Re: Exterior modifications
From: Diana Carroll (dianaecarrollgmail.com)
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2014 13:29:42 -0800 (PST)
Thanks for your thoughts, Philip.

Some response thoughts in-line...

"What if the skylight leaks, and drips water into the community dining room
> below the unit.  Whose problem is that?  The strict legal answer is:  The
> association's. "


Actually, the strict legal answer is: depends.  What I WANT here is for the
strict legal answer to be "The owner's".  Thus my question.  I want a
legally binding agreement that the owner now and in perpetuity is
responsible for the maintenance of the modification and liable for any
issue that arise.

ten years later, when the leaks appear around the skylight, should that be
> blamed on the owner's skylight, or on the association's deteriorating
> roofing and flashing?


this is definitely one of our concerns.  Any conflict on assigning blame,
though, will certainly be made worse by having legal responsibility unclear.


If the association is uncomfortable with all the implications of risk and
> future liability that attend remodeling, then the association may want to
> deny initiatives that compromise the simplicity and integrity of the
> envelope.


That's one approach, and certainly the *simplest* one.  But it isn't the
road we at Mosaic Commons want to take.

The particular modification proposed at the moment is a handicap-access
ramp off the porch.  To deny it effectively means telling one of our
members they can't live here.  But even for less obviously essential
modifications, part of our group culture is to allow as much flexibility to
individual homeowners as practical.

BTW, regarding the "envelope"...not all modifications impact the envelope
of the home.  A skylight would, for sure.  The ramp doesn't.  Nor would,
say, building a gazebo outside the back door.  Installing a bay window
would fall somewhere between -- it penetrates the envelope, but the
penetration was pre-existing.  I'm not sure the policy should be different
for envelope penetrations compare to other sorts of modifications.  Do you
think it should, and if so, why?

Diana



On Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 10:47 AM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at] 
comcast.net>wrote:

>
> OK, this is tricky.
>
> There are several good reasons why the condo association, and not the unit
> owner, should own and maintain the entire exterior envelope for all
> buildings.  At least for duplex and multi-family structures.  This is the
> case at Cornerstone Cohousing.
>
> But ... what if a unit owner wants to install a skylight over his/her living
> room?  Then s/he should get permission for doing the work, and the
> association should receive, review and approve the "plans" (technical
> drawings), and also approve the licensed contractor who will build it.  All
> this oversight is entirely appropriate for protection of the communally
> owned envelope.  Needless to say, the unit owner will be paying for all
> this.
>
> But ... who owns the skylight?  Can the owner remove it, and take it with
> him/her when s/he goes?  The short answer is: No.  Like the rest of the
> roof, it now belongs to the community.  And since the community will, and
> does, own it, it probably makes sense for the community to commission the
> work in the first place -- at the owner's direction, and with the
> understanding that all costs will be reimbursed by the owner.
>
> And ... what if it doesn't work?  What if the skylight leaks, and drips
> water into the community dining room below the unit.  Whose problem is
> that?  The strict legal answer is:  The association's.  This is because the
> association approved the work, and owns the result -- despite the fact that
> the association was reimbursed by the unit owner for all the costs.
>
> Don't like this?  Well, consider the alternative:  If the unit owner
> "owns" the skylight, then maybe over time, many bits and pieces of the
> envelope are "owned" by miscellaneous units -- a skylight here, a fireplace
> flue there, a passive solar collector on the south, an extra window
> somewhere else.  And ten years later, when the leaks appear around the
> skylight, should that be blamed on the owner's skylight, or on the
> association's deteriorating roofing and flashing?
>
> My personal view is that sliced-and-diced ownership of the envelope is a
> mistake.  If the association is uncomfortable with all the implications of
> risk and future liability that attend remodeling, then the association may
> want to deny initiatives that compromise the simplicity and integrity of
> the envelope.
>
> R Philip Dowds AIA
> Cornerstone Village Cohousing
> Cambridge, MA
>
> On Feb 17, 2014, at 9:29 AM, Diana Carroll <dianaecarroll [at] gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
> > Hey all, has anyone dealt with this situation?
> >
> > We are structured as a condominium in which individual homeowners own
> their
> > walls inward, and the studs out are common property.
> >
> > We want to allow owners to make exterior modifications to their
> buildings,
> > such as decks, ramps, skylights, etc. But we want the homeowner, not the
> > community, to be responsible for the maintenance of the structure, as
> well
> > as to assume liability for any issues the modification may cause...e.g.
> > damage to exterior walls from a leaking skylight, someone getting injured
> > on an poorly maintained deck, etc.
> >
> > We've had this policy in place all along, and it is not controversial,
> but
> > until just recently no one has actually done anything with it.  Now we
> have
> > our first request, so we need to figure out how to make it happen.
> >
> > As a trustee my concern is primarily with what happens when the current
> > owner sells and a new owner moves in.  I want to make sure that they
> remain
> > legally liable for maintenance of the modification that extends into
> common
> > area.
> >
> > So, has anyone else solved this?  In the case of a ramp or deck or other
> > projection into common space I was wondering if perhaps an easement is
> the
> > right solution.  But what about a sky light or similar?
> >
> > Note our question isn't about policy...we have already consensed on the
> > principle...but about legal implementation.
> >
> > Thanks for any insight.
> >
> > Diana for Mosaic Commons in central MA
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