Natural Disasters aren’t the Only Reason for Major Reconstruction of a Community Association
Every community association will face a major reconstruction project several times in the life of the development. This may occur because of clearly anticipated problems, such as re-roofing or re-painting, but it can also occur because of completely unanticipated (and unreserved-for) problems such as dry rot repair, soil subsidence, and leaks in windows, siding, and foundations. And yes, it can occur because of a natural disaster. The Davis-Stirling Act only requires that a community association reserve study include those components that visual inspections of accessible areas reveal have a useful life of 30 years or less, and makes no allowance whatsoever for reconstruction after major natural disasters or because of hidden deterioration.
Even with expected deterioration, surprises can occur with building components that are not “visible or accessible.” What about areas under staircases that sponsor dry rot due to long-term intrusion of water? Framing components under siding that have allowed water to enter slowly for years without any way to get it out except evaporation? Deteriorating concrete walkways or driveways due to the invasion of roots, or soil subsidence due to unconsolidated fill? Failures that occur when balcony railings rot off of their supports? Three people in Antioch, California were severely injured recently when such a railing collapsed.
None of these building components would be included in the usual reserve study and unless detected by some other means, would not appear in the maintenance budget, yet the association in a typical condominium and in many planned developments, is nevertheless responsible for necessary repairs. This scenario has played out in many associations. Unexpected repairs for which there was no reserve funding. So now you have a collapsed balcony or maybe a lot of rotted siding--something that involves more than just the one failed area--what do you do?