Condo Owner Sues Association Over Unrepaired Roof Damages
The Business Trial Group’s Roger C. Brown recently filed a lawsuit that encapsulates what can go wrong when a condo association breaches its obligation to perform exterior repairs and maintenance. According to the lawsuit, the association’s failure to repair roof damage caused a flood into the tenant’s unit. The tenant was forced to pay for repairs out of pocket and relocate his family to another residence.
Under Florida law and most condominium declarations, unit owners have the right to recover attorneys’ fees if they prevail in litigation against the condominium association, in addition to any damages the court awards. And when they hire the Business Trial Group on a contingency basis, plaintiffs pay no upfront legal costs.
Lawsuit Alleges Negligent Maintenance Caused Water Intrusion
The plaintiff in the case owns a two-unit penthouse in the Terraces at Turnberry, an Aventura, Florida luxury building located along the Intracoastal Waterway and offering ocean views. He is suing the Terraces North At Turnberry Condominium Association, Inc. for water damage remediation costs that he claims resulted from the association’s alleged lack of maintenance.
Problems began for the owner when Hurricane Irma passed through South Florida in September 2017, dumping heavy rain on Miami-Dade County. Due to a non-functioning drainage system, the roof deck flooded and caused ponding on the building’s flat roof system. Unable to drain the way it should, flood water entered the owner’s condo unit and left several inches of standing water, as well as water intrusion and staining on the interior walls and ceilings.
Once the storm had passed, the owner invited the condo association to observe the water damage to his unit. He also issued a written notice to the association. Although the association acknowledged its obligation to perform exterior repairs and maintenance, it denied any responsibility for the owner’s damages, despite the fact that they were caused by the association’s failure to upkeep the building’s exterior, the lawsuit claims.
Ten months after it was notified of the water intrusion issues, the association hired a company to perform an investigation that revealed failing drain pipes, defective roof sections, and cracks in the exterior stucco. More than two years after the issues were reported, the association hired a company to perform a moisture survey of the main roof, which found that 98% contained elevated moisture levels. But the association still did not address the foregoing issues, leading to further damage to the owner’s unit.
Finally, the lawsuit states, the owner was forced to take matters into his own hands. With no other choice, he hired contractors to start repairs on the roof of the building, at great personal expense (and still counting), in an effort to mitigate his interior damages. He must also replace damaged personal property and has been forced to temporarily move to another residence.
Condominium Bylaws Are Legally-Binding
Not having to perform exterior and structural maintenance is a major benefit of condominium ownership. The association fees that condo owners pay are supposed to ensure that all common building elements, including the outside walls and roof, are repaired and replaced at the association’s expense. As this lawsuit shows, when the association fails to properly maintain the building exterior, it can cause major interior damage that disrupts and displaces tenants.
The various rights and responsibilities of the condominium association and unit owners are spelled out by a Declaration of Condominium (DOC). For example, the Terraces North At Turnberry Condominium Association DOC states, among other provisions, that Turnberry has an obligation to maintain the building’s “common elements,” including its drainage systems and outside walls.
Condominium associations also have bylaws that govern the relationship of the parties. In this case, the bylaws state that Turnberry must maintain reserve accounts for capital expenditures and deferred maintenance. “Roof replacement costs” are specifically referenced in Turnberry’s bylaws.
The DOC and bylaws create a contractual relationship that both parties agree to when they sign the condo purchase agreement. That means the association and the owner can take legal action against each other if one party does not follow the provisions. Florida law allows the prevailing party in such an action to recover attorneys’ fees.
Contingency-Fee Florida Real Estate Lawyers
The Business Trial Group represents owners, brokers, developers, tenants, landlords, purchasers, sellers, and associations in a variety of real estate, contract, construction, and fraud disputes. As the commercial litigation arm of the largest contingency-fee law firm in the United States, we handle complex business cases with no hourly billing. Instead of paying for an attorney’s time, you pay only for results. If we do not prevail in your case, you owe us nothing.
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