What a Board of Directors Needs to Know about Rain Barrels

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Rain barrels are becoming a popular way to collect and store rainwater for lawn and garden watering. However, such installation and use of rain barrels does not come without issues for cooperatives. A cooperative Board of Directors must consider the following prior to permitting the installation of rain barrels on cooperative property:

The Board Must Determine the Location, Selection and Installation of Rain Barrels

Prior to a member installing a rain barrel, the Board of Directors must approve the location for the installation of the rain barrel. Board members should walk the property with a professional contractor who is experienced with the installation of rain barrels to determine the appropriate location for the rain barrels. Board of Directors should only permit members to use Board approved contractors to install rain barrels. It is vital that the contractor carry the required insurance and provide the cooperative with a current certificate of insurance before the installation begins.

The Board could also select the rain barrel, thus creating uniform rain barrel design, gallon use and height. The Board ought to make the purchasing and installation of the rain barrels the financial responsibility of the member.

Typically, rain barrels are installed outside and next to the exterior foundation of a unit and connected to downspouts. Rain barrels must not be installed on the roof, walls, chimneys, fences or in any common area. The rain barrel must also be placed on a pad such as patio stone pavers, concrete, etc., which must be level to the ground to catch water from the adjoining downspout. The Board must also determine the dimensions of the pad for uniformity purposes. It is vital that the placement of any rain barrel does not cause damage, present a hazard or present maintenance problems to the property.

A Board may find it wise to contact its insurance agent prior to adopting and implementing the installation of rain barrels to be sure that there will not be any denial of coverage.

The Board Must Adopt Strict Regulations for the Installation, Maintenance, Use and Removal of Rain Barrels

Boards must adopt a strict policy for regulating the installation, maintenance, use and removal of rain barrels. Below are examples of regulations that boards ought to adopt:

  • Members are responsible for all costs of purchasing, installing, maintaining, removing, cleaning, and storing the rain barrels;
  • Restricting members from installing rain barrels themselves;
  • Requiring that installation must not damage the dwelling unit;
  • Prohibiting drilling holes in railings, exterior walls, the roof, or any other location when installing the rain barrel;
  • Requiring that the rain barrel be installed in accordance with the Board approved location and specifications;
  • The emptying of rain barrels daily;
  • The emptying of rain barrels continuously during wet weather events to prevent flooding and damage;
  • The use of collected rainwater for gardening and landscaping only[1];
  • Ensuring that rain barrels’ spigots are tightly sealed at all times to prevent danger to children and pets as well as to prevent an attractive breeding ground for mosquitos and other insects that carry diseases;
  • Members are responsible for the maintenance of any rain barrel;
  • Ensuring that rain barrels are maintained in a clean, good working, visible and attractive condition to prevent a haven for mosquitoes or other pests;
  • The regular cleaning of rain barrels to prevent unpleasant odors;
  • The regular inspection of rain barrels for leaks;
  • A strict prohibition of a member to remove the screen inside the rain barrel, unless the member is removing the screen to clean debris;
  • Ensuring that if a hose is hooked up to the rain barrel, then the member must secure the hose after use to prevent tripping hazards;
  • For cooperatives that experience all four seasons, restricting the use of rain barrels to the spring and summer monthly only; specifically, the months of April, May, June, July, August, September, and October;
  • Ensuring member responsibility for the draining, cleaning and removal of the rain barrels during winter months or upon a member vacating the unit;
  • Ensuring that the member returns the downspout to its original condition during winter months or upon a member vacating the unit;
  • Strict enforcement provisions for repairs, including immediate emergency repairs in the case of health and safety hazards or imminent property damage;
  • Strict enforcement of a member’s non-compliance which would be considered a violation of the Occupancy Agreement and the cooperative’s Governing Documents and Rules, Regulations and Policies;
  • Fines for non-compliance, including possible removal of the rain barrel, and/or termination of membership;
  • Ensuring member responsibility for any and all damages that are incurred from installing or removing the rain barrel; and
  • Implementing a deposit to cover damage or expenses that may occur during installation, use or removal of the rain barrel.

The Board Must Adopt Liability, Insurance and Indemnity Regulations to Protect the Cooperative

It is vital that a Board adopt a provision that requires members to obtain liability coverage. The Board must require that members be liable for any injury or damage to persons or property caused by member’s rain barrel or the operation of the rain barrel. The cooperative must be held harmless in any claims for vandalism, injury or damage to persons or property caused by the rain barrel. The Board must require that the member obtain HO6 insurance, for the use of the rain barrel in the event of injury or damage to persons or property which must be in an amount reasonably determined by the Board of Directors to accomplish that purpose. The insurance must remain in force while the rain barrel remains installed. The Board must also require that the member agree to defend, indemnify and hold the cooperative harmless from all claims related to the installation, use, maintenance and removal of his/her rain barrel.

n sum, rain barrels are becoming a more popular way to collect and store water for lawn and garden watering. However, as explained above, prior to the installation of any rain barrel, a Board must take many factors into consideration. As always, an experienced cooperative attorney will be able to draft a rain barrel policy that not only will allow for members to collect and store water for lawn and garden watering, but will also fully protect the Cooperative.

[1] Rainwater collected from the rain barrels should not be used for household consumption as rainwater is not safe for drinking and may contain pollutants, like bacteria or chemicals from roof systems.

Alyssa Gunsorek is an associate attorney with experience in contract negotiations. She has contributed articles for various publications including the MAHC Messenger, NAHC’s Housing Cooperative Quarterly, and Pentiuk, Couvreur & Kobiljak’s Cooperative Law Journal.

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