When Must a Condominium Association Warn Unit Owners of a Potential Danger Posed by a Component in Their Unit
April 11th, 2019 | Community Association Law Blog
April 11, 2019. By Eric F. Frizzell, Esq.
A New Jersey condominium owner’s unit flooded due to a broken dishwasher hose in another unit. The unit owner sued the association for damages due to the association’s failure to warn all owners of the danger, based on the fact that at the time of the incident the association’s administrator was aware that similar hoses, which were not visible or accessible without pulling out the dishwasher, had broken in three other condominium units.
In the case, Siddons v. Cook, a New Jersey appellate court ruled that even though the defective hose was part of the unit and not a common element, and even though the association had no duty to inspect or maintain personal property located in the unit, the association “had a duty to act reasonably to warn the unit owners of the potential danger“ of flooding because the association “knew of the potentially dangerous condition, and the condition was not open and obvious to the unit owners.”
In reaching its conclusion, the court considered that:
– The association had a fiduciary obligation to its unit owners
– The association possessed statutory power to gain access to each unit to make emergency repairs necessary to prevent damage to any unit
– Prior to the incident in question, the association had been notified at least three times that dishwasher hoses had flooded other units
– The majority of unit owners were not aware of this risk
– The association was in the best position to notify owners about it and could have done so without undue burden through its newsletter or other reasonable means.
The significance of the court’s decision is that:
– A community association has a duty to warn owners of a known defect in an individual unit that could damage other units or the common elements
– The court’s reasoning could be extended to require an association to notify homeowners of other situations that potentially threaten them, such as alerting them when criminal conduct
has occurred on the association’s premises.
Please contact us if you have any questions about the need to notify residents of your community of any suspected danger, or if you have questions on any other community association legal matter.