Question: Is our condominium association responsible for what is behind the walls? We have a pipe running from our air handler to the condenser that they say I am responsible for replacing due to a leak. It is a four-story building, and I’m on the ground floor, so it is a very long line. – Pam

Answer: When dealing with anything related to your condominium association, you will need to review the declaration and other condo documents to determine your rights and responsibilities. If these documents contradict state statutes, the statutes will set the rules.

In most buildings, the area that is only for an individual owner is the responsibility of that owner, while areas for common use are maintained by the association. This usually works out to the association having to fix what is inside the walls.

However, to every rule there is an exception. If something inside the wall serves only one unit, such as your A/C line running from your apartment to the roof, the unit owner is responsible. In simple terms, if it served the common interest, then everyone has to chip in to make repairs, but if it only helps your unit, it needs to be fixed on your dime.

Unfortunately, this is not the end of the analysis. The cause of the damage needs to be considered. If the repair is for ordinary maintenance, such as for a part wearing out, you are on the hook. If the damage is due to a faultless casualty, such as a bad storm, then your association will need to make the repair. Your association is required to carry insurance for this purpose.

However, if the unit owner causes the damage, for example, in a flood that spread across other units, that unit owner will need to pay.

This is one of the many reasons that unit owners need hazard insurance for their units. Remember, your association’s hazard insurance covers the common elements in your community but rarely covers you individually.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.

© 2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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