THE CASE OF THE $100,000 DOOR

Published on: December 13, 2017

The MEEB litigation department recently obtained a long awaited victory for a Condominium Board in a maintenance dispute that first originated over a decade ago. The disagreement between the Board and a Unit Owner centered around a maintenance provision of the Condominium’s governing documents that discussed the duty to repair and replace a valuable set of luxury balcony doors.  One Unit Owner in particular was alleging serious issues with the set of balcony doors in his unit, and looked to the Board for recourse.  The Condominium Board took the position that the maintenance provision of the condominium documents shifted the duty to maintain the doors to the Unit Owner, and the Board had no obligation to address the alleged issues.

 

The contentious disagreement between the Unit Owner and the Board, that spanned ten years and two separate lawsuits, was finally concluded in favor of the Board at the Summary Judgment stage of litigation. Judge Wilkins, a Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court, ruled in favor of the Board’s Motion for Summary Judgment and stated in his opinion “…the operative language for the present purposes could not be clearer in placing responsibility upon unit owners for maintenance, replacement and repair of balcony doors….Indeed, only the unit owner can use the Balcony Doors appurtenant to his or her unit.  The unit owner is also in the best position to know of the condition, and need for repair and replacement, of that particular balcony door.”

 

While the Unit Owner strongly advocated that the Board must, as a matter of law, be responsible for the balcony doors because there were defined as common area property, Judge Wilkins agreed with the Board’s plan reading of the Massachusetts condominium statute and case law, which states maintenance responsibilities of common elements may lawfully be shifted to unit owners. Judge Wilkins wrote “[t]here is no doubt that the balcony doors are common elements under Section 4(B)(v) of the Condominium’s Master Deed.  However, ‘common areas may exist which, in fact, are used by only some of the unit owners, and…an association may assess maintenance fees to only those owner who use these areas.” citing Belson v. Thayer & Associates, Inc., 32 Mass. App. Ct. 256, 260 (1992), quoting Kaplan v. Boudreaux, 410 Mass. 435, 443 n. 7 (1991), discussing Tosney v. Chelmsford Village Condominium Assn., 397 Mass. 683, 687-688 (1986).  Judge Wilkins noted that M.G.L. c. 183A, §11(a) directs the condominium’s By-Laws to provide for the maintenance responsibilities of the common areas, and that the Condominium Documents unequivocally shifted those responsibilities to the Unit Owner for the balcony doors.

If your Board is facing a similar maintenance dispute, please contact the attorneys at MEEB for an interpretation of your governing documents.

For a copy of the Decision [click here].