IS THAT DECK REALLY YOURS?
Limited Common Elements, or LCE’s, are probably the most misunderstood and questioned areas with respect to ownership and maintenance within an association. Most people have heard of the term, but what really are LCE’s and who is responsible for their repairs and maintenance?
The Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA) refers to a limited common element as any portion of the common elements allocated in the Declaration for the exclusive use of one or more units but fewer than all the units. In simple terms, a LCE is a component allocated to, assigned to, and/or used exclusively by a specific resident, but still considered to be the property of the association. The LCE typically includes unit entry doors, windows, balconies, patios, parking and storage spaces.
So, who really has the responsibility for the maintenance, repairs or even replacement? That depends on the Declarations when reviewed in conjunction with the Condominium Map. Oftentimes the maintenance, repair and/or replacement of a Limited Common Element becomes the responsibility of the association. Let’s use balconies or decks as an example. Typically, in properties where each unit has a similar balcony or deck, in size and construction, the maintenance is usually the responsibility of the association. However, the owner may be responsible to ensure the area is kept clear of snow and debris, but the association remains the responsible party to ensure this is done as well as for any future maintenance, repairs or replacement.
That being said, the Declarations may state that the total responsibility lies solely with the benefiting owner. This is usually found in properties where not all units have balconies, or even the same balcony. For example, in a multi-level building whereby only some of the upper level units have balconies and the ground level units neither have balconies nor patios, the Declarations may require that any maintenance, repair or replacement becomes the sole responsibility of the appurtenant owner(s). In these instances, the association may still arrange and pay for the repairs, but seek reimbursement from the owner(s).
In another scenario, if an upper level balcony is also the support structure and roof for a walkway below, the full structure of the balcony maybe considered a General Common Element with the cost of any repairs equally shared by all owners. In this case, as the benefiting owner still has exclusive access, that owner may only be responsible for keeping the balcony clean and tidy.
When trying to determine where the specific responsibilities lie for a LCE, it may be helpful to breakdown the components of the LCE. By example, do we know what defines a “balcony”? Does it include the support structure, walking surface, railings and sidewalls? What about in-floor heating? With windows, is the glass separated from the window framing for responsibility purposes? What about exterior and interior trim?
As an owner, it’s important to carefully read and understand your Declarations, again in conjunction with the Condo Map. Know what responsibility you have, if any, to repair or replace any Limited Common Element. If the Declarations are silent, the responsibility usually lies with the association which has the duty to exercise its responsibility as stated in the Declarations, both appropriately and consistently. It may be helpful for the association to prepare and adopt a Maintenance and Insurance Responsibility Chart that can further identify the specific areas of responsibility.