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Board Talk: A Conversation About Roof Leaks

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My roof was not pitched correctly by the sponsor/developer, and the board has taken numerous years to address this problem. I am patiently waiting to fix my ceiling, which is a bit of an eyesore, and I have a light fixture that when it rains very hard I get water in the fixture. It’s been over five years since I’ve addressed this to the board and management company; I’ve requested in writing after they decide on the engineer that I want a scope of services in writing indicating [that they will] repair my ceiling. I have had no response about this from the managing agent or the board. Should I have a lawyer write a letter on my behalf? Any suggestions?

You are a patient person. I would get a lawyer. Be careful though – the co-op’s legal fees can end up on your maintenance bill. As a result, I would have the lawyer write a letter first asking about the status of the repairs/re-pitch. Then if you got no reply, I would take them to court. Don’t go cheap on the lawyer – use an experienced real estate law firm, too.

I do hear your pain. But, as a board president that has had to deal with this issue, I have to say that the delay could be a result of several challenges that do take time to mull over and resolve. It could very likely be a financial issue and a question as to whether to fix one roof versus an entire complex’s roof; it could be that you are not the only one with the same issue and the board is figuring out whether, as above, to do this unit-by-unit or as a group project (several units at a time)...and whether this sort of issue fits within a larger capital project.

I think getting a lawyer involved makes things harder to deal with. Have you also asked about the possibility of laying out the funds for repair and then being reimbursed via some sort of payment plan, perhaps through credits to your common charges?

Five years is still five years, with little or no communication, resolution, plan, or remedial action. As a board president, I can tell you that it doesn’t take anywhere near that long. While I agree with Michele that there are possibly many complicating issues potentially involved, the biggest issue by far is the lack of decisive planning and action to protect the property and keep the shareholder(s) informed. This is a failure of leadership.

I had a very similar experience when I moved into my building six years ago. Before I actually moved in, I hired an electrician to install a light fixture and he discovered that there was water in the ceiling – the only thing above my unit was the roof. I immediately alerted the super and management. Management assured me that the problem would be resolved when I moved in. Three months later, we had a torrential downpour that resulted in water coming through my ceiling light fixture and ultimately created a hole in my ceiling and soaked my home. For months, the board and management did not correct the problem. I finally consulted with an attorney, who encouraged me to go to small claims court for the damages I incurred (because they were under $5,000). I did and won. Management refused to pay and I wound up getting a judgment issued against them, so they wound up having to give me even more than I actually was awarded by the judge for refusing to comply with the order. I had the sheriff’s department seize the money from their account.

Later, I joined the board and learned that the board at the time of my leak was very aware of the problem. They knew my building had roofing issues all along and were told by Rand Engineering that they needed to replace the roof. For whatever reason, they ignored the engineer’s report and instead chose to put $500,000 worth of new siding on the building to make it “look pretty.” The property manager was eventually ousted for stealing the co-op’s money, and when our current management company came on board they worked to address the problems in the form of patchwork and we are now looking to do a complete replacement.


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