soil underneath it. We also tracked the other source of the problem: during the testing of a a dry standpipe for the sprinkler system, the contractor had a broken/leaky supply pipe running under the slab. Nobody knows how many gallons of water got pumped into the soil before they figured out the pipe was no good.
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