Category Archives: Windows

Condo Documents Offer Confusing Description of Window Ownership

R.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The boundary of the windows says: the plane of the interior face of the glass and the frames mullions and muttons. So, who is responsible for window replacement?

Mister Condo replies:

R.H., without knowing more about your governing documents, I would be guessing who is responsible for your replacement windows. The legalese used to describe your window ownership is the stuff that makes community association attorneys busy for years and years! Sounds like common sense could cause you to argue the case for the ownership to be the association or the unit owner, depending on how the wind is blowing. My first question is what has been done in the past? Has the association paid in the past? If not, they aren’t likely to start paying for them now. If this is the first time through the window replacement project for the association, I would recommend an attorney offer a qualified opinion on the matter. The good news is it sounds like you are going to get some new windows. I hope you enjoy them!

Who Owns the Condo Skylights?

R.M. from Hartford County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

What does the CT Building Code rules for skylights i.e. window or part of roof structure?  Should the HOA be responsible for repairs if the skylight was originally installed?

Mister Condo replies:

R.M, as far as I know, the Connecticut Building Code does not address skylights. Of course, I am neither a building inspector nor an expert on the Connecticut building code. Since skylights are a part of the roof, many associations treat them as common elements (owned and maintained by the association). However, I also know of some condominiums where the skylights are treated as though they were windows and owned and maintained by the unit owner. It really comes down to your governing documents although some are silent on the issue creating a grey area where the Board must make a determination as to who owns and maintains them. Once that decision is made, a precedent is set and from that point forward the repairs and maintenance are typically handled the same way. So, off to your governing documents you go to see what, if any, descriptors are in place for skylights. If there are none, look to the history of how they have been handled in the past. Good luck!

Homeschooling Condo Unit Owner Seeks to Add Garage Window

A.R. from California writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I want to add a window in the garage because I homeschool my kids and is too hot inside for them.

Mister Condo replies:

A.R., I appreciate your desire to provide a window for your children as you feel it would help cool your garage, which I gather you are using as a classroom for homeschooling purposes. However, adding items like windows falls squarely under the governance authority of the Board who has to consider the architectural compliance issues that allowing you to do so may create. If you are allowed to add a window to a garage, theoretically all unit owners who asked for the same modification would have to be allowed. That creates a potential nightmare for the Board, who has a duty to keep the community looking in a uniform fashion. You can certainly ask but please respect the decision of the Board in this matter. It isn’t as simple granting your request to assist with your homeschooling efforts; the decision has far-reaching consequences. All the best!

New York City Condo Windows Taking Much Longer than a New York Minute!

K.M. from New York City writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I need to replace my windows. I’m on the 20th floor of a NYC high rise on the Hudson River – facing the river.  The windows are 30 years old and rotting.  One is visibly broken at the frame- separating from the glass and crazy bursts of wind come through all of them. The Management company is “letting” one owner replace their windows which have been on order for months.  They’re telling me I have to wait until JUNE of next year for some engineering report just to order them.  I am FREEZING and the summer will be hell. I WANT to pay for them to be replaced and they are delaying it with their bureaucracy.  What are my rights?

Mister Condo replies:

K.M., Congratulations on the decision to replace your broken windows. I am a bit surprised that the association doesn’t have a better window replacement program in place for you but I am not sure that they are violating your rights in any way by having you wait until they have an updated engineering report, especially if that report contains information relevant to your window replacement. There may be some temporary solution like having the windows sealed that could give you relief while you wait for your new windows to be installed. You may be able to ask about paying for your own engineering report although I suspect that would be very expensive. Of course, I am not an attorney so if you feel you have a legal claim against the association for preventing a faster window replacement timeline for you, you might want to get a legal opinion. I read an interesting article in the New York Times that you might want to review for a bit more information – http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/03/realestate/the-red-tape-of-new-windows-in-new-york.html?_r=0

Good luck with your new windows. I am sure you will enjoy them once you get through this red tape.

Condo Owner Makes Deposit on Unapproved Replacement Windows

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C.I. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am in the process of replacing my condo windows using a large chain store. I chose an Anderson window that fit the specs exactly and all information was submitted to the management company. The board voted no on the windows and stated only one brand of window, Alside Ultramaxx, can be used. At this time my windows were made and I had put down a deposit. The previous rule was as long as the window fit the specs it would be approved never anything about a specific brand. They also recommend the vendor. Can a condo board do this? How can I obtain bylaws that reflect this?

Mister Condo replies:

C.I., the short answer is “yes”. The condo board is the governing body that approves architectural compliance guidelines which are outlined in your governance documents. It typically states than any improvements must be association approved. I am sorry you had already put down the deposit on the windows when you were told “no” by the Board but you should have gotten the approval first by simply submitting the window proposal to the Board. They still would have said “no” but at least you wouldn’t have made your deposit. Have you tried working with the store to get back your deposit? If windows were ordered to your specifications, that isn’t too likely but it may be worth asking. There is always a temptation to replace windows on your own and, like most unit owners, you don’t want to spend more than you have to. However, the Board is the final say on such items and you would be well advised to seek their approval BEFORE you order any item that falls under the association’s Architectural Compliance guidelines. Had you purchased and installed these windows, the Board would be well within its right to make you remove them and replace them with approved windows. This would have been far more expensive than the loss of your deposit. I would chalk this one up to a lesson learned. Good luck with your new Board-approved windows. I hope they give you years of enjoyment.

Condo Board Dictates Windows at Owner’s Expense

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J.E. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Why does the condo board dictate window type if the individual homeowner is responsible for windows but not their siding or roof?

Mister Condo replies:

J.E., the reason is architectural compliance and it is a bone of contention between unit owners and the Boards of Directors that govern condominium, coops, timeshares, and other common interest communities. Siding and roofing are generally common elements that are maintained by the association. You couldn’t maintain them on your own if you wanted to as you don’t own them. Windows are often another matter and are one of the few items that are visible from the building’s exterior that are owned and maintained by the unit owner. There are exceptions and some condominiums consider windows as common elements. Clearly, that is not the case where you live. The concept of architectural compliance is fairly straightforward. It is the tool of the association that keep all units uniform in appearance. This is important for aesthetics, curb appeal, and keeping the integrity of the property. If unit owners decided to change their window styles or colors and the Board did not have the power of architectural compliance to help them govern the association you can see where many problems could occur. Everything from deck stain to front door color to replacement windows need to be approved by the Board before the installation occurs. Otherwise, the Board would have little choice but to enforce the standard after the fact, which can get quite pricy for unit owners. Hope that helps!

Previous Condo Owner Liable for Improper Window Replacement

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K.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I just purchased a condo and have discovered that the previous owner installed windows whose color doesn’t’ meet with the requirement of the association. Can I go back on him for replacement costs.

Mister Condo replies:

K.S., most likely “yes”. However, the cost of pursuing a legal remedy may outweigh the benefits of doing so. I am not an attorney so please accept my advice as friendly and not legal. For a legal opinion, you should consult with a local attorney familiar with community association law.

If the previous owner improperly installed windows that the association didn’t approve of at the time of installation, the association should have taken action at that time. However, if the association is now coming after you for the improper windows, you may have to comply with their request and your only remedy would be to sue the previous unit owner. Where it gets tricky is in the value of the windows. Are they brand new? Several years old? Several decades old? Unless you are likely to claim thousands of dollars in window replacement cost, it may be more cost-effective for you to simply replace the windows in question with the correct windows. As long as you plan on owning the unit for years to come, you will benefit greatly from improved efficiency and the joy of owning beautiful new windows. Otherwise, you may still have to pay for the windows and then an attorney to chase down the previous owner for whatever percentage of the cost of the replacement (maybe 100%) can be attributed to the previous owner. This is an unfortunate situation to say the least but, at least, you will have brand new windows to enjoy at the end of the process. All the best!

Board Mandates Replacement of Unit Owner Windows

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P.M. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Can a condo board mandate replacement windows for all units, whether or not there is a problem with the individual unit owner’s windows? Since the building is over 20 years old, many windows are rotting and causing damage to underlying surfaces, but not every owner has these issues.

Mister Condo replies:

P.M., the short answer is “it depends” and what it depends upon is the language in your governing documents that address common and limited common elements of the association. If the documents give governance control over the windows, the Board is well within its right to mandate replacements. If the windows are solely under the control of the individual unit owners, then the Board may not have the right to mandate replacement. In my experience, the former is far more common and the Board very likely does have the power to mandate that the windows be replaced. If the windows are 20 years old, they very likely have outlived their life expectancy regardless of their current condition. It’s time for new windows, mandated or not. Good luck!

Leaky Windows Installed Years Ago Causes Hole in Condo Floor Today

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L.S. from New Haven County asks:

Dear Mister Condo,

I am hoping you can offer some guidance for an elderly friend of mine who lives in a condo. She has lived there for many years and she now has a hole in her floor. Repairmen went out to look at the damage and found that the wood surrounding the hole was bone dry. In their estimation, the hole was caused by old, unseen water damage caused by leaking windows that the association had replaced many years ago. However, the woman never realized the water was damaging the floor as it was covered by carpeting. She reported the damage to the property manager who told her she will have to pay the $1,000 to have it fixed. This woman is 92 years old and very sweet and it just seems to me that the association should have some liability here. Do you have any advice I can offer her?

Mister Condo replies:

L.S., it would appear that the Property Manager is not prepared to accept the association’s responsibility or liability for causing the damage that has lead to this hole in the unit owner’s floor. While I appreciate that at age 92, this is the last thing your friend needs to deal with, there may be only a few viable options available to her. Her condo documents should state what part of the building is her responsibility and what part is the association’s responsibility. If the hole is in the sub-floor directly under the carpet, that might be considered her responsibility and covered under her own insurance if she has homeowner’s insurance (HO-6, here in Connecticut). It is quite possible that her insurance will cover this damage or at least a portion (less her deductible). If she doesn’t have this insurance, the repair may be at her expense.

If the subfloor is the responsibility of the association, that is a whole different matter. She may wish to contact the Board of Directors directly to pursue a remedy or she may wish to hire an attorney if she feels the Property Manager is improperly denying her claim. In the Property Manager’s defense, the length of time from when the alleged damage occurred and today may make an insurance claim on the association’s policy all but impossible. That does not relieve the association from responsibility (if it is determined to be theirs); it just means the $1,000 for the repair will need to come directly from the association, not the insurer.

One other factor that may play into this solution is determining the exact cause of the hole. Damage that occurred many years ago may be difficult to prove for either side. The repairmen may need to provide written testimony as to their opinion as to the cause of the damage. The association may also wish to hire their own inspector to make their own determination. If the reports are in agreement and the association is at fault, the Board may have no choice but to make payment for the repair. However, if the reports are conflicting or inconclusive, this battle may drag on.

I hope that helps. Sorry for your friend’s troubles, L.S..

Disagrees With Condo Board’s Decision to Ban New Type of Window

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T.Z. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hello! I would like to replace my condo windows. Unfortunately, I am having trouble getting approval from Condo Association because I have chosen different type of window operation. It is a Tilt and Turn window, which are three windows in one. Depending on the handle position, they can be operated as a fixed window (handle in 6 o’clock position), inward casement window (handle in 9 o’clock position) or hopper window (handle in 12 o’clock position).

They provide excellent ventilation control. The tilt position opens the sash inwards at the top to provide indirect ventilation while maintaining security and safety. This angle allows air to come through the sides while hotter air can escape through the top. Other owners have the sliding windows. Though both types of windows look absolutely the same from the outside, condo association does not agree with the installation tilt and turn windows. Condo Association doesn’t mind color or window material, just the window operation. Is there any possibility how to change their mind? I understand that association must approve the size, glass, color etc. but the operation system? I would highly appreciate any advice. Thank you in advance.

Mister Condo replies:

T.Z., they certainly sound like nice windows and I can see why you want them. However, in all matters of architectural compliance, the Board has the final say on which window products can and cannot be installed in the individual units. The Board is very likely sticking to their guns on the windows, as they don’t want to open the door to folks changing other elements of the exterior design. However, you have every right to ask for an exception or variance and ask the Board to reconsider your request. You also have the right to seek like-minded unit owners who might also like to install the type of windows you are proposing. However, unless the Board approves their installation, you may not install them. If you do, the Board will likely sue you for violating the architectural compliance rules and you would be forced to remove the windows and install association-approved windows in their place. That would be a costly lesson for you, T.Z.. Speak with your neighbors and see if you can find a dozen or so folks who feel as you do that the new windows would not affect the look, just the function. Ideally, win over a Board member or two on the idea as well. Good luck!