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Pool access must be limited

Question: We received a letter addressed to the owner of our association saying that we have to put a fence around our swimming pools. Must we do so, and if so, who should pay for it? _ North Miami Beach

Answer: You must comply with local and state ordinances governing safety standards for swimming pools. Modifications must be made in compliance with local building codes and with handicap access limitations in mind. Any improvements to the common elements are, of course, a cost of the association, and you know who pays those costs _ the unit owners.

I would like to stress the importance of fencing open, outdoor pools to limit access. In addition to the obvious problem of keeping the uninvited out of your pool, the fence might keep unattended children from drowning, help keep trash from blowing into the pool, increase privacy and make residents feel more secure. The board will be a little less liable, and your insurance company will like the idea of mitigating an existing hazard.

Negotiating to

fix leaky roof

Question: A leak in the roof over my apartment has stained the ceiling in the bedroom. Each time I report it to the management, someone is sent to fix it. Two weeks ago we agreed that a real roofer should be called in on the job. I think the leak is now fixed, but the water marks on the ceiling remain. I was a board member for nine years and know a roof leak is the association's responsibility. Am I correct? _ Largo

Answer: The law generally holds that the maintenance, repair and insuring of the ceiling and wall finishes and coverings are the responsibility of the unit owner. They are considered personal property. Florida Statute 718 says, "The word "building' does not include unit floor coverings, wall coverings, or ceiling coverings. If they are not part of the building, the association has no obligation to keep them in repair."

However, where negligence can be established, the association can be liable for the cost of repairing the unit. A court finding specifically on this point was Bisque Associates of Florida vs. Towers of Quayside No. 2, as reported in Florida Law Weekly, March 1994.

Your letter seems to indicate that the management of your condo has continuously made repairs to the roof upon request. That's good. However, if the quality of those repairs did not solve the problems of leakage, the association may still be negligent for not having done more. Instead of filing an expensive lawsuit, I would first ask the association if it is willing to go through a mediation process to privately and voluntarily work together to have the roof fixed once and for all. If the association agrees, the Bureau of Condominium (800-226-9101) will send you a list of mediators in your area to choose from. There is no cost to either party; these mediators are volunteers. They will work with each party to help identify the issues, consider the options available, and reach a mutually acceptable agreement. If that does not work, the door is still open to solving the dispute by arbitration or through the courts.

Jack Holeman is a longtime condominium manager, owner and board member. He welcomes your questions. Write to Jack Holeman, Condo Line, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Sorry, he can't take phone calls or provide personal replies. You can call the state Bureau of Condominium office in Tallahassee with your questions at (800) 226-9101 or (904) 488-0725. Or call the Tampa bureau at (800) 226-6028 or (813) 744-6149. Or write to the Bureau of Condominium, Correspondence Unit, 725 S Bronough St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1033.

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