Condominium Deck Collapse

Who is to blame?


The condo Law Blog says this:

Wildwood Missouri residents who reside at the Sandalwood Creek Condominium Community need to look up at all times, especially to avoid  collapsing decks.  A deck attached to a residential unit collapsed this past Memorial Day when four people were standing on it.  All four are now in the hospital.

County officials came to the scene to evaluate all of the decks in the community and the news is not good.  It appears they may not meet current code requirements and some news reports report findings that other deck collapses in the community are foreseeable.

The decks are 30 years old and it appears many have not been properly maintained.  Some appear to be rotting.   One news crew found a decks that was visibly sagging, suggesting that it may be next in line.

So –who is responsible to repair these decks?    Of course it depends on state law and the association documents.  But in many instances, the homeowner will be responsible.

The reason is that these decks are often called “limited” common elements.  They are common elements because they fall beyond the “finished walls in.”  But they are “limited,” because only the adjoining unit owner can enjoy them, or in this case fall from them.  In these cases often it is the unit owner who must maintain, and if need be replace, the deck structure.

Some news reports suggest that this is the case in Wildwood Missouri.  But everyone may not agree and ultimately a Court may have to interpret the documents in question.

Who ever is responsible aside, decks must routinely inspected and maintained.  And they must be replaced when they are no longer safe.  Even if common funds will not be used to do this, the Association usually has the inherent right to ensure that this work is undertaken on a regular basis.

Stuart Lieberman Is an attorney with Princeton’s Lieberman & Blecher.    The firm represents community associations in New Jersey and New York.

One comment

  1. Corinne says:

    GREAT info “limited common area”

    Will pass the info along to one of my family members – condo development still under construction. Not turned over to association to date. Always good to have the info before there is a need.

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