ICE DAM PRIMER

Published on: March 2, 2015

Last Sunday’s balmy weather compounded the ongoing issue of ice dams for many of our clients and the risk of further damage remains. For this reason we are sending out this alert in an effort to help associations cope with the ongoing snow crisis that we are all struggling with.

QUESTION:

Do roofs have to be fully raked of snow and ice dams broken up before any damage occurs, and by whom?

Answer:

In almost all cases involving condominiums (with some exceptions) the roofs of buildings are common area and it is the responsibility of the association to maintain and to contract for any services.

Whether the entire roof of a building must be raked to remove snow and ice dams is fact dependent. If the roof is flat, and/or if there is excessive snow build-up or concerns over the structural integrity of the roof, associations should remove the snow and consult with an engineer to prevent any collapse.

Additionally, special attention should be paid to entranceways, walkways, or areas where the safety of residents is a concern and where damage to equipment is possible, such as where icicles form above exposed gas lines, meters, and even outside equipment like condensers.

However, it may not be necessary (or possible) to remove snow and ice from the whole building immediately, such as areas which are not accessible, or where there is no equipment located, such as the backs of buildings. But, if roofs are not raked and cleared, and an ice dam does form, and water leaks causing damage, there is a possibility that a claim alleging that the association was negligent in not taking reasonable steps to prevent the dam from occurring can be made.

A number of our clients have reported that there is a shortage of available contractors able to perform roof work because of the extremely high demand. Boards and managers should document all of their efforts in finding contractors in order to mitigate claims of inaction or negligence. If resources are scarce, priority attention should be first paid to areas that have actual leaks, and areas likely to leak – such as removing snow from the valleys, eaves, chimney, satellite dishes and other areas where water infiltration is more likely to occur.

QUESTION:

If water is leaking into the building or damage is occurring, what should the association do to mitigate the damage?

Answer:

Associations should use all reasonable efforts available to it to mitigate the damage. Such may include:

  • Raking snow from the roof – But, this should be done by a qualified contractor as there is a risk of damaging the roof if not done properly, and there is a risk that improperly raking can void the roof warranty. If possible use the services of the roof installer;
  • Roof pucks and nylons filled with a melting agent – again, needs to be done properly and not all substances can or should be used. Consult with qualified roofer;
  • Steaming the roof – an expensive method but may be appropriate in certain circumstances;
  • Make sure all affected areas are properly dried to prevent the growth of mold.

QUESTION:

In terms of reporting damage to master carrier and unit owner’s HO6 policy, what should be done?

Answer:

It is important to report damage as soon as possible – and that immediate action to mitigate damage and prevent mold is taken. Check with the insurance agent whether the claim can be kept “open” as additional damage may occur and this may help prevent the carrier from treating any further damage as a separate event thereby triggering a second deductible.

Additionally, if there is only a small leak – and it is not possible or practical to repair the actual leak now, managers should advise the unit owner to try and dry the affected area as best as possible but immediate repair of the area is not possible at this time.

Large leaks or emergencies warrant immediate response to at least stop the leaking. Immediate mitigation of soaked materials is essential– but final repair to the area should not be undertaken if there is a risk of the leak reoccurring. But, be aware that water infiltration is a code violation so calls to town or ISD could result in complaint against board which is criminal in nature.

QUESTION:

What needs to be done with regard to entranceway doors, windows used for access?

Answer:

Generally, removal of snow from anything serving as a secondary or primary means of ingress and egress should be done by the association. If some areas include decks, balconies, or other exclusive use areas associations may be able to adopt a snow maintenance resolution to shift the burden to the owners. Doing such may result in cost savings to associations as well as reduced risk of liability. Additionally, associations should clear furnace and dryer exhaust vents to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

QUESTION:

Does the association have to correct the underlying roof once the season is over?

Answer:

In most cases ice dams are caused by inadequate ventilation and/or insulation. Since the roofs of buildings are usually the responsibility of the association, if the roof system is not functioning properly, it is the association’s responsibility to correct the defect.

With regard to permanent fixes once the weather warms up and risk of further damage is done, associations should be consulting with an engineer or other qualified professional, and following their advice, which may include the following:

  1. Remove shingles and do ice and water shield-code might say 3 feet but 6 is better;
  2. De-icing cables in gutters and roofs-might be issue of how they are turned on, how electricity charge is dealt with, and whether they are appropriate for all conditions;
  3. Increase ventilation in attic- likely an association expense.
  4. Increase insulation in attic-also Likely an association expense

If you would like to discuss specific issues related to ice dams or related problems that your condominium association is facing, please contact Mark Einhorn at meinhorn@meeb.com or call him at 781-843-5000, ext.121.