Another item to add to Daylight Savings Time changes… batteries and power cords

I’ve written a few articles about fire prevention one of them linked here: link with respect to a site that has lots of fire prevention tips. I’ve also written about the dangers of space heaters.

Today I want to write about the dangers of old, or overheating electrical cords, specifically, if you are using extension cords or multi-outlet cords in your home. We all do it. In fact, recently I updated all the outlet cords in our home office because we couldn’t remember how old the ones were that we were using. Plus, we upgraded some power surge protectors for those outlet cords that were being used for our office equipment like computers and printers.

What got me thinking about this post though was what I read as I was reviewing a condominium resale certificate for a client the other night. In two months of the Home Owner’s Association board meeting minutes were remarks about fires that had started in individual units over the course of about 6 months. This association only has 67 units and 2 units had experienced fires only a few months apart from each other. While that is a small percentage overall it is still scary that if either of these fires had gotten out of control many more units would have been affected. Granted, this is a building from 1992 so it should have a sprinkler system and hardwired smoke detectors and thankfully both fires were stopped within the units walls. But, what about those buildings that are grandfathered against these requirements? You can see where I’m going with this as we’ve all read stories of those kinds of buildings burning and people being hurt or killed.

It’s imperative that anyone using extension cords be careful and to check or replace them regularly.  Perhaps as Daylight Savings Time is a recommended time to change out the batteries in your smoke detectors perhaps it should also be the time to check your power cords around the house.

The condo public offering statement/resale certificate

As always, this post is not legal advice.  For a specific legal question, consult an attorney.

Buying a condo can make a lot of sense, particularly if you can purchase a unit close to work (e.g. downtown) and if your “lifestyle” is conducive to apartment-style living (e.g. no kids, no pets).  If you’ve decided to take the plunge, make sure you do your homework.  The Seattle Times had a good piece on the topic a couple of years ago.  That article notes several sources of information that you should review prior to purchasing, including the public offering statement (for new construction) or the resale certificate (for a previously owned unit).  In reality, your homework can begin and end with the public offering statement or resale certificate, as by law each of these must contain the information necessary to make an informed decision.

That said, don’t revert to your younger self and “forget” to do your homework.  The statement or certificate can be quite intimidating, often including hundreds of pages of information.  Nonetheless, you need to sit down and dedicate some time to reviewing it in detail.  Reading it in bed, before drifting off to sleep, is NOT sufficient (although you may find a cure for your insomnia).  The disclosures contain information about the financial and physical health of the devlopment, as well as the rules that will govern how you can use the unit (such as renting it out).  Ignore this information at your peril — you may find years later that you made a very poor decision, all because you did not take the time to review the provided information.

Finally, given that the disclosure contains hundreds of pages, many of them written in dense “legalese,” you may wonder whether an attorney should also review it on your behalf.  An attorney can explain the disclosure and answer any questions you may have.  Moreover, the attorney may be able to identify issues of concern that you did not appreciate.  On the other hand, the attorney does not and can not know everything that is important to you.  Therefore, while you may benefit from an attorney’s review, the key is that YOU must take the time to review the disclosure carefully.  If, after doing so, you decide that the condo is not for you, both disclosures create a right of rescission (7 days for a public offering statement, 5 days for a resale certificate) so you can cancel your purchase and sale agreement and avoid the mistake entirely.

Please review the Resale Certificate

[photopress:cancelled.jpg,thumb,alignright]My client and I reviewed the Resale Certificate and cancelled his purchase today.

When you buy a condo, or condo-townhome, you do not know everything there is to know before you make an offer.

After you are in escrow, after the contract is “signed around”, you get a resale certificate within ten days. I’m not talking about new properties here, but resale properties. It’s amazing how many agents just hand that big packet over to the buyer and then hope and pray for five days that the buyer won’t open it.

Sit down with your agent and go through that resale certificate. Don’t rely on verbal representations made prior to receiving the resale certificate. I was told by the listing agent that the Association had money in reserves. She volunteered that information, as I would never expect an agent to know that. The Resale Certificate comes and it says ZERO in reserves.

How could anyone have a balance of Zero anyway? Did you ever have a Zero Balance in your bank account? It’s either $2.00 or it’s overdrawn…but flat out ZERO?! Is that even possible? Oh and the “Good News” is that the monthly HOA dues were being decreased beginning 1/1/07. No reserves, so let’s reduce the monthy dues…that’s ripe!

Maybe the lawyers can answer this one. I haven’t seen the Reserve Study Summary in many of these packets and have to hunt it down. It really is not possible to know if the monthly dues are adequate, or if the amount in reserves are adequate, without having a copy of the Reserve Study Summary page. Is that not required here in Washington? If not, someone needs to fix that. How do I help make it mandatory that this vital info be included with/in the Resale Certificate? Who do I call? Who do I write?

Well luckily, in this case, I didn’t need to look at the Reserve Study to know that ZERO wasn’t good enough. The agent kept telling me how much BETTER things were NOW than they USED TO BE. That may in fact be true. But better than it used to be is not necessarily, good enough.