Q&A: Driveway Debate

Man Chopping Ice in the Driveway

Q. Approximately four years ago I moved to an over-55 condo association where each unit has its own driveway. The complex is about 12 years old, and when initially turned over by the builder to the association the inexperienced board was formed and decided that in order to save money, each unit at their own expense should treat their own driveways and cement/brick stairs with ice melt. This did not work out very well because it pitted the cement decks and loosened bricks.

At this year’s annual meeting I requested the board follow the bylaws and make arrangements to salt driveways because we are an aging community and the winters are getting colder and creating additional ice. Our chairperson said that the driveway was a limited common area and the responsibility of the owner. 

What recourse do I have to get my driveway salted, because I am not the only one with this problem?  If the board does not comply, do I refer to legal counsel??

                             —Aging New Englander

A. “The question basically boils down to who has responsibility for salting the driveways,” notes Gary M. Daddario, Partner at law firm Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, PC in Braintree, Massachusetts. “The answer should be clear upon a review of the appropriate sections of the association’s declaration. Since, based on the description provided, each unit has its own driveway, it is possible that the driveways are part of the unit, or limited common area, or common area.  

“The definitions of these items in the Declaration should identify which category applies to the driveways.  However, it is also important to read the sections on association maintenance and unit owner maintenance. While it is generally the case that maintenance of units is left to the unit owner while maintenance of common areas and limited common areas is the responsibility of the association, variances do exist. 

“So, in any particular case, it is necessary to read the maintenance sections and determine who has maintenance responsibility for the driveways in a given association.”

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