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CCOC Decision Summary

#25-06, Lieberman v. The Whitehall Condominium (March 7, 2007) (Panel: Rosen, Leeds, Vergagni)

The condominium owner (CO) filed a complaint challenging a decision of the condominium association (CA) requiring all unit owners in his building to install Ground Fault Interrupters (GFI's) in the kitchens and bathrooms of their units.

The evidence showed that, following an electrical fire in one of the townhouse units of the CA, the CA's board of directors adopted a decision requiring all unit owners to upgrade their ungrounded (2-prong) outlets to grounded (3-prong) outlets and to install GFI's in all outlets in the unit's kitchen and bathrooms.The building in which the CO lived had already been constructed with grounded (3-prong) outlets but did not have GFI's.The evidence further showed that the cause of the fire was the faulty installation of an outdoor light fixture in the townhouse involved in the fire, caused by crimping two wires together by accident.The County electrical code did not require that grounded outlets be upgraded to GFI outlets.The evidence showed that use of GFI's would prevent a shock hazard to the occupant of the unit, but there was no evidence that the installation of GFI's would affect the safety of the public or that it would prevent damage to other portions of the condominium.Nor was there any evidence that the use of a GFI would have prevented the fire in the townhouse.

The Hearing Panel ruled that the applicable law was Sections 11-125, 109(d) and 111 of the Maryland Condominium Act.Under these laws the CA had the right to adopt such rules as were reasonably necessary to protect public safety and prevent damage to other portions of the condominium.The panel concluded that the rule requiring GFI's was not reasonable."The Panel does not believe that the Condominium's Board of Directors has the legal authority pursuant to the Act or its own Bylaws . . . .to mandate that unit owners install GFIs in their kitchens because GFIs protect individual unit owners inside their units from shock or electrocution resulting from misuse of appliances, as this purpose is not for the protection of public safety or to prevent damage to other portions of the Condominium as required by the Act."The panel further concluded that the CA failed to show that lack of GFI's would cause an increase in the CA's insurance costs.

The panel ordered the CA not to enforce the rule against the CO or against other who had grounded outlets, and to provide a copy of its decision to all the unit owners.

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