Who is responsible for replacing a septic tank in a condex? One side of the condex is up for sale. Septic is shared.

Asked by Daniel, Plaistow, NH Fri Apr 6, 2012

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John Bassette’s answer
John Bassette, Agent, Hartland, VT
Sun Apr 8, 2012
You both own the common systems (presumably 50/50). If it has failed you owe your share. You of course can try to force the other side to fix it (and they have motivation to make it happen). The other way of looking at this is YOU have been the one to fail the system so you should pay all of it. No one has lived in the other side for a year! :^)

A reserve fund and docs that spell out what should happen are the best protection for this kind of circumstance. IF THE MONEY IS ALREADY THERE THEN NO ONE HAS TO WORRY ABOUT IT. Talk to the septic inspector directly (most house inspectors are NOT septic inspectors) then decide to pay your equal share. Time to pull out the checkbook.

John Bassette
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Daniel, Home Owner, Plaistow, NH
Sun Apr 8, 2012
Thanks for your responses. Some more information- the side that is for sale is empty. The previous owners are deceased and there is a lawyer that is in charge of the estate. There hasn't been anyone living on the other side for almost a year. We live on the other side. In the past, when there has been an issue involving both sides of the house, both sides have split the cost. I will check my condo docs to see there is anthing like this listed in writing. There isn't a joint account or reserve fund for the house. We were not aware that the septic was in bad shape until the house inspector for the perspecitve buyer notified us last week. My question is, shouldn't the seller (or the lawyer in charge of the estate) be responsible for replacing the system since he is the one selling the house?
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Scott Godzyk, Agent, Manchester, NH
Sat Apr 7, 2012
BQ it will be specified in the Condominium Docs filed when the condo was formed and recorded in the registry of deeds. In most cases a cost for such an expense is shared between both units. It is a downfall of condexes who are not collecting monthly fees to cover the master insurance policy and plan for items such as replacing the roof, septic cleanout and septic replacement.
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Lee Johansen, Agent, Bedford, NH
Sat Apr 7, 2012
It should clearly state in your covenants who is responsible for what, which should be referenced on your deed. I would be happy look it up if you send me an e-mail...

Thanks, Lee

Lee P. Johansen
Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan
168 South River Rd. Suite 1A, Bedford, NH 03110
Cell: 603-315-0739
Fax: 603-628-2246
Office: 603-232-8282
E-Mail: Lee@LeeJohansen.com
Licensed in New Hampshire

I'm never too busy
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John Bassette, Agent, Hartland, VT
Fri Apr 6, 2012

The condo by laws and covenants should be reviewed to determine the answer. In the scemario you are describing it would be very hard to assume that only one party is responsible. If both are responsible and you know of an actual problem with the system (you've just done a septic inspection prior to closing), then make sure the seller of the side you are interested in resolves the issue prior to your purchase. Both parties olikely need to agree on it's failure and create a mutual solution. You will inherit the problem.

A related question is: How is the capital reserve fund set up and is there enough money to repair the issue (roof, septic, painting, etc)? Smaller 2 unit condos tend to have looser agreements (and don't follow the written bylaws). The positive is you just get together as a neighbor, get a quote, and split the cost. The negative is if the money doesn't exist from the other side, you may have to foot the bill for a new roof and get paid later. Hope that helps.

Good fences (bylaws and money in the slush fund) make good neighbors in this case.
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