HOA blocking radon mitigation system under fire

Posted at 5:49 PM, Mar 25, 2016

The Stapleton HOA that blocked a homeowner from installing a radon mitigation system is now coming under fire.

"I actually was trying to be the good guy, and I'm just in shock," said Melissa Crowder, a Stapleton homeowner, who isn't the only one in shock about the decision her Homeowners Association made to deny the installation of a radon mitigation system.

"Ultimately, it should have been approved," said David Firmin, a spokesman with the Community Associations Institute and attorney who specializes in HOA law. "We highly recommend that the association do everything possible to accommodate these type of requests."

Still, though, Firmin said the Stapleton Rowhomes Association No. 2 might have been within its legal right, but that doesn't make the decision right.

"The Association does have the obligation to look out for the rights of all owners in the community, not just one, so they have a balancing act they need to do," said Firmin. 

Stran Hrincevich is a little less diplomatic.

"This story is typical," said Hrincevich, the president of the Colorado HOA Forum, a homeowner advocacy group, who calls what happened to Crowder another case of HOA overreach.

In Colorado, he said, homeowners have little power.

"It's might versus right," he said. "The might rests with the HOA board, and the right may rest with the homeowner, but homeowners can’t pursue their rights because the court system is just too darn costly."

Hrincevich is lobbying for more regulation of HOA that would include an out-of-court binding arbitration system.

"Radon causes cancer," said Karl Shiemann, with Denver Environmental Health. "It's that simple."

Shiemann said he was concerned that an HOA would get in the way of installing a radon mitigation system by claiming it could put neighbors at risk. "The system poses no risk to other neighbors," he added. 

As it turns out, the City of Denver was already considering new radon regulations that might prevent what happened in Stapleton from happening again.

"Once it's approved, any home that has high levels of radon will have to put in a mitigation system," said Shiemann.

It is not uncommon for an HOA to attempt to block radon mitigation systems, according to Colorado health officials.

In an email, Warren Smith, a spokesman with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment wrote:

"On average, we field two inquiries like this per month, but in almost every case, once the HOA learns about the real dangers of radon, they relent and allow the installation of a mitigation system."


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