Goodspeed: Condo owners are not required to clean common areas

Linda Goodspeed

QUESTION: I am a member of the board of trustees of my condo association. It has been brought to our attention that one of the unit owners has a washer and dryer in his bathroom that drains into the tub. The bylaws prohibit washers and dryers in individual units. The unit owner who reported this violation does not want to file a written complaint. Can the board do anything if we don’t have a written complaint?

ANSWER: Without a written complaint, I think it would be very difficult for the board to take any action against the unit owner, such as fining him/her for the violation of the bylaws. But based on a credible oral report of a washer/dryer in the unit in violation of the bylaws, the board could demand an inspection of the offending unit to verify whether or not there is a washer/dryer in the unit.

If the washer/dryer is found upon inspection of the unit in violation of the association bylaws, the board could then take action, including fining the violating unit owner and enforcing the bylaws. 

QUESTION: I have lived in a four-unit condo building for the last six years. I just received notice that to save money, the board has decided to stop hiring outside vendors to clean the common areas, shovel snow, etc., and that individual owners are now going to be responsible for doing these things. I was told that if I do not participate, I will have to hire someone myself to do my task. Can the board impose this kind of obligation on unit owners?

ANSWER: This sounds like my old condo association. We were also a four-unit association, and did as much maintenance and cleaning and upkeep of the common areas as we could ourselves to save money.

The board, however, does not have the legal authority to require members to do such work themselves or to require members to hire an outside vendor to complete the task assigned to the member.

The board has the responsibility to maintain, repair and replace common elements in the building, and to adopt a budget to raise necessary funds to fulfill those obligations. Often, especially in smaller associations and where the common areas are small, unit owners volunteer to do maintenance, cleaning or other tasks. But it is a personal choice and not an obligation that can be imposed on unit owners by the board.

Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.” Email her at: