Limited Common Expense Regarding Balconies/Decks – Town Hall Summary and Q&A

TOWN HALL MEETING SUMMARY

Queen’s Landing Council of Unit Owners

Held February 12, 2024   

 

Purpose of Meeting:   Solicit unit owner questions and comments on proposed Motion to Define Limited Common Expense Designation Regarding Balconies and Decks

Because this was a special meeting, only the sole purpose could be addressed– the motion to clarify Limited Common Expense Designation Regarding Balconies and Decks. Additionally, we could not address individual unit circumstances and will do so directly with the unit owner.

 

To Recap:

We are not making new rules. This is simply to clarify the language found in our bylaws. Based on extensive review of our governing documents we find:

  • Limited Common Expense relates to the maintenance/repair of Limited Common Elements – those spaces shown on the property plats as such, and which are generally for the exclusive use of the unit to which they are attached.
  • The Association is responsible for that maintenance/repair.
  • However, these expenses are separately assessed against one or more but less than all of the Condominium units generally in accordance with the use of the services.

 

What is the urgency?

Why now? Weather and age have taken their toll on the community balcony and decks. We have had almost 30 reports from Queen’s Landing condominium owners that their decks’ or balconies’ surfaces seem soft or that railings are loose. To preserve our assets and prevent safety issues we feel an urgency to inspect all these second story platforms to determine if there are unreported or emerging issues, and to embark on repairs as needed.

 

Homeowner Comments/Questions, Board Responses

Who determines which party is responsible for this work? The QLCUO Bylaws do. Article 5, Sections 5.1(a)(2) and Section 5.5(c) and Exhibit B to the Bylaws address these responsibilities. The purpose of the proposed resolution is to clarify the meaning of the multiple provisions that address these responsibilities for all to understand moving forward. The proposed resolution does not change the Bylaws.

 

What is the difference between a Limited Common Element and a Limited Common Expense? Limited Common Elements are certain common elements identified in the Declaration and plats that are for the exclusive use of one or more but less than all of the unit owners, e.g., balconies and decks. Limited Common Expense refers to the expenses associated with the maintenance, repair, and replacement of the Limited Common Elements, which are assessed against the individual unit owners in accordance with their use of the Limited Common Elements.

I have been here 21 years, and on the Board for many of those. Our governing documents are often vague. I don’t know why all unit owners should pay for work on someone else’s Limited Common Element. The Board agrees, and the Board believes the appropriate interpretation of the governing documents provides that the cost to maintain, repair, and replace the balconies and decks and their associated components are to be assessed against the units to which exclusive use of the balconies and decks belongs—not the community at large. Hence the reason for the proposed resolution to create a uniform process moving forward.

Why not raise the dues to start paying for all these items? Assessments are calculated as determined by the governing documents and there is no mechanism for unevenly increasing the assessments for units that have certain attributes, such as decks. Further, the calculation of assessments is based on the percentage of ownership assigned by the Declaration – not the quantity of features that belong to a unit, e.g., number of balconies and decks, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc.

After the restoration, some deck repairs costs were covered by the Association.  How is this different? The decks completed by Robert A. Aird, Inc. had a warranty. When nearing the end of the warranty period, the Council sent questionnaires to the unit owners to report any issues. A dispute arose between the Council and Aird regarding the performance of certain services under the warranty, and the Council received minimal compensation from Aird to settle the matter. The Council will be addressing the remaining repairs in the forthcoming project.

If the balconies are not something the Association is responsible for, why were they repaired as part of the prior special assessments? The frank answer is the current Board does not know precisely why this was not separated from the special assessment. The current Board does know the Board in those years was navigating the community through complex and monumental issues and had not yet undertaken a comprehensive review of the governing documents and their intricacies, which is what the Board is now doing. This is one of the multiple reasons for the proposed resolution so that future Boards, managers, and unit owners alike have a clear understanding of the governing documents as they relate to expenses for balconies and decks moving forward, and to avoid uncertainty in the future.

What about recent deck repairs? Have they been paid for by the Association and why is this different? In limited specific instances, the Council has taken on the expense of inspection, destructive testing, and repairs in order to understand the composition and conditions affecting the buildings. The value in this recently was to gain situational awareness and craft a time and cost-efficient approach for future inspection and repairs.


Are the deck issues related to the work of past renovation contractors? The Board will not know the cause for specific issues at certain decks until a complete inspection is performed. This is a priority for the Board.

Are we still under warranty for the work of the renovation/restoration contractors? No, that work was completed by one contractor in 2015 and by the other contractor in 2018.

Can we get a longer warranty for the work done in the future? The Board will consider options for longer warranty protection if reasonably feasible.

Why is this inspection any different from past inspections? I have been inspected in the past, why do I have to pay for this again? The prior inspections are more than five years old. The Board considers it prudent to have all decks and balconies inspected at this time by an engineer.

What will this inspection entail? It is anticipated that the engineer will perform a visual evaluation of each deck and balcony for safety issues, construction issues, and moisture intrusion. The inspection will collect data for the 261 balconies and decks listed, review data, and issue a report detailing the general condition of each deck and balcony and detailing a summary of findings.

What will the process be for owners impacted by this? Will we be required to submit a maintenance request, or will all decks simply be included in the inspection and report? The exact procedure has not yet been determined, and it will be done so with input from the selected engineer. The Board currently envision that owners will not be required to submit a maintenance request.  If a requirement for owners to submit a request is adopted, that will be communicated to the community for their situational awareness.

I have already placed a work order for my balcony, which I think is soft. I was told it was on a list to be addressed but was never advised this would be at my cost. I would have moved forward years ago if I had known that. It has only gotten worse since then. How will this clarification impact me? The clarification made by the proposed resolution does not change the governing documents or their meaning. The Board anticipates as part of this process that the conditions of the many decks and balconies may be nuanced and may require input from its contractor and engineer about the change of conditions over time. Understanding that conditions may differ on a case-by-case basis, the Board has no choice but to wait for the completion of the inspection before making a decision about any specific balcony or deck.

What is this going to cost me? What have others cost? The Board anticipates that the results of the inspections will vary as will the costs to address found issues. Some balconies and decks may require multiple repairs, while others may require nothing. Regarding costs for work that was completed in the past, please remember this was not done on the larger scale of this project and the data extrapolated from that past work may not be accurate or useful in determining future costs.

I think the roof work was extremely high priced, and I could have gotten a better deal elsewhere. How can you assure me that will not be the case in the future? The Maintenance Committee and the Property Manager try to identify all contractors who are qualified for the specific work. Bids are solicited and proposals are then reviewed by the Maintenance Committee, which then recommends a selection to the Board. In general, we can get better attention from contractors the larger the job, and better pricing through the bid process. However, as a condominium association we do have insurance and licensing requirements that might exceed what you would accept in your own stand-alone home. So those standards may preclude lower priced contractors.

Is there a team of owners reviewing the accountability of all parties? Yes, the Maintenance Committee is comprised of a dozen volunteer unit owners who review and advise the Board on issues related to property maintenance and repair. Unit owners are welcome to attend Maintenance Committee meetings and participate.

Can unit owners pay for a nicer product if willing to pay for it? Will owners be able to use different materials or designs since the owners of units with decks will be paying for this work? We cannot answer this at this time. Once the inspection report is received, we will have a better definition of what is possible.

Are realtors and lenders advised of what an owner is responsible for, such as roofs and other items? Home buyers may request a Maryland Resale Disclosure which will include the governing documents. Home buyers’ lenders ordinarily review the provided information, and the Council answers follow-up questions, if any. The Council also takes steps to educate home sales professionals by offering realtor open houses to update realtors on the happenings in Queen’s Landing (exterior renovation, roofs, etc.) and educate them on the governing documents so that buyers are informed buyers.

Are Board members going to benefit from this work? No. Board members have no interest, financial or otherwise, in any contractors with whom the Council is engaged. If that situation arises, then the conflict would be disclosed and resolved in accordance with Maryland law.

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