I have bats in my belfry! How can I inspire action from my condo association?
June 22, 2009 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Bats are living (and excreting) in the attic of my condo unit. I first noticed them in Sept 08, and immediately contacted my property management company for removal and cleaning. Since then, I've called every 2-3 weeks and attended two HOA meetings to bring up the issue. I keep getting excuses or brushed off. How can I motivate them to ACTUALLY remove the bats, protect my unit from further infestation and clean the insulation?

Long story: I bought my condo in Jan 08. During inspection (before buying), the inspector found evidence of bats in the attic. This became a negotiating point with the previous owner. The HOA / property managers trapped the bats, removed the insulation, cleaned the attic and installed new insulation. But it appears they did not properly prevent the bats from re-entering the attic.

In July 08, a bat was in my unit. He was removed by the local police without incident, and I thought nothing of it (in hindsight, he probably got into the unit from the attic via recessed lighting in the main room). In Sept 08, I put some things into storage in the attic and noticed a large amount of bat droppings. I contacted the property managers immediately. They investigated the original trapping work order and discovered what I already knew: Bats had been trapped, attic had not been sealed. I requested they do the work again, they told me they'd need new quotes and HOA approval. In March 09, the property managers sent one insulator out to my unit to provide a quote. In May 09, the property managers told me that they would need to wait until "mosquito season in late May" to properly trap and remove the bats. It's now late June and nothing has happened. My last three calls haven't been answered, nor my voicemails returned. At meetings, the HOA didn't seem particularly concerned. The HOA claims that bat droppings aren't a health concern, but articles online say they can transmit several diseases and parasites (I'm particularly concerned because my wife is 'of child-bearing age', though not currently pregnant and we have no kids).

No additional bats have been found inside the living space of my unit. No one has been bitten. Now that it's hot and humid, the kitchen and laundry room (directly under where the bats are living) stink with bat droppings. I need to get back into the attic to trade summer and winter clothes, but I'm nervous about it. I've been keeping "good" records of this whole process including who I've spoken to, when, what resulted, etc. and I've kept all my cell phone records as "evidence".

What can I do? Can I stop paying some or all of my association fees? (I've read articles online that HOA have foreclosed on homes or sold them at auction because of non-payment of dues, so I'm very skeptical) Should I write an mean letter? Do I need to call a lawyer? Could I go to small claims court?

Thanks MeFites!
posted by steeb2er to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Certified letter with signature receipt to the Management company, copy HOA Trustees/President.

Business like. Do not get emotional. Detail briefly the timeline you've noted here. Mention that your recent calls and voicemails have gone unreturned. Detail what you expect to have done in order to make this right. Give them a reasonable amount of time, 7-14 days of receipt of letter, to respond to the matter in writing and reconcile the outstanding issue or you will be seeking out legal council for the matter.

Do not stop paying your fees. In many states, that's against the law as a form of airing grievance with direction of or actions of a HOA. Plus, they can likely assess late fees and charges upon unpaid dues.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:49 PM on June 22, 2009

Quick side note: while bat droppings may or may not be more hazardous than any other animal droppings bats can carry rabies which is a public health disaster waiting to happen. That migh tbe a decent angle to take up with your HOA. I grew up in a house with a silo with rabid bats and while it took a little bit of time to get the health department to realize "oh my god, those bats have rabies!" once they did, they took care of it pretty quickly. Call your local health department and see if this is something that intersts them.
posted by jessamyn at 1:50 PM on June 22, 2009

Call your local County animal control office.
Bats frequently have rabies - there is probably ordiances requiring their removal
posted by Flood at 1:52 PM on June 22, 2009

You might try contacting Bat Conservation International. (Their contact page.) They're based in Texas but are involved in all US conservation work, so they may know of a local service to remove the bats and then keep them from getting back in in the future. I suggest them mainly because there may be a large safe area for bats to nest nearby - which would be why they're wandered over to your area. In any case, they might give you some helpful local references.

While I rather like bats myself, this doesn't not mean that I'd be happy sharing my home with them, so you have my sympathy. Hope you get this fixed soon!

Oh and make a written timeline/diary of what steps you're taking, and keep copies of all correspondence and replies. That way whenever you have meetings with people you can give them the "one page situation at a glance" handout. I've noticed people tend to like that.
posted by batgrlHG at 1:58 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Personally, I would pay an attorney the $200 it would take to tell him/her the story and write the letter for you...
posted by HuronBob at 2:18 PM on June 22, 2009

Certified letter will be sent this week. Thanks jerseygirl.

batgrlHG - I'm with you. No problem with the bats themselves. Live and let live. But I REALLY don't like the funk they're leaving in my house.

(FWIW - I'm in IL, western suburbs of Chicago.)
posted by steeb2er at 2:20 PM on June 22, 2009

Full disclosure: I'm on the board of a HOA. I can just underscore that it's generally a thankless, if not almost abusive, job and more times than not, it's unpaid and volunteer. And if you ever wanted a speedy way to resent just about all of your neighbors, join the HOA.

Thinking about it... I'd give them 7 days to reply in writing and 21 days to reconcile the issue -- likely that you want the area sealed and cleaned and the insulation removed and replaced yet again. If they need longer to do the attic work, fine. So long as they put it in writing.

Just be business like. You absolutely have rights but you still have to live in the Association.
posted by jerseygirl at 2:38 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Photos should be taken if possible of any and all evidence as well, the import being that "Attic" "Bats" and "Droppings" mean different things to different people and or jurors and a clear , somewhat cold, photo of Bat Droppings could be a powerful image should damges ever come into this. Good Luck, start a diary too, save copies of everything, you have to disclose this to the next buyer and you will regret not doing a good documentation job.
posted by Freedomboy at 2:39 PM on June 22, 2009

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