Ask a Real Estate Pro: Do you really want to take the HOA to court?

Board-certified real estate lawyer Gary M. Singer writes about the housing market at SunSentinel.com/business/realestate each Friday. To ask him a question, email him at gary@garysingerlaw.com, or go to SunSentinel.com/askpro.

Q: The irrigation system in my area of our community has not worked for several months. I had new landscaping put in around the time it broke. I pay our homeowner’s association dues every month, and those include the irrigation system. My water bills are sky-high from having to water the plants every day. Can I make the association fix it, and can I get reimbursed for the hike in my water bill? — Mary Ann

A: Make sure the board of directors is aware of the problem. If you know a board member, speak to him or her directly. Also, you might consider attending the next monthly board meeting, where you can find out what’s going on and whether there is a good reason why this hasn’t been repaired.

It does not hurt to ask for reimbursement. I have seen cases in which associations cooperate with a reasonable request. But if there is no negligence or purposeful bad action from the HOA, a judge is not likely to award you the money.

Ask a Real Estate Pro: Condos can opt out of costly fire sprinklers

Board-certified real estate lawyer Gary M. Singer writes about the housing market at SunSentinel.com/business/realestate each Friday. To ask him a question, email him at gary@garysingerlaw.com, or go to SunSentinel.com/askpro.

Q: I understand that there is a state law requiring condominium associations to retrofit buildings with fire sprinklers. This sounds expensive. Can you tell me what is going on here? — Theodore

A: In 2003, the Florida Legislature required condominium buildings to be retrofitted with fire sprinkler systems, and the law was tweaked in recent years. Condo associations are supposed to have the applications for the permits necessary to make the changes by Dec. 31, a deadline that is fast approaching. The work should be completed within three years from that date.

The idea behind the new requirement is to save lives, but the cost of the retrofits is steep: up to $8,600 per owner, in some cases, according to the state Division of Corporations.