Q I am a shareholder of a co-op apartment building. I have a mold problem which stems from water damage coming through the outside bricks. I had a mold assessment company take air and material samples. It was determined that there is extensive mold growth and damage. I assume the management company is responsible for any and all cleaning and repairs to my unit?
—Responsible in Riviera Beach
A “In order to address your question, it is necessary to first identify what a cooperative is,” says attorney Joshua D. Krut, a partner with the Fort Lauderdale-based law firm of Weiss Serota Helfman Pastoriza Cole & Boniske, P.L. “A cooperative is a legal entity consisting of individual shareholders. Unlike a condominium or homeowners’ association, owners in a cooperative do not own or hold title to their particular unit. Rather, the cooperative grants each shareholder the right to occupy one unit (subject to an occupancy agreement, like a lease) and share the communal resources of the cooperative. Florida Statutes, Chapter 719 governs all cooperatives located within the state. Although Florida Statutes § 719.104(1) permits the association to access each unit during reasonable hours to repair any structural components of the building necessary to prevent damage, the statute does not address whether the association bears the cost or liability for these repairs. In addition to the statutes, cooperatives are governed by their articles of incorporation and their bylaws. The bylaws may contain provisions governing repairs, including provisions addressing whether the association or individual shareholders are responsible for repairs of the individual units. The occupancy agreement may also provide insight into what repairs the unit owner is responsible for. For example, many occupancy agreements state that the shareholder is responsible for everything in their apartment, including fixtures, and the cooperative is only responsible for the building envelope and the pipes inside the walls. If the water damage causing the mold is originating from the outside bricks, it is likely that the cooperative would have to pay for any repairs, since the outside bricks are part of the building envelope. However, when determining whether the association is “on the hook” for repairs, it’s best to consult the governing documents and your occupancy agreement for clarity.”