DEAR BARRY: I live in an old condo complex and recently replaced my water heater. The fixture is located in an upstairs closet, and the new codes require an overflow pan with a pipe to the exterior to prevent water damage if there is a leak. Unfortunately, the condo board has refused to allow this pipe because it would alter the outside appearance of the building. I’ve argued the point, but they are as stubborn as cement. Do they have the right to deny compliance with the state plumbing code, or can I install the pipe without their permission? –William

DEAR WILLIAM: The condo board could use some common sense in place of blind adherence to outdated restrictions. If any water heater in the complex develops a leak, someone will be paying to repair water damage, and that someone could be a member of the board.

If the condo leaders remain fixed in their position, here is a possible way to force their hand: A permit is required when you replace a water heater. Most people don’t know this; so most water heaters are installed without a permit. Although your water heater has already been installed, you could apply for an as-built permit. Just tell the people at the building department that you didn’t know a permit was required. When the building inspector shows up at your home, raise the issue of the pan and discharge pipe. The inspector is empowered to order compliance, regardless of condo rules. In that case, the condo board would have no choice but to comply with the law.

DEAR BARRY: My house was damaged in a fire about four months ago. The repairs are almost complete, but the contractor hired by the insurance company has done a terrible job restoring the kitchen. The countertop space is much smaller than before the fire; the new bottom cabinets are darker than the top cabinets; and the stove nook has been moved so that it is no longer under the vent hood and light.

I’m tired of living in a hotel and simply want to go home. But I can’t accept the substandard work as it is. If I do, I’m stuck with the shoddy results because I can’t afford to pay for additional repairs. What can I do? –Tony

DEAR TONY: The conditions you describe are not acceptable. The kitchen restoration should have been modeled after the previous installation, and the cabinets should, at least, have had a uniform finish.

You can move back into your home, but you do not have to accept the substandard work. You can file a complaint with your insurance company and refuse to sign any release documents from the insurance company or the contractor. You can also file a complaint with the state agency that licenses contractors. If the insurance company will not take your position in the matter, you can file a complaint with the state insurance commissioner. And finally, you can consult an attorney to learn what other remedies are available to you under law.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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