When you buy a condo in Florida, it is important to understand the maintenance and repair obligations you will have as an owner. Generally speaking, your condo owner’s association (COA) will be responsible for maintaining and repairing the common spaces. For a detached condo, this typically covers landscaping, trash, and the building exterior. Some exterior maintenance items like roofing repairs, old paint, and rotted wood will also likely be handled by your COA. That leaves maintenance and repair of items inside your unit, which will be your responsibility, with some important exceptions. An experienced Florida condo attorney can help you navigate the various sources of information concerning owner responsibility for maintenance and repair, including the Association’s governing documents, Florida law, and the various insurance policies that may come into play should a dispute over responsibility for damage to your condo arise.
The Association’s Governing Documents
A useful source of information concerning owner maintenance and repair responsibilities is the governing documents for your COA, which should be easily accessible on the Association’s website. Check the declaration of covenants. In most condos, the area that is only for an individual owner is the responsibility of the owner while areas for common use are maintained by the Association. Many Associations declare that everything beyond the drywall of the individual units is deemed to be common elements. Typically, this includes the roof, pipes, wires, conduits, or other public utility lines running through the individual unit which serve more than one unit. Some associations require the owner to maintain the plumbing and electrical that is inside their unit; some do not.
Responsibility for repairing what is inside the walls can be a gray area. For example, if something inside the wall serves only one unit, you will likely be responsible, but if it serves the common interest, then everyone should contribute to repairs.
Florida Law on Homeowner Maintenance Responsibilities
Florida law confirms that maintenance of the common elements is the responsibility of the association. That said, the law does allow Associations to provide in their declarations that certain “limited common elements” shall be maintained by those entitled to use them, either as a “common expense or with the cost shared only by those entitled to use the limited common elements.” Limited common elements are common elements that are restricted for the exclusive use of one or more, but less than all, of the unit owners. Examples of limited common elements include assigned parking spaces, storage areas, and balconies.
Whether the owner or the Association will be responsible for repairing water damage can be a more complicated question. Importantly, COAs must insure all common property, which includes every part of the building up to a unit’s unfinished drywall. The homeowner is responsible for insuring all personal property within their unit, including appliances, flooring, cabinetry, and window treatments. If your walls or ceiling sustain water or mold damage, the Association must replace the drywall, but you will likely be responsible for repainting or replacing wallpaper unless you can prove that the Association negligently failed to maintain a common element.
If a neighbor’s unit is the source of water damage to your condo, the association will be responsible if the cause of the leak was not foreseeable, such as a burst water heater. If the owner of the neighboring unit failed to timely repair a known issue — such as accidentally leaving a faucet running, resulting in flooding of your unit — the owner of the upstairs unit would be responsible for any damage to your unit, in addition to all portions of the condo property not covered by the Association’s insurance.
How a Florida Condo Attorney Can Help
If you are involved in a dispute with your Association over maintenance or repair responsibilities and have reached a roadblock or need assistance with next steps, we welcome you to contact us at (954) 966-3909. We serve the legal needs of individual condominium owners, home owners and cooperative owners in resolving disputes with their associations throughout Florida, including Broward, Dade and Palm Beach Counties, as well as Hollywood, Davie, Pembroke Pines, Hallandale, Sunny Isles, Aventura, Miami, North Miami, Brickell, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and Naples. We do not represent associations.
Please note that free case evaluation is by telephone and does not include legal advice. Office consults with legal advice are available on a flat fee basis.