Condos

Who pays when a leak damages the unit below?

Q. I live on the top floor of a three-story condominium. Recently, the owner below my apartment reported that he had a water leak, apparently from my tub/shower. Who is responsible for the repairs?

L.G., Miami

A. Normally, subject to the condo documents, the owner of the unit with the leak is responsible for fixing the leak. The owner where the leak has caused damage is responsible for repairs in their unit.

This is an insurance claim. It is one of the key reasons why all condominium owners should carry an insurance policy. Usually the only responsibility the condominium has is to replace any unfinished drywall that was damaged.

Most documents say that when a utility line — in this case, the water pipe — serves one unit, that owner is responsible for repairs to the line. If the utility line serves two or more units, the condominium would be responsible.

Q. We have a mix of houses and attached villas/townhouses in our homeowners association. Our concern is with the roofs and their replacement. The development started in 1989 and was built out in 2001, with 180 units total. Our documents do not address the issue of roofs other than to state that the homeowner is responsible for major repairs.

What do we do if one section of the roof is damaged by trees or storms and needs major replacement? If the association determines that the roof of the entire building needs to be resurfaced, how do we force the homeowners to pay for it? Some insurance companies have been raising issues because some of our roofs are 25 years old.

J.C., Inverness

A. Whenever you have a concern interpreting your documents, you need to have an attorney provide an opinion letter and tell you how to enforce the solution. If the attorney determines that the board and the association are responsible, you must have funds available. That will require a reserve account or special assessment to pay for roof replacements. If the attorney says that each owner is responsible for the repairs, the board in such cases must tell owners in writing that they must replace the roofs in so many weeks or months.

In the meantime, I suggest you tell the owners your concerns and that you are seeking a legal answer about who is responsible for roof replacements.

When you address the insurance question, have the insurance agent also provide an opinion letter. The board has every right to be concerned about the architectural appearance of the community. Thus, the board has the authority to address and enforce roof replacements.

Q. Our homeowners association is responsible for painting the outside of our buildings, and the board has the right to choose colors. They painted our building recently with the same colors for body and trim. They did, however, change the scheme by painting the gutters and drip cap brown instead of white. They also painted our porch — which had been painted white — a yellowish color that does not match anything. We are not happy with the new look.

The painters’ contract states “as painted by developer.” When I asked to make copies, they said the only thing we had a right to see was the financials. Do we have a right to see any other documents? Can the board change the paint scheme?

Three of our board members were out of town, so I wrote letters with copies to all so that they could all be aware of our feelings. I am now being accused of harassment. I feel they are trying to bully us, and I need to know what our rights are.

J.C., Lakeland

A. Florida Statute 720.303 (5) — Inspection and Copying of Records — is where you will find the answer. You must send the board a letter, preferably by certified mail, asking to view the contract. The board is obligated to allow you to study the contract and receive copies, but can charge you a copying fee.

It appears from your question that the board did not deliberate the contract terms — the color change — at a board meeting, so members did not have a chance to express their feelings about the color change. If they did discuss it at a board meeting, then your disagreement is weak. You have a right and the duty to attend board meetings and express your feelings on matters brought before the board.

Write to Condo Line, Richard White, 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., #201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115, or e-mail CAMquestion@cfl.rr.com. Include your name and city.

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