View from a client's roof deck.
I’m a big fan of roof decks. They’re just fun spaces that give urban condo dwellers the feeling of a yard. They can also be a big source of frustration if the legal “paperwork” isn’t done correctly. To avoid a legal nightmare and to protect your summertime margarita-sipping space, do your homework:
1. Make sure the ownership is clear. Most people would simply say, “Unit 3 has the deck.” That line’s good enough for a sales pitch, but it’s not enough to protect your legal interests. You need to take a closer look at the condo documents.
Look carefully at the Master Deed. It must clearly lay out the specific nature of control of and responsibility for the roof deck. For example, a master deed provision that only says that “the roof deck belongs to Unit 3” would be insufficient. A well-crafted master deed spells out precisely the legal nature of the ownership (usually an easement), responsibility for maintenance/repair/replacement/construction (all different things), responsibility for damage to the roof, and activities allowed on the deck. If these things aren’t laid out, just think of all of the neighborly disputes (and challenges to ownership) that could arise.
2. Make sure it’s legal. It’s relatively easy to verify ownership – just look at the master deed. Legality, however, is a bit more difficult. In addition to owning the deck rights, you should carefully look at zoning requirements, building code provisions, and building permit history. While this can be a scary maze of state and municipal law, it’s an important step. Failure to abide by all building requirements could lead to the teardown of the deck, fines against you & the condo association, or even criminal penalties.
Like all other posts, this isn’t meant to scare you. Roof decks, I think, are worth the hassle. Just do your homework.
For more resources, click here.