Know your rights: how condo owners can get action for safety problems

Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 8:00 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It has been just over a week since a condo building collapsed in Surfside, Florida.

You may be wondering, what are your rights if you own a condominium or you are part of a homeowners association?

If you have structural issues and leaks in your building and you’re a condominium owner, you can’t make those repairs yourself.

19 Investigates found there are 601 condo buildings in Cuyahoga County.

About 25 to 30 of them are high rises and the rest may be just a few stories tall.

Many of the well-known high-rise condos are on Northeast Ohio’s Gold Coast in Lakewood, with spectacular views of Lake Erie.

No matter what your condo looks like or where it is, mold, leaks and structural problems can be a concern.

We spoke with consumer rights attorney Dan Karon with Cleveland law firm Karon LLC.

Karon is a condo owner himself and he hopes condo owners and homeowners associations can learn from what happened in Surfside.

“If you’re concerned about something, because for instance maybe a reserve study hasn’t been done to your knowledge for however long and longer than building code or statutes or the declaration permit-- you go to the condo association. Go to the board, go to the next meeting, say ‘hey listen here’s my problem.’ And you hope they’re receptive.

And if they aren’t responsive, Karon said you can go to court for a breach of contract claim.

Unlike a standalone house, you can’t fix those problems yourself and the condo or homeowners association is responsible.

“You can sue under the Condo Act, you can sue under section 311.20 which says that the condo association may be sued for not keeping its end up, not performing its duty under the declaration and under the law,” he said.

And if you’re a part of a homeowners association, there may be safety issues outside in common areas that need to be addressed.

“If you detect something untoward or unsafe in regard to your streets, your sidewalks, your lights, tell your homeowners association no differently than you tell your condo board. Because again, it’s all about safety and getting ahead of the problem and not letting a sinkhole emerge or a condo collapse,” Karon said.

19 Investigates found it helps if you do your homework and then bring your problem to the condo association or homeowners board.

If records show they are not doing anything about it, you may have a better case.

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