As we are moving into colder weather, many board members start to worry about vacant homes within the association. Specifically, what type of precautions the association should take in order to avoid a pipe freezing, or other damage occurring to a home as the result of sub-zero temperatures. This fear is often common for board’s dealing with homes in foreclosure, in which the owner has simply abandoned the property.
The first thing that a board should do is let our office know that the home is vacant. We can then determine if there is a mortgage on the property. In most mortgage documents there is a provision that allows the mortgage company to enter the home and winterize the property in order to preserve its interest. If there is a mortgage on the property, our office will prepare a demand letter to the mortgage company advising them that home is vacant, and that it needs to take necessary precautions to protect the property. The mortgage company will then incur the expense in preserving the property from the cold temperatures.
In the event there is no mortgage, or the mortgage company fails to act, the association may also take preventive measures to winterize the property. In most documents, the association retains an easement right to enter a home for purposes of protecting the common elements or to remedy a condition which could cause damage to another home. In that case, the association should provide notice to the home owner that it will be entering the home at the last known address on file, or by posting a notice on the door. Additionally, the association should notify local law enforcement they are entering the home.
In either instance, it is imperative that the board work with our office to determine the appropriate course of action in dealing with a vacant home. It is often easier and less expensive to winterize a home, than deal with the aftermath of having to remediate a home after a pipe has frozen.