Q&A: Dealing with Roof Damage

Q I live in an 18-year-old, 40-unit townhome association in Des Plaines. According  to our declaration and bylaws, the association owns and maintains the entire  shingle roof system including the skylights and flashings. Due to the poor  condition of our original roof, the association replaced our entire roof system  approximately 7 years ago.  

 Also, according to our declaration and bylaws, each unit owner is required to  have their individual homeowners insurance policy include any casualty losses  to their roof elements in lieu of the association having general coverage in  theirs.  

 In the wake of the hail storm we had last spring, about 30 percent of the unit  owners sustained significant damage to their roofs to where they have to be  completely replaced by making claims to their own insurance companies. I’m included in this count. The board deferred to the management company for  possible assistance with regulating or keeping some sort of control over this  program.  

 Since everyone is self-insured for their roofs, the management company seemed  only to respond by requiring that all unit owners have their roofs inspected  under a (hail damage) claim to their insurance companies and send the  management company copies of those reports for review.  

 Meanwhile, the management company is instructing the owners that have already  had their roofs inspected and approved for replacement to go ahead and find a  roofing contractor and have the work completed on their own. Hence everyone is  doing their own thing, hiring their own contractors and having their work done  with little or no involvement or regulation via the association or the  management company.  

 I have several questions or concerns regarding this situation:  

 1. Is this scenario typical for associations like ours that have the unit owners  insuring and repairing elements that are owned and maintained by the  association?  

 2. After having their roof replaced under their own insurance claim, how does a  unit owner turn the ownership and maintenance back over to the association? It’s my guess that it would after the contractor’s warranty period? 3. My insurance policy, like most of the others, carries a  $1,000 deductible. When applied to a roof claim, is the association in any way  accountable for this payment especially since the association gets a new roof  out of the deal?  

 ---Roofed Over

A “This is a good example of how a poorly drafted declaration can cause confusion  and difficult situations for an association's board of directors,” says Naperville-based attorney Peter Jagel. “If the association owns and maintains the entire roof system, then why are the  individual owners insuring and repairing these common areas? I would imagine  that if one were to add up the total of all the individual policy premiums for  the roof system, it would far exceed the cost of one premium for the  association. Although it sounds like the board is trying to follow the  declaration, these declaration provisions may be in conflict and need to be  amended.  

 “Your example also highlights the additional problems of lack of uniformity,  quality of workmanship and warranty issues that this procedure invites. Does  the association have architectural rules that require a certain brand of  shingle? Color of shingle? Quality of shingle? The association must take an  active role in any replacement or repair of an exterior element of the  townhomes, particularly when it owns and is responsible for that element. The  only way to ensure uniformity and prevent a "pig in a poke" situation is to  control this replacement/ repair process.  

 “If the declaration and bylaws do not provide for the deductible to be refunded  from the association, then it is probably the responsibility of the respective  owner. Remember that the amount of the deductible is usually tied to the amount  of the premium and, as the premiums are currently determined by, and paid by,  the owners, the deductibles would be paid by the owners as well.  

 “Your association needs to have consistent provisions in its governing documents.  If the board cannot adopt rules to supplement the declaration and bylaws to  deal with these declaration conflicts, the association may have to consider an  amendment to the declaration to resolve these issues once and for all.”    n