DEAR BARRY: We own a two-story condo, located at the far end of our building. This year, we discovered foundation settlement when cracks and gaps appeared on the outside of our unit. The condo committee hired a structural expert who recommended pillars to prevent further settlement. The proposed cost for the work is $12,000. The attorney for the condo association says that we, not the condo association, must pay for the repair work. Unfortunately, we don’t have that much money. A friend suggested that we simply patch the cracks, repaint the exterior, and forget about the foundation. If we do this, do we have to inform buyers of the settlement problem when we eventually sell the condo? –Rosemary
DEAR ROSEMARY: You have raised three separate issues, each of which is critically important:
1. The condo association is totally off base in denying responsibility for the foundation problem. Condo owners are responsible only for interior maintenance. All exterior components of the property, including the foundation, are the responsibility of the owners association. To enforce compliance by the association, you should hire a real estate attorney to counter the claims of the attorney who represents the association.
2. You should not perform cosmetic repairs on the symptoms of a structural problem. This would be no better than putting fresh makeup on a terminally ill patient and pretending that good health had been restored.
3. If the foundation problem is not repaired, further settlement could become a problem for future owners of the property. Disclosure is therefore essential. Failure to inform future buyers would be illegal and unethical.
DEAR BARRY: About three weeks ago, my landlord installed an old, unvented gas heater in my apartment. That’s when the problems started. Whenever I use the heater, the place becomes as humid as a steam room, and mold has begun to appear on some of the walls. I’ve complained about this to my landlord, but he says the mold is caused by my dogs. Does that seem plausible, or is the mold caused by the heater? –Elizabeth
DEAR ELIZABETH: Mold is caused by excessive moisture. The exhaust from a gas-burning fixture is mainly carbon dioxide and steam. Most gas heaters are vented to the exterior, but an unvented heater expels exhaust into the dwelling. If the mold began after the heater was installed, then the cause of the mold is obviously moisture condensation from the steam that is emitted by the ventless heater.
As for your landlord’s canine excuse: Who ever heard of mold being caused by dogs? In my opinion, the unvented heater is a health and safety hazard and should not be used. Furthermore, any combustion problems that might occur with that kind of heater could produce carbon monoxide rather than carbon dioxide, and that would be extremely dangerous. Therefore, your landlord should address this matter immediately. First, the gas heater should be evaluated by a licensed HVAC contractor. And second, the mold condition should be evaluated and mitigated by a qualified expert.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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