Should you (can you) install a washing machine in a condominium if the building prohibits them?

A co-worker of mine wrote today to ask:

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A high-rise does not allow a washer and dryer to be installed.  But my client still wants to put one in.  She doesn’t care that they aren’t allowed, and is adamant about putting one in.

Do you have any insight into this?

Have you had a client put one in?

What are the fines if they get caught?

Also, in a high rise, does she need the building engineer to shut off water to the unit or can she do it on her own in a utility closet? The building is an old school building on Sheridan Road.

This is just about the worst idea possible for a resident in a high rise.  This ranks up there with setting up a charcoal barbeque in your bathtub (an actual event in Mr. Steve’s property management past.) 4024 Clarendon kitchenF1 (Large)

There is no more possible potential for damage than from water.  Perhaps fire.  But those are #1 and #2.  If anything were to ever go wrong (and with a washing machine something will eventually go wrong) the potential liability is staggering.

But first, let’s answer the question about whether a machine can be installed.  When permitted, yes, a laundry hookup is possible.  Find a wall with a closet that has a water supply and drain pipe nearby, and a contractor can tap into the supply and drain and hook up a laundry connection.  This costs around $4,000 in a typical Chicago high-rise.

Why do some buildings prohibit them?

Because either the water supply, or the drain, is inadequate.

Here’s the interesting part for our client above:  even if hers is the only machine in the building, if the drain pipes are not large enough in diameter, suds and soapy water will not drain fast enough, and will back up into her unit, the units below her, the units near the ground floor, and possibly the units above her.

This is a certainty!  Not a hypothetical event.

What if our client above is still willing to take her chances?

  • First, if the association finds out about the machine, they will order it removed.
  • Second, if not removed, they will fine her.
  • Third, if our client refuses to pay the fines, she’ll get sent to collections.  And the costs for collection attorneys will get added to her grand total.
  • Fourth, if she still refuses to pay the fines, the collection attorney will file suit to collect the fines and costs.
  • At her court date, a judge can grant possession to the association, who then can evict the owner.
  • After the owner is out, the association can pay a contractor to remove the machines.
  • And finally the association can rent out the unit to pay the back fines, back assessments, collection costs, court costs, repair costs, and the costs associated with renting the unit.

What if the machine actually floods the units below?  This is where it gets ugly.

  • It’s likely that a rubber supply line will eventually rupture.
  • Or that soapy water will burst forth from nearby residents sinks, tubs and drains.
  • This will ruin the walls, floors, carpeting, belongings and mechanical systems of those units.
  • And if the hose bursts while you are out, water will continue to flood units below the one with the washing machine installed beneath it.
  • Your insurance carrier requires that residents follow the policies and rules for the building.
  • The building has not approved the installation of the washing machine, and will actually offer to testify that your installation completely violates the policies for the building against you.
  • Your insurance carrier will deny your insurance claim, and the claims of all the residents whose units had damage done by your machine.
  • The association will sue for damage to everything that is common that the water ruined.
  • Every single neighbor that is affected will sue for damages to their unit and their belongings.

I have seen water damage estimates in high rises in excess of $1-million.  Pretty much your entire net worth is at risk just for the convenience of not riding the elevator to do your laundry. 

Not really worth it; wouldn’t you agree?



One Response to “Should you (can you) install a washing machine in a condominium if the building prohibits them?”

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