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Condo Problems: Who Pays for Repairs to a Skylight?

An insured’s condo has damage to the roof and skylight. The condo association is saying they're responsible for the roof but the unit owner is responsible for the skylight.
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An insured’s condo has damage to the roof and skylight. The association is telling the insured that the association is responsible for the roof but the unit owner is responsible for the skylight. There is no reference in the bylaws about the skylight. It was installed as part of the original construction and not as an add-on.

Q: Isn’t the skylight part of the roof and therefore the condo association's responsibility?

Response 1: The association manager needs to refresh themselves with the bylaws of the condominium. The other possibility is that the skylight was an upgrade by a previous owner and the master agreement was not noted properly. Still, the skylight is an integral part of the roofing system.

Response 2: Take a careful look at the covenants. Unless there is a clear delineation to the unit owner's responsibility to replace elements of original construction or specific elements within the unit, such as skylights, I question their position. Where does the unit owner's obligations to repair begin and end? What are the unit owner's responsibilities for other windows? 

Response 3: This is not a technical coverage question. It’s a disagreement between the condo owner and the condo association. Should the term “roof” include an originally installed skylight? If skylights are a common feature throughout the project, I think yes. But if the skylight was a custom add-on for this particular unit, then probably not. This is between the owner and the association—I’d stay out of it.

Response 4: This is a legal question relating to the wording of the bylaws. The word "skylight" does not have to be in those bylaws but another word, such as "window," "glass" or "aperture," might be. Ask the association’s legal counsel to point out what wording they are referring to in their adjustment decision.

Response 5: Borders and boundaries of condominium units should be definitively described in the association’s master deed. If it does not provide common aesthetic benefit to all unit owners, a skylight may well be treated as windows or other glass portions of the building.

Response 6: This is a lawyer question because it involves a detailed reading and interpretation of the bylaws. I've never seen bylaws that identify specific elements of the structure for coverage or non-coverage.

The ones I've seen use broader terms like "building" or "structure." If this document is specific, it might distinguish between a roof and a skylight. Common sense would tell you that the "roof" would include things like skylights, vents and so on, but maybe common sense doesn't apply here.

This question was originally submitted by an agent through the Big “I” Virtual University’s (VU) Ask an Expert Service, with responses curated from multiple VU faculty members. Answers to other coverage questions are available on the VU website. If you need help accessing the website, request login information.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Personal Lines