D.K. from Broward County, Florida writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Our condo is doing a renovation of our hallways. The association members voted on the materials although the communication was terrible as to what the Board was going to do regarding our condominium doors which were wood veneer originally. The board gave us thin laminate which would be a skim that will cover our original doors then clearly stated the inside of our doors would be our issue and we could do whatever we want. I understand living in a condo everything from the paint on the walls inward are the unit owner’s responsibility. We are original owners and our doors came with our unit the rest was a shell which allowed us to choose our own floors, builder grade cabinets were provided for kitchen and bathroom. During a recent board meeting, prior to the renovation starting, I asked what the board plans to do with our emergency doors as there weren’t plans clearly shown or provided. For my unit, the emergency door is located in our kitchen and was a lifesaver a few times. After a 15-minute communication with the Board President, I was told the walls will be painted the same color as the walls in our hallway again the inside of the door will be our issue to deal with because the association members own that half of the door. One unit decided on their own to have the board close up their doorway leaving our common areas asymmetrical. I mentioned to our board that closing the doorway becomes a material alteration that was not told to us would be done. We were all not told closing the emergency door would be an option for each individual unit. When I asked if this was safe as our units are large our LCAM stated well, the unit that closed the emergency door has another way of exiting which would be sliding doors on their patio. Upon reading about emergency doors in Florida, it is clearly stated the door must be on a hinge or be a swing door. Thanks for any input.
Mister Condo replies:
D.K., sounds a bit dicey to me. Removal of an Emergency Door is not a good idea, for any reason. At the very least, a safety engineer and/or the local building inspector or Fire Marshall should have been consulted. They may have created a code violation that will need to be remedied. I offer no legal advice in this column nor do I claim to be an expert is condo safety but, as you mentioned, when an emergency rears its ugly head, that emergency exit can be a lifesaver. The Board may have opened themselves and the association up to some liability here. The LCAM truly should not offer a safety opinion either unless they are also an engineer. I would bring the matter to the attention of the local authorities (Building Inspector, Fire Marshall) and let them decide. If it is deemed safe, there is little else to be done. If not, they could go as far as to condemn the unit until the emergency door is replaced, displacing the unit owner. This won’t make you very popular but it might just save a life. Good luck!