An aggravated client of mine comes to me this week, complaining that numerous owners have installed washers and dryers over the years without permission from the association, and that as a result, the owners who don’t have washers and dryers object to paying the water bill as part of the common expenses of the condominium association.
Regardless of whether or not the association may be able to sue everyone with a washer/dryer seeking their removal, many of the owners believe there is a fundamental unfairness in equally dividing the cost of water among the owners, when the owners of washers and dryers use substantially more water than everyone else. In other condominiums, single residents believe it’s unfair for them to pay the same amount toward the water bill as the family with five members living in the unit next door.
You would think that one way of possibly correcting this situation would be the installation of separate water meters for each unit. That way, everyone pays their fair share based upon the exact amount of water actually used by that unit. In fact, my client contacted a company that specializes in installing separate water meters in each condominium unit and that would pro-rate the water bill appropriately.
Not so fast.
Florida arbitration cases have held that installation of individual water meters may be considered a “material alteration” of the common areas, thus requiring a three-fourth’s vote of the unit owners. So we at least need 75% of the owners to vote in favor of this installation so it seems.
This company said that their particular individual meters can be installed inside the unit, and thus not on the common areas. Therefore, a vote of the owners is not needed. Great! Let’s start the work.
Not so fast.
We at least need to amend the declaration of condominium to change the way unit owners share in the payment of the common water expense. OK. Let’s get out the ballots right?