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Subject: Firewall maintenance and repairs
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Author Messages
KP1
(Colorado)

Posts:55


10/03/2018 11:29 PM  
HOA Board member here. We are determining the responsibility, repair and maintenance of our firewalls. They are not specifically identified in the CCR's. Firewalls exist between all units and are a building code requirement.
We have discovered that one has been damaged and parts are missing when a new owner purchased the property - it was noted in the inspection at purchase. No one knows who did the damage or even which unit did the damage. Who should repair and pay the cost? One unit, both units or the HOA?




































































































































TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:15999


10/03/2018 11:46 PM  
KP,

It's going to depend on what language is within your governing documents.
You need a legal opinion on this.
KP1
(Colorado)

Posts:55


10/03/2018 11:56 PM  
Governing docs declare the HOA is responsible for repair, replacement and maintenance of all the Limited Common Elements but does not specifically mention firewalls.
I am inclined to believe firewalls would/should fall under Limited Common Element as it serves more than one owner but within that building only.

But I do agree - it would be very wise for the Board to have a legal opinion specifically if we wish to force the owner or owners of both units to pay for the repair.Also of concern to me is our liability - what happens if there were to be a fire and the Board was aware of the defects and took no action. What would our insurance company say if they knew of this issue? It's been 10 months of indecision and ultimately it is about community safety, insurance and complying with building codes.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:2435


10/04/2018 1:20 PM  
Ideally you would have "Party Wall" language in your documents that explicitly set forth the responsibilities for maintenance, repair and/or replacement. If that's missing then I agree with Tim that you should consult an attorney.
KP1
(Colorado)

Posts:55


10/04/2018 2:15 PM  
Tim,

My I ask what your background is? Board member? Legal? No offense intended just still in the info gathering for this issue with report to the rest of the Board.

I understand if you do not wish to answer this question.

Thank you for responding to my original questions.

KP
KP1
(Colorado)

Posts:55


10/04/2018 2:15 PM  
Tim,

My I ask what your background is? Board member? Legal? No offense intended just still in the info gathering for this issue with report to the rest of the Board.

I understand if you do not wish to answer this question.

Thank you for responding to my original questions.

KP
KP1
(Colorado)

Posts:55


10/04/2018 2:16 PM  
GenoS,

My I ask what your background is? Board member? Legal? No offense intended just still in the info gathering for this issue with report to the rest of the Board.

I understand if you do not wish to answer this question.

Thank you for responding to my original questions.

KP
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:5767


10/04/2018 3:33 PM  
What, exactly is a "firewall," or a "party wall" We are a condo building and the walls between and floors/ceilings above/below the units are common area. The sheetrock is owners' separate interest.

Is your HOA young enough where this damage may actually be a construction defect?

Can you tell us how--the method by which--this damage will be repaired?
KP1
(Colorado)

Posts:55


10/04/2018 4:06 PM  
A firewall is placed between each unit - this one that is damaged is in the attic. It's made of material to slow down fires spreading from one unit to the other. It is a building code requirement here (Co.). I personally have not seen this damaged one so I cannot say what it is made of - but apparently the gap is significant enough that both units attic space is visible from the others. It's specific purpose is to separate the units AND to retard fire spreading.

We do not know who or which unit or indeed which past owners may be responsible for the damage/gap.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:7772


10/05/2018 12:58 AM  
Firewalls are walls between adjoining units designed to slow down fire from spreading from unit to unit. Some are as simple as double layer drywall some as substantial as concrete block walls with space/insulation between them.

My initial blush is the unit with the damage to the wall, regardless of when occured, is responsible for repairing it.
KP1
(Colorado)

Posts:55


10/05/2018 5:43 AM  
The Firewall is shared by 2 units - it does not belong to either. and equally serves both in the same capacity. No one knows which of the units did the damage. If the belief is that the responsibility is the owners - then would not both owners need to pay for the repair equally?
EllieD
(Vermont)

Posts:435


10/05/2018 7:30 AM  
KP,

A bit more information would be helpful. Would you describe the buildings? Are they 2 or 3 story side by side condominium Town Houses?

Assuming they are:

1. Are the attic areas owned by the Condominium Unit Owner? Or

2. Are the attic areas Limited Common, that is -- is the Condo Unit Owner allowed to use the attic, for example, to store things up there? Or

3. Are the attics considered Common Areas or Elements? That is the Unit Owner is NOT to go into the attic for any reason – except perhaps to make some sort of repair?

4. How is a Unit defined? Does the Owner, own from the back surfaces of the wallboard of the perimeter walls, floors, and ceilings, inwards? Or similar language?

-- What do your Documents say? Sometimes it is from the paint inward, and sometimes from the back of the wallboard surfaces of the perimeter walls, floors, and ceilings inward.

-- Perhaps something like this: UNIT BOUNDARIES. Except as provided by the declaration: If walls, floors, or ceilings are designated as boundaries of a unit, all lath, furring, wallboard, plasterboard, plaster, paneling, tiles, wallpaper, paint, finished flooring, and any other materials constituting any part of the finished surfaces thereof are a part of the unit, and all other portions of the walls, floors, or ceilings are a part of the common elements.
KP1
(Colorado)

Posts:55


10/05/2018 7:49 AM  
We have 4 buildings housing 14 units. One building has 5 units, another has 4 units, another has 3 units and the building in questions has 2 units. Each unit is a try-level condominium. The best description from the docs indicates boundaries begin with all finished surfaces from interior of units are the responsibility of the homeowners.

We must assume this firewall exists between each unit as a shared firewall. I have requested that the Board have a fire inspection of all units - this being Fire awareness month. Local fire marshalls love to work with communities to direct them how to be safe and equipped properly. They do not charge for this either. I think this is a great way to inspect all firewalls and make sure our buildings and homeowners are safe.

There are multiple issues here, who fixes, who pays, code violations and safety. Probably the safety issue is most important for both homeowners and for HOA insurance. If we are found to be negligent in maintaining a required safety structure or building code- that could have an impact on our HOA property insurance premium..
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:5767


10/05/2018 9:05 AM  
Ellie asks good questions.

Still, my above, is it possible the damage is a construction defect?
KP1
(Colorado)

Posts:55


10/05/2018 9:10 AM  
This units are nearly 40 years old and original builder/developer was a pretty shady fellow so anything weird about them is not unusual. However, my attic has a complete wall - I believe most attics are like mine - rough and unfinished.

This is why I believe inspecting all the attics/homes by a fire marshall would be a benefit. Let's see what they all look like.
JeffT2
(Iowa)

Posts:400


10/06/2018 7:48 AM  
Posted By KP1 on 10/05/2018 9:10 AM
This units are nearly 40 years old and original builder/developer was a pretty shady fellow so anything weird about them is not unusual. However, my attic has a complete wall - I believe most attics are like mine - rough and unfinished.

This is why I believe inspecting all the attics/homes by a fire marshall would be a benefit. Let's see what they all look like.



What could go wrong?
JeffT2
(Iowa)

Posts:400


10/06/2018 7:49 AM  
If the firewall is not described as a limited common element to be maintained by the unit owner, and the firewall is not within the boundaries of the unit, then it is a common element that the association maintains. It is really very simple.

The first thing to do is fix it. Repairs of the common elements, especially a firewall, should be done by the association and should not left to a unit owner or owners.

If you can't find out who caused the damage, then you can't send the bill to anyone.
KP1
(Colorado)

Posts:55


10/06/2018 8:33 AM  
Actually, this is what I believe as well. But others on the Board have a differing opinion.

But if their premise is that the repair belongs to the owner - I believe they must send the bill to BOTH unit owners and not just the one who discovered the damage. That if they wish to pursue this avenue we should speak to an attorney.

KP1
(Colorado)

Posts:55


10/06/2018 8:36 AM  
It is my understanding that a Fire Marshall cannot penalize upon inspections but can make recommendations. I called and them and asked this question. Sure we may find we are out of code compliance which then means we must fix the issue so homes are safe.

Is it better to be ignorant and face liability issues?
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:7671


10/06/2018 9:55 AM  
Let's go about it this way... WHEN those homes catches on fire... What will the result be if they find a faulty firewall? Considering the results could be you know like dead people/pets and all... Seriously, a firewall isn't something to debate. It's something to deal with immediately. Fire spreads quickly hence why there are firewalls in attics.


I say it's a situation where the HOA pays because the HOA benefits from the results. It may be just 2 units but when fire spreads it's going to spread. Which if it's in the middle could take out the whole building.


We don't have firewalls as we are mostly separate buildings. There are a few attached. However, those owners work out those things with each other. Our house are about 10 feet apart from each other. Which is why we want chimney inspections before someone lights a fire in their fireplace. One house catches on fire, you have the potential of 3...

Former HOA President
KP1
(Colorado)

Posts:55


10/06/2018 11:31 AM  
Yes, I also have said this as well. Should the worse scenario occur - the talk about who should have paid for repair will be moot and I would bet our HOA insurers might have some grounds to deny a claim since we did not ensure safety and building codes were complied with.
KP1
(Colorado)

Posts:55


10/06/2018 11:31 AM  
Yes, I also have said this as well. Should the worse scenario occur - the talk about who should have paid for repair will be moot and I would bet our HOA insurers might have some grounds to deny a claim since we did not ensure safety and building codes were complied with.
RoyalpitA
(South Carolina)

Posts:147


10/11/2018 3:04 PM  
A firewall, by virtue of necessity, is most DEFINATELY a common element of the association.

Its repair, by virtue of necessity, is an expense of the association as a whole.

The association if free to seek redress from the party or parties who damaged same.



SHEEEEZ, we are discussing a fire-wall.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:5767


10/11/2018 9:38 PM  
I believe that RPita is exactly right IF your documents state that owners pay for damage they cause to the common areas.
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