“Community Association Winter Maintenance” – KSN attorney David Savitt discusses what should be on your community association’s winter prep list including snow removal contracts, avoiding frozen pipes, and more. (12 mins.)

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Episode Transcription

Nikki: You are listening to the KSN podcast and today we’re talking about association winter maintenance. Welcome to the KSN podcast where you’ll hear from KSN attorneys as they share their experience and insight on legal issues surrounding community associations, collections, property tax appeals, and landlord tenant law. I’m Nikki and today we’re joined by KSN attorney David Savitt. David practices, condominium, townhome, homeowner, and master law. Hi, David, welcome to the podcast.

David: Hi, Nikki. Great to be here.

Nikki: Our topic today is creating your community Association’s winter prep list and here in the Midwest, we know that winter can often creep up on us and you know, definitely stay longer than most of us would like and if you live in a state that has all four seasons, you know that each one brings unique beauty and unique challenges at the same time. For example, here in the Midwest, ice and frigid temperatures can cause problems in community associations, including ice dams and frozen pipes, and rather than waiting for temperatures to drop, or the first snowfall board members, property managers and community leaders should establish proactive winter maintenance plans. Let’s discuss today what types of components community associations should consider including on their winter prep list. So, David, we know preparation is key in a lot of different aspects of life. So, what kind of autumn pre-work should associations partake in?

David: Well, Nikki, a busy fall means a less hectic winter and spring. So, maintaining landscaping beds, cleaning leaves out of drainage areas and gutters and draining irrigation equipment should be checked off before the ground freezes and gets covered in snow. If your association has a community pool, you should assess the condition of the motors and the pumps and consider draining the water to the manufacturer recommended level. Also, earlier sunsets make adequate lighting even more important. So, replace any bulbs or faulty lighting of fixtures and inspect emergency lighting equipment as well. Remember that winterization starts in autumn, not when you start seeing snow.

Nikki: So, speaking of winterization then are there any types of interior common areas that should be on an Association’s radar when prepping for the winter?

David: Well, you’re going to want to keep tabs on the heaters, thermostats and furnaces. You’re also going to want to create an inspection schedule, so regular maintenance tasks and any necessary repairs can be completed before winter starts. Heaters in your baseboards, entryways, common hallways, basements and utility rooms ensure that residents will stay warm and that pipes don’t freeze. Heaters near your fire sprinkler lines play an important part in emergency preparedness as well.

Nikki: Heat is most certainly an essential utility during the winter months. What can an association do to ensure that they make it through the winter without having any heating issues?

David: So, the first thing you’re going to want to do is to make sure to check your mechanical systems. A heating, vending, and air conditioning vendor can check your common furnaces and change filters before the cold weather hits. Air ducts and hot water heaters that were heavily used in the summer may need extra attention in repair before winter starts. Also, when considering association budgets, any expenses that come with replacements and inspections are reasonable in comparison to the steep prices in panic of a winter emergency repair that’s done at the last minute.

Nikki: So, David we’ve discussed what an association should do to prepare for the inside of their communities. What recommendations do you have for any exterior common area inspections?

David: Well, roof maintenance is going to be critical in the winter months. A professional can inspect your roof and report back any missing shingles, cracks and other structural damage that’s in need of repair. Any weak spots in the roof can become a big problem when heavy snow settles on top. Cracks allow water to seep in and pests to enter the building, which poses a serious detriment and health and safety risk to the building’s structural integrity. Look for cracks and fractures in walkways, courts, doors and windows. Treating a crack in the sidewalk or a road can prevent a pothole from forming and addressing cracks near entryways can prevent drafts and a steep heating bill from accruing. If your community association stores any landscaping equipment outdoors like lawnmowers or watering hoses, store them in a sheltered area for the winter to prevent damage from exposure.

Nikki: David and I are going to take a quick break, but when we get back, we’ll continue discussing the best practices on creating your Association’s winter prep list.

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Nikki: And we’re back. I’m here with attorney David Savitt and we’re discussing creating a winter prep list for your community association. So, David, probably one of the most dreaded parts of winter, at least in my opinion, is the snow and with snow comes needing to shovel or snow plow. What should an association take into consideration when hiring a snow removal company

David: Well, a community association should always consider the experience and the reputation for a snow removal company. Hiring a snow removal company with a good reputation will help ensure that your association will be taken care of properly and appropriately. Since you are welcoming these individuals into your neighborhood, take the time to vet them and hire the right company for your community. Additionally, consider the experience each company offers. Some of the best snow removal companies put their drivers through training to ensure they are safe and efficient

Nikki: With hiring a snow removal company comes signing a contract with them and David, as an attorney like yourself, shouldn’t the association have you review their snow removal contract before signing it?

David: Absolutely. And this is a critical part of the process. Before hiring a snow removal company or any vendor at that, have us review the contract. Contractors and vendors often write their own contracts or have their attorney draft the contract that’s exclusively for their benefit. The Association’s attorney can ensure the contract protects the community as well. When you’re looking at a snow removal contract, you’ll want to ensure that it contains a specific start and end date, detailed areas that are to be plowed, shoveled and/or blown, identify when snow should be removed from the association, explain the insurance requirements that are to be maintained throughout the contract, identify when snow log should be prepared by the contractor, contain contact info and availability to address such as melting snow and ice formation and include language requiring that the contractor is responsible for property damage done to any part of the association due to negligence.

For instance, in my experience, I had a client who signed a contract without reviewing it with the Association’s attorney, where the contract required the vendor to only perform snow removal services when snow accumulation was above a certain threshold that was quite high. And so, the association was surprised to find out after signing the contract, that they could only get services if there was a large accumulation of snow which provided a significant problem for residents when their contractor refused to show up to the property. So, this is an example of why it’s important to review a contract with the Association’s attorney so that you can understand exactly what the terms are that you’re signing.

Nikki: Yeah, David, I mean, I know how that can come as a surprise to people. Here in the Midwest, snow is definitely something that comes with winter and if we have some type of expectation that our vendor is going to come and shovel our sidewalks or plow the common driveways and stuff like that, and that doesn’t happen, that definitely causes a big risk and holds your association to some liability at that. So, with winter comes freezing temperatures as well, what should an association do to kind of avoid some frozen pipes?

David: Well, the key is scheduling regular inspections and routine maintenance as that can ensure that the pipes are in optimal shape and prevent winter pipe emergencies down the road. However, it’s almost inevitable that associations will at some point have to deal with pipe bursts, leaks and the resulting property damages during the cold weather months. So, when dealing with a pipe burst, it’s important to identify the specific location of the pipe burst and the resulting damages, determine if the damage pipe services one-unit, multiple units, or the common areas of the property, ascertain the reason for the pipe burst, for instance, a failure to maintain heat, malfunctioning appliance or some conduct caused by a resident and consider filing an insurance claim if the loss is covered. A damaged pipe can be the unit owner’s responsibility. However, it’s important to review the Association’s governing documents, that will further determine the repair responsibility between the association and the owner. Review by legal counsel can provide a roadmap as to how to navigate a complex situation like a pipe burst.

Nikki: And so, David, I think it goes without saying, we all know that winter months can be pretty unpredictable. What advice as an attorney do you have for associations?

David: Well, it’s important to communicate with your residents. Even with the highest level of preparation, things can go awry. Power outages, frozen pipes and heating issues are not completely preventable. If something does go wrong, residents need to know so they can respond accordingly and stay safe. For example, board members and property managers can help their residents avoid damage to their unit and repair bills by educating them about the preventative measures that they can take to keep pipes in their unit in working order year-round. I would also say to minimize your liability as best you can, snow and ice can expose the association to a great deal of liability. A slip and fall can occur in an area that was neglected or has an unnatural accumulation of ice and snow or a lawsuit can originate due to property damages caused by snow removal services. Accordingly, it’s vital to confirm that your snow removal contractor carries the correct and appropriate amount of liability insurance. Conducting regularly scheduled inspections and promptly addressing small problems as they occur can prevent big emergencies in the future. If your association has legal concerns regarding your snow removal contract, slip and falls or other liability concerns do not hesitate to contact our law firm.

Nikki: That was KSN attorney David Savitt. He practices in the area of condominium, townhome, homeowner and master law. KSN is an experienced legal resource, ready to provide you with quality advice and exceptional service. We look forward to demonstrating how we have earned the trust of thousands of clients over the past 35 years. If you’d like to reach David Savitt or any of KSN’s experienced attorneys, please call 855-537-0500. You can also visit ksnlaw.com and complete the contact form to send us a message. Thanks for listening.

Outro: The music for this show is provided by podcastthemes.com. Please note the material contained on the KSN podcast is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney client relationship is established by your review or receipt of the information contained on the KSN podcast. You should not act on the information discussed on the KSN podcast without first obtaining legal advice from an attorney duly licensed to practice law in your state. While KSN has made every effort to include up-to-date information on the KSN podcast, the law can change quickly. Accordingly, please understand that information discussed on the podcast may not yet reflect the most recent legal developments. Material is not guaranteed to be correct, complete or up to date. KSN reserves the right to revise or update the information and statements of law discussed on the podcast at any time without notice and disclaims any liability for your use of information or statements of law discussed on the podcast or the performance of the podcast generally. The KSN podcast may be considered advertising in some jurisdictions under applicable laws and ethical rules or regulations.


Please note the material contained on the KSN Podcast is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by your review or receipt of the information contained on the KSN Podcast. You should not act on the information discussed on the KSN Podcast without first obtaining legal advice from an attorney duly licensed to practice law in your State. While KSN has made every effort to include up-to-date information on The KSN podcast, the law can change quickly. Accordingly, please understand that information discussed on the podcast may not yet reflect the most recent legal developments. Material is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up to date. KSN reserves the right to revise or update the information and statements of law discussed on the podcast at any time, without notice, and disclaims any liability for your use of information or statements of law discussed on the podcast, or the performance of the podcast generally. The KSN Podcast may be considered advertising in some jurisdictions under applicable law/s and/or ethical rules/regulations. © 2021 Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit, A Professional Corporation.