Mantaining Sprinkler and Heat Detectors - Who Is Responsible
Question: Q: I live in a 22-unit townhouse complex and we are uncertain about who is responsible for maintaining the internal sprinkler alarms and heat detectors. The sprinklers are located in each unit; the heat detectors are located in the attic of each unit, but they are powered from a panel in the utility shed. The question arises because the condominium documents seem to define the attic as a common are, although only unit owners have access to the attic space above their own units. Any idea how we should sort this out?
Answer: A: The condominium documents should identify the common areas, as distinguished from limited common areas and exclusive use areas, and should specify who is responsible for maintaining what. If the condominium documents are written properly (which they aren't always), association attorneys say they should describe the attic as an exclusive use or a limited common area and make maintenance of the heat detectors a unit owner responsibility. In that case, the association would be responsible for the electric panel to which the alarms are connected, because it is located in the utility shed, which, presumably, is defined clearly as a common area.
if the documents define the attic as a general common area, that would mean the association is responsible for the heat alarms, but it would also mean that owners have no right to store material in their attics or to finish off the space, which probably was not the intent and is unlikely to reflect the way in which the space is being used. If your documents are not clear or don't reflect the logical use of the space, your association should consider re-writing them. There appears to be no question about the sprinklers, which are located within the units and are clearly the responsibility of unit owners. However, the association would have a legitimate interest in making sure owners maintain that equipment because of the obvious risk a fire in one unit would pose to other units and residents.