Do you know what your problem is? More importantly, do you know if it’s actually your problem? In the world of condos and co-ops, understanding who is responsible for what in an apartment or in a building’s common areas isn’t always clear to apartment owners or shareholders. During the process of purchasing a condo unit or shares in a co-op, buyers are often so engrossed in the buying process itself that they don’t invest the effort needed to understand the ins- and-outs of ownership. This can lead to confusion, even anger, when the need for repairs starts popping up.
So it’s important for boards and management to help owners understand just what it is they are responsible for in terms of the maintenance and repair to their apartments. And it’s equally important for the board of directors of a co-op or a condo to know exactly what their duties are to shareholders and unit owners.
Who Owns What?
Ultimately, what a unit owner is responsible for and what the building management is responsible for, will be determined by the proprietary lease or governing documents. The usual standard is that the owner owns, and is responsible for repair and maintenance of everything from the walls in.
In general, that means that when it comes to painting, repairing damage to walls, the unit’s plumbing and all appliances, the owner has to foot the bill. There can, of course, be exceptions. According to Marc H. Schneider, an attorney based in Garden City, if there’s a pipe or line in an apartment that services parts of the building aside from the individual unit, the condominium may be responsible for that; if so, the governing documents would point that out.
Other things can vary, depending on the particular condo or co-op community. Schneider points to limited common elements as an example. Limited common elements are common elements, but are used primarily by one shareholder: a deck or terrace, stairs leading to an apartment, and so forth.