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Robert Lamoureux: HOA board members can be sued

Posted: July 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Hello. I’m one of three new board members for a three-story building, and we are all new to this.  
We have been notified that we have to perform a “regulation four” (?) fire inspection, which is going to cost us around $2,500. 

We’re not familiar with any of the codes and don’t know exactly what is supposed to be checked. Is this something that is mandatory? We all have jobs and would find it difficult to schedule this along with everything else. Thank you,
Billie P.

Hi Billie,
A Reg 4 is a fire check.  For example, magnetic door locks will be tested to make sure they release once the fire alarm is activated. Your fire panel will be checked. All of your smoke alarms will need to be tested along with your pull stations. 

Basically, all devices and components associated with fire safety will be tested to make sure everything is functioning properly. 

This is a mandatory inspection. If you choose not to be in compliance with the Reg 4 and there were to be an incident, then your insurance carrier would have the right to sue you.

If you perform the Reg 4 and something happens, then the carrier would defend you. 

Some people don’t realize the amount of liability members of a board of directors have against them. 

As a board member, you have certain safety and fiscal responsibilities to the community you represent.
If you are found to not be compliant with codes, insurance carriers have the legal right to deny the claim, especially if it’s a serious injury or life threatening. 

I’ve seen where carriers have shown that the board was grossly negligent and were each sued individually.  Serving as a member of the board is a serious matter. You are legally obligated to be code compliant and it is your responsibility to learn the extent of these obligations.  

Hi Robert,
I’ve got a question regarding the veracity of two bids received thus far for the repair of planters that are leaking into our garage.  Contractor A says he will seal the face of the wall that abuts the building and will come back one foot from the wall along the planter floor with waterproofing to insure it will be water tight.  Contractor B says all of the landscaping will have to be removed and the entire planter box interior will have to be waterproofed.

Although B is much more thorough, he is $6,260 more expensive for what could be overkill.  Do you have experience in these matters? Does the entire planter box need to be waterproofed? Thank you in advance.
Noel K.

Hi Noel,
The entire planter needs to be sealed. If you only seal a portion of the planter, you’re locking the window but leaving the door open. Water will find its way through the unprotected concrete, travel under the waterproofing and will continue leaking into the garage. 

I don’t know the sizes of the planters involved so I can’t comment on price, but I will tell you any money given to Contractor A will be wasted.

B sounds like he knows what he is doing from the information you provided, but there are other details that need to be addressed to repair this correctly. If you’d like to send me a copy of B’s proposal, I will give you my opinion.

Dear Robert,
We had an 8-inch fire hydrant pipe burst last year. We thought the fire department or the city of Los Angeles would take care of the repairs but ultimately learned that we would be responsible because the hydrant is on our property and belongs to us. 

Our domestic water was also part of the hydrant plumbing which cost us $50,000 to repair. The same thing just happened again last week.

The new leak is about five feet away from the first leak. The inspector came out and said that the next time this happened, we will need to excavate all the way out to the tee, which is in the middle of the main street that goes through our complex. 

Are we obligated to do this? He’s saying we’ll need to go another 15 feet, which will also tear up the street.  
Because this line is 10 feet underground, it’s already costing us a fortune.  But since we are the ones paying, then we should have the final say on how it is repaired. Thank you,
Kate W.

Hi Kate,
You are indeed obligated to the inspector. When an 8-inch hydrant line blows, there is so much force involved that buildings can be undermined. 

City inspectors are the final word. This is Building and Safety. There is no negotiating.  
Since you’ve already had the same line break twice in a year, the best thing to do is start saving money for the next repair.  

Do you live in an older complex? Old style AC lines, asbestos-concrete lines are sensitive to vibrations of cars driving over them, even at 10 feet deep, especially if there’s concrete present.

Replacing that line from the tee would be the best way to go. Based on its placement and history, it might be the most economical option in the long run. Do it once, do it right.

Hello Mr. Lamoureux,
I own a small apartment complex and would like to know what’s involved with installing gas shut off valves on 10 meters? Also, can we turn these back on again once they go off or do we need to go through the gas company? Looking forward to hearing from you,
Victor H.

Hi Victor,
If all of the meters are located in the same area and are piped together, then they are fed through a manifold which could be 2” or 2 1/2”.  If so, they would probably have two manifolds that feed two rows of five meters.  
If this is the case, you could install two unions and one EQ valve, earthquake valve, per row which would shut those meters down at 5.0 or higher.   

EQ valves are about $400 for a 2” manifold and about $600 for a 2 1/2”.  These size valves are more expensive, but one valve would operate five meters so you would save money on the labor of installing individual meter valves.

You can install the unions and the EQ valves yourself if you are able to thread the pipes.  
You have to cut the line, rethread and install the unions and the EQ valve.

I’d recommend that you use the yellow gas tape and pro dope together. This makes sure there won’t be any leaks.               

To reset, there is a little chain with a flat blade that will allow you to adjust the set screw and turn the meters back on after an earthquake without having to contact the gas company.    

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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