Tag Archives: Windows

Adding Skylights to a Condo Unit

N.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We are doing the attic in our condo unit. Skylights have been approved by the department of buildings, but the condo board is disapproving it! What should we do?

Mister Condo replies:

N.S., architectural compliance is the purview of the Board. Skylights fundamentally change the exterior appearance of the roof, which is a common element owned by the association, not you. Therefore, you need to seek permission to modify this common element unless your governance documents say otherwise. Are there other skylights in other units? If so, that would be your argument before the Board to allow you to have them as well. However, the Board is under no obligation to grant your request and should you decide to go ahead and install them without their written approval, don’t be surprised if you find yourself on the losing end of a lawsuit from the association that would require you to remove the skylights and return the roof to the same condition it was before your installed them. The best time to make a request for skylight installation is when the roof is being replaced. The Board may still not grant the request but since the roof is going to be replaced, it is an easy time for a modification to be made. All the best!

Curtain Wall Responsibility Questioned by Condo Owner

L.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Do you know of any condominiums where the unit owner is responsible for curtain walls?

Mister Condo replies:

L.S., I am sorry to say that I do, most commonly where glass is the building material in question. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here and my guess is that you will most certainly need one to interpret your condo docs to determine who actually owns the curtain walls. I have seen court cases ultimately make the final determination when associations and unit owners disagree over the curtain wall ownership. Even the state your unit is in will have an impact on the final decision as condo laws vary from state to state. Depending on whether the curtain walls are common areas, limited common areas, or specifically owned by the unit the responsibility will be determined. This litigation process can also be quite expensive so make sure you speak with a locally qualified attorney for an opinion before you proceed with a lawsuit. I hope this all works out for you and your fellow unit owners. Good luck!

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!