Who is responsible for repairing damaged insulation in a condominium?

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Q: My condominium association has repaired our roof several times. He also paid to repaint parts of the ceiling in my unit on several occasions. I live on the top floor of a five story building.

Who is responsible for replacing insulation on ceilings damaged by rain? And, who is responsible if the insulation above my unit has been blown to other units?

My long-dead neighbor admitted to removing huge bags of insulation ten years ago when he remodeled his kitchen. He said he was blowing from other apartments. Our building was built 27 years ago, and I imagine that the “attic” space (which is about 18 inches high) is a “common” space and therefore it is the responsibility of the building to replace ceiling insulation. Our management company has stated that the insulation above my unit is the responsibility of the unit owner and as such I am free to replace it but at my own expense.

A: It’s an interesting question. We could simply say that you should review your association’s governing documents to understand what they say about it. We suspect, however, that these documents do not address the specific issue of insulation above your unit.

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Usually, when lawyers prepare the incorporation documents for a condominium corporation, the type of corporation is important in determining who should be responsible for what in the buildings.

But, let’s dive a little deeper. Let’s say you live in a high-rise building. The insulation above your unit may be the insulation that is also under someone else’s unit. The top floor unit may have insulation above this unit, but that insulation may be part of the building and not specific to the top floor unit.

On the other hand, the main water pipe entering the building and the main water distribution pipe to the units can be used in common by all the co-owners. If something goes wrong, the building association is likely to pay for the repair or replacement of the main water system. However, the water supply line that only goes to a specific unit can cause some interesting problems, as only that specific unit benefits from that water line. The same consideration can be applied for other unit-specific elements, such as chimneys that serve only one unit. Some condos will cover these repairs as a common item, and some will not.

Where does this take you? The governing documents will or should contain language that speaks to the association’s general responsibility for the repair, maintenance, upkeep and replacement of common items. This same document should indicate where a condominium unit ends and where the common elements of the association begin. When you know what belongs to you and what belongs to the association, you must determine who is responsible for what.

In your situation, we suspect that your unit terminates at your ceiling and anything above your ceiling is considered common. Your governing documents must indicate whether certain common elements are for the specific use and enjoyment of a specific unit owner – a limited common element – giving rise to that unit owner’s obligation to take care of this specific item.

We believe that the building manager treats the insulation above your unit as a limited common item that you must take care of, and whether or not the manager is right is subject to interpretation under the governing documents. This is why it is important to understand what the specific provisions of the governing documents say about limited common elements or any common element that is the responsibility of an individual owner and not the association.

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In thinking about your question, Sam took a look at a sample condominium statement that stated that the limited common elements would include “any system or element thereof that exclusively serves a condominium unit, to the extent that that system or item is located outside of the condominium unit boundaries, including but not limited to air conditioning systems. »

You could say it’s quite wide and vague. That’s pretty broad, but we don’t think the lumber two-by-fours around your unit, the exterior siding of your unit, and other structural or building elements that surround your unit would generally be considered a system or component. . We tend to think of plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems as fitting this description; as well as flues and chimneys that serve a specific unit.

It seems like overkill to us that the insulation that fills the cavities around a unit with the wooden beams and the two-by-fours matches the invoice description of a limited common element. These seem to us to be an integral part of the construction of the whole building and must be considered as common elements to be maintained by the association.

That said, we don’t know your unit specifics, building type, and several other details that would be important. For a definitive opinion, start with your governing documents, then consult a real estate attorney in your area who has experience in condominium law.

Finally, if the decision is that insulation is a limited common element, then it will be up to you to deal with the issue. But, if it is a common element, we think the association should take care of it.

Let us know how it goes. Thanks for the interesting question.

Ilyce Glink is the author of “100 questions every first-time home buyer should ask(Fourth Edition). She is also the Managing Director of Best Money Moves, an app employers provide to employees to measure and reduce financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact them via the website,

©2022 Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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