Duplex/Condo/Townhouse Liability

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When a housing unit shares a wall or floors, roofs etc. but are owned instead of rented, how are common issues handled? For example, if I own a townhouse in a row of 4, but a tornado rips the roof off the overall building, who’s responsible for paying for damages?

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2 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

The individual liability will be dictated by the type of structure (each of these are often treated differently by real estate laws), the laws of the jurisdiction they’re in, and the governing docs for any association. There is no blanket answer.

Most shared infrastructure is shared responsibility. There is a legal entity formed when the community is built, and its responsibilities are defined in a set of governing documents. If the roof is included in the shared responsibility, it would be up to the entity to replace it. These entities are funded through dues paid by homeowners who benefit from the shared infrastructure, so it’s not like it’s free. The cost is just spread around.

That said, not all entities treat roofs as shared infrastructure. Townhomes, for example, often define roofs as the homeowner’s responsibility. This means it is up to the homeowner to replace their individual roof if it is damaged by a storm. Their responsibility stops at the shared wall between the units. Any damage on the other side of that wall is the neighbor’s responsibility.

To make things more complicated, many documents will spell out that homeowners are responsible to damage to neighboring units if they neglect to repair their roof. So for example, if you have a roof leak, and you choose not to repair it, and that leak results in damage spreading to the neighboring unit, you can be held responsible for it.

Anonymous 0 Comments

There is an owners association. They take dues monthly and keep accounts for shared expenses, as well as a larger fund for emergencies or big projects. Even in the best run ones, the emergency fund is often not big enough to cover an expense that affects all units (E.g. replacing the roof). The association has the power, if enough owners vote for it, to levy a “special assessment” on the owners, forcing them to pay the difference.

the association also carries insurance for all of the common grounds, with a heavy deductible per unit. Condo insurance includes gap insurance to pay this deductible (mine is $50k)z