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Are Skylights A Window or Part of the Roof?

ThinkstockPhotos-493921397Question: I live in condominium consisting of 46 free-standing single family homes; 22 of them were built with skylights. During the rainy season, my roof developed a leak originating from the skylight. When I reported the leak, the association said that repairing the skylight was my responsibility. The declaration does not list skylights as a specific responsibility of the unit owners but does say that the owners are responsible for items such as windows and balcony glass. The roof is listed as a responsibility of the association. Should not the skylights be considered the association’s responsibility, as part of the roof? E.K. (via e-mail)

Answer: Possibly. One of the most common questions facing unit owners and associations when condominium property is in need of repair is, “Who is responsible for fixing this?” The answer is often found in the condominium documents which should contain a description of the boundaries of the units and identify the maintenance responsibilities of both the association and the unit owners. Often, particularly with original developer-written documents, these responsibilities are not spelled out with the detail that is typically considered desirable. You state that the responsibility for maintenance and repair of “windows” belongs to the unit owner while the association is responsible for “roofs.”

When both parties find language in a document to support their position, or where the language is ambiguous, the parties may require a court to resolve the dispute. Decisions made in prior cases, either by a court or DBPR arbitration, may provide insight as to the likely outcome in your case. There have been cases that have found that skylights are “windows.” In applying this to your facts, you, as the unit owner, would be responsible for the repairs and the costs associated with the roof leak in your skylight because you have the responsibility for repairing and maintaining windows per your condominium documents.

My advice would be to consult an attorney who can carefully review the condominium documents.

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