Bathroom fan could blow up sale of townhouse

Posted9/1/2017 6:00 AM

Q. We are currently selling our townhouse, and the homeowners association board is preventing the escrow from closing. Here's what's happening: The association is responsible for exterior repairs, and they recently had the roofs replaced. But the buyers' home inspector reported that the bathroom exhaust fans are vented into the attic, instead of through the roof. The HOA manager says the roofing contractor only vented exhaust ducts that were accessible. He says our vents were hard to find, so now it is our responsibility to have the ducts extended through the roof. But the home inspector's photographs show that the ducts are plainly visible. To make matters worse, the manager says we will have to apply to the board for permission to make the repairs, and that process takes at least two months. Meanwhile, our escrow is supposed to close in three weeks. Do you think the roofer should have extended the ducts through the roof, or is this the homeowners' responsibility? By the way, the reason we're moving is because of the unfair treatment the HOA board gives to the homeowners. Examples include favored treatment of board members when it comes to landscape maintenance and other property improvements. What should we do?

A. If you weren't planning to move, my advice would be to organize some of your fellow homeowners to see about electing new members to the HOA board.

As for the vent ducts in the attic, this type of work is not commonly done by roofing contractors. That is not part of their job, and they rarely go into attics. Their job is to remove old roofing, install new roofing, and repair damaged surfaces that support the roofing. Wherever pipes and vents are already sticking through the roof, they work around those projections with metal flashing and sealant to make sure there are no leaks.

The reason your bathroom exhaust fans vent into the attic is not because the roofer didn't do his job. It is because the original builder didn't complete the installation, and the municipal building inspector didn't discover the problem when the building was approved for occupancy. A common problem with municipal inspectors is that they rarely inspect attics. Home inspectors, on the other hand, routinely inspect attics, which is why the vent problem was finally discovered.

An important question to answer is this: Who is legally responsible for repairs inside the attic, the homeowners or the HOA? This should be spelled out in the documents you received when you purchased your townhouse. If these documents show the HOA to be responsible, you've got some ammunition for winning the argument. Otherwise, the repair is your responsibility.

If the repair is the HOA's responsibility and they will not agree to perform, a complaint should be filed with the state agency that regulates homeowners associations.

In the meantime, you've got a short escrow to close, so you may need to negotiate an agreement with the buyers, regarding repair of the attic vents. Venting bathroom exhaust fans into an attic is a noncomplying condition, as noted by the home inspector, but it rarely has an adverse effect on building components. Check to see if the home inspector concurs with this opinion.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

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