C.D. from New Jersey writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I live in a 30-unit condo in New Jersey. We are having water problems. The Board has been advised that the awnings on the building are causing water to get in to some areas and want to replace them with a permanent roof structure. There are only 8 units that have awnings. They want the owners that have awnings to pay more for the new roof structure because they said we are getting more value added to our units. They said they could change the allocation of a special assessment by taking a vote to change the bylaws. We don’t see how this is fair because the other 22 owners are certainly not going to vote to have to pay more money. Can they change these rules?
Mister Condo replies:
C.D., in my experience, there is only one formula for allocating common expenses in a condominium association and that is the percentage of unit ownership formula that is usually detailed in the association’s governing documents. This formula is used to determine everything from common fees to special assessments. It can be based on square footage, desirability of unit location, etc. In a 30-unit association where everyone pays the same, the cost would simply be divided by 30. If larger units pay a bit more or smaller units pay a bit less, so be it.
It is possible that your governing documents make mention of the awnings as limited common elements or even owned by the individual unit owners. If that is the case, the math may be a bit different with the Board able to allocate the cost to the specific unit owners. It has nothing to do with unit owners’ want or fairness about who gets more benefit from the roof structure. If the roof structure is going to become part of the association common grounds, it is very likely going to be paid for by all.
Of course, if anyone were in disagreement with what the Board proposes, they would be well advised to seek an opinion from a locally qualified attorney. I have seen many condo documents where items like this fall into a grey area, as they were not anticipated when the association was initially built. Either way, I hope the new roof structure provides relief from the water damage. Decreased insurance claims from such damage will benefit all unit owners within the association. Good luck!