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IKO has a four-step process to help you win your neighbor’s support in replacing the roof over both your heads
There’s a well-known expression that “good fences make good neighbors.” But if you live in a semidetached home or in a unit of a townhouse complex, that may only work outdoors for your yard or patio area. Indoors, you share walls and living space under a common roof. And if your neighbor has an issue such as a damaged roof, it could easily become your problem too.
Whether you own or rent, your personal safety and comfort rely on taking good care of your home environment. You feel a responsibility to have any necessary repairs made. But what if your neighbors don’t feel the same obligation? Do they even know that their property is causing problems for you? If your neighbor won’t replace his side of the roof or if a shared roof neighbor refuses to pay, what options do you have?
In this article, we address the most common problems when neighbors share a common roof and suggest some ways you can effectively communicate your concerns, obtain their buy-in to get the job done and, ideally, share the expense of a roof replacement.
Please understand that this article is meant to provide information of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for appropriate legal counsel. The issue is complicated because real estate and contract laws, building codes and related matters vary by location and legal jurisdiction. Please consult with legal counsel in your jurisdiction for further guidance as necessary.
The goal of this article is to help you with the soft skills required to achieve the outcome you desire, but it’s necessary to provide some background information as well. Our four-step process includes the following points, and each will be discussed in detail below.
Here are just three reasons why you may believe a new roof is necessary. Each involves a varying degree of urgency. Before you take the next step or talk to anyone, identify the problem you need to address and resolve. These examples appear in order of priority.
If so, be proactive and have the roof repaired or replaced before such damage leads to much bigger, more costly problems that might even endanger your family’s health.
Once you know exactly why you want or need a roof replacement, you must find out who is responsible for helping you get one before you talk to your neighbor. Why? Because to achieve your desired outcome, you need to tailor your talk or presentation to your joint unique situation.
For example, your neighbor will offer far less resistance if someone else will foot the bill. However, if you and your neighbors must bear the cost, you’ll need very persuasive reasons and solid benefits to counter any objections and obtain their financial support.
There are three possibilities of who might be responsible for sourcing and paying for a new roof, depending on whether you own or rent and whether your home is a semidetached house or one unit among many in a townhouse complex. They are:
Whether you own or rent a unit in a townhouse complex, it will typically be administered and maintained by a designated body or board most often called an HOA. The group usually consists of the property manager, complex owner(s) and a panel of volunteer homeowners who are elected to serve for a specified term.
HOAs have a legal and fiduciary responsibility to maintain the property value their owners have invested in it and to ensure the owners’ entitlement to “enjoyment of the premises.” A capital investment reserve account of funds is typically set aside to pay for property improvements, such as landscaping, pool and common area maintenance, accessibility or environmental upgrades as well as necessary repairs.
The latter may or may not include roof replacement, so you must check governing documents, such as your lease or purchase agreement. In many cases, the unit owner is responsible for all structural elements, including the roof.
If the terms clearly state that the HOA is responsible but sufficient funds are not in reserve, a “special assessment” may be levied, requiring all owners to contribute equally.
If you find that you are, in fact, fully responsible for maintaining or replacing your roof, be sure you understand any restrictions. For example, your community or HOA may prohibit materials other than asphalt shingles.
For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that you own the property, and it’s your responsibility to have the roof replaced. Whether your home is a freehold townhouse or a shared duplex, you must deal with your neighbor(s) before approaching an HOA or a landlord (if, for instance, you own your semi, but your neighbor rents his), or sourcing a contractor.
Here are some tips to help you now that you’ve done your homework and understand what you can and cannot do. Don’t let the word “presentation” scare you! We simply mean approaching your neighbor to have an open, but well-planned and carefully structured discussion that achieves your goal: having your neighbor share the cost of a roof replacement.
Most neighbors and landlords are reasonable people and will understand the many benefits of getting the roof replacement you wish to have, especially when you’ve presented your request effectively and in a pleasant, factual manner.
But what if a shared roof neighbor refuses to pay? Most importantly, be sure to know this upfront and not after the work has been done. The agreement you signed ahead of time will help prevent such an unexpected and unwelcome surprise.
Just as you anticipated objections, be prepared to offset your neighbor’s potential reluctance to share the cost. Here are a few strategies that might help if you find yourself in this situation:
Who knows? You might even barter for services in kind that your neighbor can provide. Be creative! Just remember to get everything in writing.
Here are some links to other articles that may help you choose a shingle color or prepare you to meet with contractors by knowing what questions to ask them. IKO can help you find a qualified roofing contractor.
We hope this article has helped you resolve some of the common problems when neighbors share a common roof.
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