Irish Times Property Clinic 17th day of May 2022.
Publishing Date; Thursday the 17th day of May 2022.
Q I’d like to change two Velux windows in my second-floor apartment living room. They are quite small, and I think it would improve the living area a lot if I could put in slightly bigger windows. I have asked the management company, but they have refused to engage and simply say that any windows must be replaced on a like-for-like basis. Is this the final word on the matter or is there any means of taking this further?
A. The roof structure within which the windows sit is a common area and, as such, belongs to the owners’ management company (OMC). This is evident in section 1 of the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011.
So, what might appear to be a reasonably straightforward request has the potential to become quite a complicated issue due to the fact that you are seeking to alter the building fabric that does not belong to you.
The consequences of unqualified works with a flat-roof membrane or interference with load-bearing roof trusses, proximities to soil stacks and other ventilation outlets, services and conduits within the roof and other building elements could be significant. A review of the lease binding the owners’ management company to its members should be carried out before any further expense as it will likely prohibit any alterations to the common areas.
You may wish to consider engaging a chartered building surveyor who will represent you and provide a professional submission to the OMC. Their work would include an initial survey of the property. It may be necessary to review, but not be limited to, the building’s drawings and schematics, fire certificate and the original planning applications.
A qualified independent professional will provide valuable oversight of the window installation and the associated health and safety file compliance, method statements and engagement with the OMC insurance provider to ensure that all interested parties are correctly participating, and that reasonable care is being observed in mitigating risk to the OMC.
It is reasonable to assume that there will be additional costs associated for the OMC and its agents to review and work with you on such a task. It would be appropriate to seek the approval of the members at a general meeting.
If this proposal is not accepted but the lease allows for alterations, then your option is to seek an application in the Circuit Court under section 24 of the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011. Prior to this, mediation should be sought under the same legislation. It's worth noting that such an application would lead to significant legal costs to you and your fellow members, and will undoubtedly sour relations.
Paul Huberman MSCSI MRICS is a chartered property and facilities manager, and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland
Author: Paul Huberman of H&H Property Management Consultants Ltd
Publish Date: 17/05/2022