Feeling the “Pane” Over Condo Window Replacement Costs

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K.G. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo association has presented a “special assessment” that will increase “all” units approximately $200 additional a month bringing our combined monthly fee to $700 for dues & assessment. I understand that due to the age of the complex there are some important things to be considered in order to maintain the complex but why should all units be charged the same? Is there a law stating increase and/or payment based on square footage?  Understanding monthly association dues are based on overall complex finances to include insurance, grounds maintenance, etc., but one of the highest expenses anticipated are for window repair and/or replacement. The townhomes have windows that make up entire walls from second floor ceiling to first floor baseboard. As a single bedroom condo unit owner, I have one third of the window coverage. Why should the single bedroom units be responsible for that huge expense? Please advise. Thank you! Regards.

Mister Condo replies:

K.G., you have a lot going on in that question so let me break it down to its basic elements and try to shed some light on what is likely happening and where you and your fellow one bedroom condo owners may seek some relief. The first place to begin is with your condo documents. Back when you purchased your condo, you or your attorney were provided with a big old stack of papers that included all of the condominium documentation that was required back when your condo was originally built. You’ll find things like the declaration, the covenant, and the original by-laws of the association inside this packet. You’ll also find the governing documents that determine things like common and limited common elements, the per centage of unit ownership formula or other methodology for determining who pays for what and to what extent they pay.

If windows are considered common elements and are owned by the association, then the cost of replacing those windows is on the association, regardless of how many windows any one unit has. If the windows are considered limited common elements, then a different method of paying for the replacement may be outlined. If the windows are considered to be owned by the unit owner, then the expense lies entirely upon the individual condo unit owner. However, if the documents are silent about who owns the windows, then they are generally treated as common elements, meaning the whole association is responsible for their upkeep and repair or replacement.

More than likely, your common fees and other assessments are determined by using the “per centage of unit ownership” model. That means the total square footage of all units is added up and then divided by the individual square footage of the units that make up the whole. So if the one bedroom units are less square footage than the two or three bedroom units, their percentage of association financial burden is also smaller. For instance if a 50 unit condo is made up of 25 units of 1000 square feet and 25 units of 500 square feet, the total square footage would be 37,500 square feet. The 25 units of 1000 square feet would each carry 2.7 % of the common fees while the 25 units of 500 square feet would each carry 1.3% of the common fees. That same formula would be applied to special assessments as well.

Of course, if your condo documents specifically spell out a different formula for determining the method for arriving at common fees and per centage of burden for special assessments then you are likely bound to that formula. My experience is that most associations are governed by the “per centage of unit ownership” model and while that model may not be perfect, as with your description of the window replacement costs at your complex, it certainly is efficient and makes financial sense and fairness for the vast majority of condo owners.

If you do not understand this answer or if you feel you need further clarification, I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney who is verse in community association law. All the best!

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