T.N. from Cook County, Illinois writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Is the insulation in the walls of individually owned units considered a common element? In Illinois, the drywall is so I would assume the insulation too? Also, a unit owner wants to install new insulation and have the association pay for it as they interpret it as common element. Our bylaws state the association has a duty to repair and maintain common elements but not improve or upgrade them. Ultimately who pays for new insulation? Thanks!
Mister Condo replies:
T.N., that is a great question! The insulation, as provided in the original installation of the condominium would very likely be considered a common element as it is on the other side of the drywall. As long as your documents do not state anything to the contrary, that is consistent with the definition of a common element, not just in Illinois but most states. The duty to “repair and maintain” does not equate to “improve” so any unit owner looking to upgrade their insulation should be looking to do so at their own expense and only with express approval of the Board. Insulation has a very long life expectancy. Some brands claim to last 80 to 100 years, although depending on the type, it is possible for it to move, shift, or decay sooner. It would be a very difficult claim to say that the insulation has failed and needs replacing. I would think that the Board should consider the homeowner’s request and make the best business decision they can. In my opinion that would be that the homeowner is responsible for the cost of the new insulation. All the best!