Q&A: Common Spaces Subject to Maintenance Increases

Q My question relates to maintenance increases for common spaces. For example, my condo board has notified all the owners that there is going to be a maintenance increase this year after a five-year assessment. So, if an owner has several combined units and has incorporated this common hallway space for their own personal use, is this space in question also subject to the upcoming maintenance increase? What do you think? Any answer would be appreciated. Thank you.

—Concerned in Connecticut

A issue you raise is whether this common hallway space—now apparently being used exclusively by one unit owner—is also subject to the maintenance increase,” says attorney Edward K. Shanley of the law firm of Coogan Smith, LLP, based in Attleboro, Massachusetts.

“Preliminary questions I have are whether the unit owner ever received permission from the condominium board to exclusively use the hallway space and whether the special assessment and maintenance fee increase are presently correctly assessed to all unit owners. To the extent that the special assessment and maintenance fee increases are correctly assessed to all unit owners, including the unit owner with the combined units, assignment of a greater portion of common area charges would not be lawful. On the other hand, if it has not been correctly assessed, there are legal mechanisms to address the situation.

“Generally speaking, a unit owner has no right to exclusively occupy any common area. Condominium boards can seek injunctive relief from a court to order the termination of an intrusion by a unit owner into common area if necessary. A court could also require that the beneficial interest of each unit owner in the common area be recalculated to reflect any proportionate change in the value of units due to the unit expansion. This recalculation would change the amount of a unit owner's common expense charges.

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