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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    AZ
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    Default Condo,HVAC not isolated from other unit(s)/This can't be legal, can it

    Hi Guys- long time lurker- first time posting a thread. Hey- so, our condo that I rent is "sharing" the air from other units. I say "share" as I smell whatever they're doing, and upon inspection of our HVAC inlet, there is some sort of opening that allows other units air to combine with ours. This can't be legal. I do not know the code, but common sense tells me something isn't right.

    Now- the problem isn't so much that fact, but the fact they seem to have some sort of er, "sewage problem". It STINKS. It isn't a someone using the bathroom Number Two, it smells like the smell it makes when the plumbers come to pump out a septic tank that has overflowed. It is indescribable, and permeates the entire place here. I'll be sitting there making dinner and all of a sudden it's OH MY GAWD NOT A F&&**ING AGAIN. So far, twice this month it's happened. They also are cooking a meal that smells like roadkill. I am not exaggerating here guys.

    I bet you get a lot of renters looking for "easy outs" to avoid paying rent. Our rent's dirt cheap, never late. It's not a "get out of jail free card" aside from that, I don't even have a lease so there's no love lost there either. Until I move, which hopefully will be soon, I want this repulsive thing FIXED. HOA won't touch it unless legal threats are waved in front of their faces. Can't take pictures of an odor unfortunately, and the stench only comes around after bus. hours, when the HOA office is closed. Another tenant/owner has repaired his on his own, and showed me the problem, I really can't make out what it is exactly- it is a big vent pipe(?) in the ceiling, and he showed me the opening but I really really do not know what I am looking at. If I showed a picture here, it would not show anything except a big black box in the ceiling.

    TL;DR: Are Multi-Family Dwellings Allowed to "share" HVAC air? that is the question.

    PS- I searched online, and after 2 hrs and a link to our city (Phoenix) codes, I got a pdf file of jibberish I don't understand, about plenums (I know what one is) I could not locate an exact paragraph about Sharing HVAC air between units. I can't see how this would be legal in ANY state, city, or area anywhere. You know what, I probably would not be complaining so badly if the odors weren't so bizarre. Another neighbor, the one that fixed his, mentioned it to me as well, the weird/bad smells. The toilet thing is out of this world, it's impossible to describe it here in words. Its' really, really, bad.

    Anyone can point me to an exact paragraph about shared air vents?? Plz don't give me a link to another useless city pdf code file.... they're USELESS

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    1,316

    Default Re: Condo,HVAC not isolated from other unit(s)/This can't be legal, can it

    You are likely drawing a conclusion that it's a "shared HVAC vent", but it can be something different altogether, so I wouldn't assume anything. It could be for combustion air, or make up air, or who-knows-what.

    I have been inside many apartments, townhomes and condos where I can smell the adjacent unit's cooking, smoking, pet odors, etc. And that's without any common or shared vent connectors. Many such dwellings and their common walls are poorly sealed, not air sealed at all, and built to very low standards.

    This could all be due to a broken plumbing waste line, plumbing vent line, or similar.

    At the end of the day, you can exert all kinds of time & energy to research this issue, but as a renter all you can is turn over the complaint to the unit's owner, or the HOA, or management office; similar tales (from previous tenants on these forums) usually end the same way: no action, no repairs, no real change is provided, etc.

    Dom.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    AZ
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: Condo,HVAC not isolated from other unit(s)/This can't be legal, can it

    No, had you read my post, you'd have seen that it does in fact, share the air with the other units. It has been repaired in another unit, just not mine. It is a rather large opening that looks as if it it was an after-install sort of quick fix, for what reason I do not know. The opening is about 7", looks as if it was cut out using a tool of some sort. This is not about smelling my neighbors cooking. It is about sharing their AIR.

    These aren't supposed to be sharing the venting with other units. God knows what they have going on in there, and I definitely do not wish to be inhaling others "whatever". This is a health AND a safety hazard- I just need to find the code for it.

    Anyone ELSE have an idea where this can be found? Hopefully without the conciliatory and dismissive tone?

    PS- I pay the rent, it's cheap, and Ive no issues so it's not about trying to weasel out of paying- I am sure there are plenty of renters that try a trick like this. I just want it repaired, if not for me, but for the next renter.

    Thanks


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    MONTREAL QUEBEC-CANADA
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    1,674

    Default Re: Condo,HVAC not isolated from other unit(s)/This can't be legal, can it

    In many condo & apartments the vents you observe are to equalize the buildings air pressure and exchange the units air.
    No more no less.

    Please describe your unit, HAVC, and components therein.
    If you can not you are assuming and I concur with Dom.
    You rent and whether you are prudent or neglectful has no bearing here. No room for bias.

    Robert Young's Montreal Home Inspection Services Inc.
    Call (514) 489-1887 or (514) 441-3732
    Our Motto; Putting information where you need it most, "In your hands.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    AZ
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: Condo,HVAC not isolated from other unit(s)/This can't be legal, can it

    Several buildings, each unit is cooled/heated using a main central "chiller unit", the building receives hot or cold air from a central large unit separate from the building.

    Not all units have this air issue, only a few, and what the purpose of the cut-out in the vent is no one can answer, including our maintenance man who works for the complex. Speaking in a common sense sort of way, how would it be a good idea to share in other units "air"? I know, from reading online (various reports, each different), that it is **never allowed*. What I am looking for is a paragraph or number of the exact code stating this. It's not real complicated, sharing HVAC system with more than one dwelling unit. Matters not whether we're burning wood or using solar powered system, the issue is sharing of air between separate dwellings.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
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    25,890

    Default Re: Condo,HVAC not isolated from other unit(s)/This can't be legal, can it

    In skimming through the posts I notice a tendency of the original poster to respond negatively to information being provided to her at no cost ... with that in mind, the information should be taken graciously and use it as being worth more than was paid for it.

    And the original poster expects us to know precisely what is being asked without benefit of photos.

    To me, the long post, no photos, negative responses and attitude causes me to not spend the time necessary to understand what is trying to be said.

    But that could just be me.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    AZ
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    Default Re: Condo,HVAC not isolated from other unit(s)/This can't be legal, can it

    Negative ME?? lol. I was responding to the dismissive tone in the first reply. I too give free advice, although I have a professional job, on another site but is one of a more technical nature (not that code inspection isn't, Im referring to the job). Am I to grovel?

    Pics, I can take one, but it won't be of much use, trust me on this one, I tried taking several, with and without flash, it's like looking in a gaping maw. Think of it like this, if you can, with my limited description- the circular HVAC supply feeding our unit from the outside (it is piped in from the chiller with great large pipes) has a hole cut in it you could fit a cat through. A nice neighbor, who had the same complaint, fixed his himself and told me how to do it. I guess I could theoretically do it, but I am not good at that sort of thing, and if I mess it up its on me considering its a rental.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    1,316

    Default Re: Condo,HVAC not isolated from other unit(s)/This can't be legal, can it

    My response wasn't even close to dismissive, it was to point out that all the facts aren't known (at least to me or anyone else reading a bulletin board post). I offered several pieces of useful information, if you don't want an honest opinion, that's OK.

    I have no idea what you're skill level is when identifying an HVAC vent or connection, and clearly, if follow the intent of my advice, it is to seek the skills of a local, qualified technician or specialist to confirm your suspicions before assuming anything.

    If you have large holes in a chase or penetration that chiller pipes are routed through, just seal them or have the appropriate maintenance/repair crew notified of the issue.

    And then, of course, you will still have to contact the unit owner, HOA, or whoever, and they will send there own repair people out there anyway, as that is the proper way to address repairs in a rental unit, unless you have a different arrangement.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Chicago IL
    Posts
    1,964

    Default Re: Condo,HVAC not isolated from other unit(s)/This can't be legal, can it

    Part of the problem here is that you want an answer that we cannot provide. Whether the Code allows the type of combined air circulation you describe or not would depend on too many factors we just don't know about.
    First off we don't know what Code applies or if your location has adopted standard Codes. What is applicable would also depend on the construction type and size of your building. How many units, how many stories, etc.
    More specifically to your question though ...
    You mentioned there is a central chiller system. Assuming that's the case in terms of a large chiller system providing conditioned air to all the units then there would be a couple thoughts.
    - As I understand your post the pipe in question is a supply pipe. My guess is there are large supply ducts you can't see and then the smaller runouts that you see. This could be an issue of poor duct design where air from other units is wafting up into your unit. If that's the case it wouldn't necessarily be non-compliant by design but possibly by installation.
    - My guess however is that this is some sort of make up air duct and not a supply but what do I know
    - If it were me I would probably go rent a see snake type camera and shove it down the pipe to see what's what

    www.aic-chicago.com
    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  10. #10
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    Mar 2007
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    Santa Rosa, CA
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    2,385

    Default Re: Condo,HVAC not isolated from other unit(s)/This can't be legal, can it

    Quote Originally Posted by kristin morgan View Post
    Hi Guys- long time lurker- first time posting a thread. Hey- so, our condo that I rent is "sharing" the air from other units. I say "share" as I smell whatever they're doing, and upon inspection of our HVAC inlet, there is some sort of opening that allows other units air to combine with ours. This can't be legal. I do not know the code, but common sense tells me something isn't right.

    Now- the problem isn't so much that fact, but the fact they seem to have some sort of er, "sewage problem". It STINKS. It isn't a someone using the bathroom Number Two, it smells like the smell it makes when the plumbers come to pump out a septic tank that has overflowed. It is indescribable, and permeates the entire place here. I'll be sitting there making dinner and all of a sudden it's OH MY GAWD NOT A F&&**ING AGAIN. So far, twice this month it's happened. They also are cooking a meal that smells like roadkill. I am not exaggerating here guys.

    I bet you get a lot of renters looking for "easy outs" to avoid paying rent. Our rent's dirt cheap, never late. It's not a "get out of jail free card" aside from that, I don't even have a lease so there's no love lost there either. Until I move, which hopefully will be soon, I want this repulsive thing FIXED. HOA won't touch it unless legal threats are waved in front of their faces. Can't take pictures of an odor unfortunately, and the stench only comes around after bus. hours, when the HOA office is closed. Another tenant/owner has repaired his on his own, and showed me the problem, I really can't make out what it is exactly- it is a big vent pipe(?) in the ceiling, and he showed me the opening but I really really do not know what I am looking at. If I showed a picture here, it would not show anything except a big black box in the ceiling.

    TL;DR: Are Multi-Family Dwellings Allowed to "share" HVAC air? that is the question.

    PS- I searched online, and after 2 hrs and a link to our city (Phoenix) codes, I got a pdf file of jibberish I don't understand, about plenums (I know what one is) I could not locate an exact paragraph about Sharing HVAC air between units. I can't see how this would be legal in ANY state, city, or area anywhere. You know what, I probably would not be complaining so badly if the odors weren't so bizarre. Another neighbor, the one that fixed his, mentioned it to me as well, the weird/bad smells. The toilet thing is out of this world, it's impossible to describe it here in words. Its' really, really, bad.

    Anyone can point me to an exact paragraph about shared air vents?? Plz don't give me a link to another useless city pdf code file.... they're USELESS
    Hi Kristin,

    I stayed out of this primarily because I cannot offer you much useful information. Unfortunately, within the confines of a home inspection, most of us are not going to inspect a central heating/cooling system like the one you describe, unless we are inspecting the entire building for the association. Even then, I would be more likely to recommend hiring a heating contractor than try to inspect a system like this by myself. This is well beyond the knowledge of the typical home inspector.

    In my area, I have only seen heating/cooling units at each individual condo. Never a central forced-air heating/cooling unit. I find it difficult to imagine that it would be acceptable to allow air to be shared between units. In the very few cases that I have seen central systems, they are designed to provide heated/cooled liquid to heat exchangers in each unit, where an air handler circulates air for that unit only. i have never seen shared ducting between units.

    I am, by no means, an expert in the mechanical code and what knowledge I possess is specific to detached single-family dwellings. Unfortunately, the only thing that I can think of is to hire a commercial heating contractor to take a look at the system, figure out what is going on and design a repair. However, a heating contractor would probably be unwilling to do anything without the permission of the homeowners' association. And, modifications would likely involve the entire building, which would be costly.

    Most cities keep the plans for buildings, at least for a while, and the one you describe would likely have had mechanical specifications. Plans get lost, old paperwork gets purged and the documents may no longer be on file. If the city still has the plans, you might be able to ask one of the mechanical inspectors about the system.

    I am sorry, but that is all I have.

    Department of Redundancy Department
    http://www.FullCircleInspect.com/

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    iowa
    Posts
    7

    Default Re: Condo,HVAC not isolated from other unit(s)/This can't be legal, can it

    Typically there may not be unprotected openings between dwelling units in any case - HVAC or otherwise - there are rated assemblies (typically one hour) that would be required by building codes for many years now.


  12. #12

    Default Re: Condo,HVAC not isolated from other unit(s)/This can't be legal, can it

    Quote Originally Posted by kristin morgan View Post
    Hi Guys- long time lurker- first time posting a thread. Hey- so, our condo that I rent is "sharing" the air from other units. I say "share" as I smell whatever they're doing, and upon inspection of our HVAC inlet, there is some sort of opening that allows other units air to combine with ours. This can't be legal. I do not know the code, but common sense tells me something isn't right.

    Now- the problem isn't so much that fact, but the fact they seem to have some sort of er, "sewage problem". It STINKS. It isn't a someone using the bathroom Number Two, it smells like the smell it makes when the plumbers come to pump out a septic tank that has overflowed. It is indescribable, and permeates the entire place here. I'll be sitting there making dinner and all of a sudden it's OH MY GAWD NOT A F&&**ING AGAIN. So far, twice this month it's happened. They also are cooking a meal that smells like roadkill. I am not exaggerating here guys.

    I bet you get a lot of renters looking for "easy outs" to avoid paying rent. Our rent's dirt cheap, never late. It's not a "get out of jail free card" aside from that, I don't even have a lease so there's no love lost there either. Until I move, which hopefully will be soon, I want this repulsive thing FIXED. HOA won't touch it unless legal threats are waved in front of their faces. Can't take pictures of an odor unfortunately, and the stench only comes around after bus. hours, when the HOA office is closed. Another tenant/owner has repaired his on his own, and showed me the problem, I really can't make out what it is exactly- it is a big vent pipe(?) in the ceiling, and he showed me the opening but I really really do not know what I am looking at. If I showed a picture here, it would not show anything except a big black box in the ceiling.

    TL;DR: Are Multi-Family Dwellings Allowed to "share" HVAC air? that is the question.

    PS- I searched online, and after 2 hrs and a link to our city (Phoenix) codes, I got a pdf file of jibberish I don't understand, about plenums (I know what one is) I could not locate an exact paragraph about Sharing HVAC air between units. I can't see how this would be legal in ANY state, city, or area anywhere. You know what, I probably would not be complaining so badly if the odors weren't so bizarre. Another neighbor, the one that fixed his, mentioned it to me as well, the weird/bad smells. The toilet thing is out of this world, it's impossible to describe it here in words. Its' really, really, bad.

    Anyone can point me to an exact paragraph about shared air vents?? Plz don't give me a link to another useless city pdf code file.... they're USELESS
    Kristen: Stop by your town building department, explain the problem and see if you can get a building enforcement officer, inspector, code guy, etc. to come out and look at the situation to determine if the system is up to code. We, try as we may, cannot always understand what you are describing. This is your best source (your town building office) to get the best answer.


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    AZ
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: Condo,HVAC not isolated from other unit(s)/This can't be legal, can it

    Quote Originally Posted by John Ghent View Post
    Kristen: Stop by your town building department, explain the problem and see if you can get a building enforcement officer, inspector, code guy, etc. to come out and look at the situation to determine if the system is up to code. We, try as we may, cannot always understand what you are describing. This is your best source (your town building office) to get the best answer.
    Thank you John- This is a great answer. I wasn't so much looking for a solution to my problem- but how I may go about finding it. When I went to our own city codes posted online, I get dead links. Finding such a thing would apparently seem easy- but it ain't! I just wanted A) someone who KNOWS the code

    or B)
    where I can FIND out the code. And you answered the question, because I would not have known where to look. Thank you. I still stand by my claim that it CAN'T be up to code to have other units air circulating with mine. What if there is toxic fumes from them mixing something- or smoke, from a fire? it would enter my unit. I know I saw this posted online someplace in a pdf but I can't find it to save my life. Anyway, thanks. And

    PS- I offer up tech support on a whole 'nother field of expertise, in a forum just like this one. Some of us have worked for hours finding solutions for individuals and no we are not paid for it either, just like this forum. It costs nothing to join, and I do not charge for my assistance either, and you don't have to ask me nicely, you can ask any way you please. (TVFool)
    cheers guys and happy inspecting

    off to read some of your "Reports" a thread I hadn't seen on this board before- it should prove interesting!


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