K.O. from Eagle County, Colorado writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
My condo is on the top floor of a 2-unit building (an old house configured into two condo units). The roof structure has to be rebuilt as the result of code requirements. My ceiling and 8 inches of the exterior walls will be affected by the reconstruction. An asbestos test revealed that there is asbestos in the popcorn ceiling of my unit and in some of the material that was applied to the walls. Is the remediation my responsibility?
Following is the text from two sections of the HOA decs: (1) Except for walls constructed on a Boundary Line, no owner shall be deemed to own the undecorated and/or unfinished surfaces of the perimeter walls, floors and ceiling surrounding his unit. An owner shall be deemed to own and shall maintain the inner decorated and/or finished surfaces of the perimeter walls, floors and ceilings consisting of paint, wallpaper and other finishing materials… (2) Except for negligent or willful acts of an owner (not the case here) and except for wallpaper and other finishing materials, the cost of repair and maintenance of the party walls shall be an expense of the association.
Mister Condo replies:
K.O., I am sorry that you have asbestos in your home. You should most certainly consult with an attorney on this matter as you will want a qualified legal opinion before you take any action. My gut instinct is to tell you this is a “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) scenario. You purchased a condo unit that was a portion of an old house that was converted to a condo. I assume the asbestos was in the ceiling when you purchased. Was an asbestos test performed then? Did you receive a statement from the seller stating that the home was asbestos-free? These answers may help support your case that you had no knowledge of the existence of asbestos in the home when you purchased it.As for the remediation, it would appear that as one-half of the association, you will bear 50% of the cost at a minimum. The argument could be made that the first-floor unit owner also benefits from the asbestos removal but I am guessing they have no interest in paying for one half of that additional cost. They will still have to pay their share of the roofing replacement job as the roof directly benefits the entire building. My advice is to be sure that the cost of the asbestos remediation is a separate line item from the roofing contractor. Depending on the specific amount for the asbestos remediation you will have to make a business decision as to whether or not it is worth it to pursue a lawsuit against the association for that specific cost. My understanding is that the cost is typically less than $10 per square foot (maybe even $5 per square foot). You could easily be looking at a $5,000 or higher expense. If your downstairs neighbor doesn’t agree to split that cost with you, theoretically you would be suing the association for ½ of the expense you don’t think you should pay. If the cost were $5,000, you would be suing for $2,500. If that makes sense to you, go for it. If not, pay for the removal and remediation and be thankful that the asbestos is gone. One more consideration – does your downstairs neighbor also have asbestos-laden popcorn ceilings? Even though their ceiling doesn’t need to be removed and replaced at this time, it might make sense that they get their done at the same time to keep their living environs safe. You might even get a better price from the vendor for removing more asbestos. Just a thought. Good luck and stay safe!