(TNS)—Q: I live in a two-story condo on the second floor. I have access through a trap door in the ceiling of my unit to the attic. I placed a small deck of plywood and use the space in the attic to store holiday decorations. The fire marshal said it was okay to use the area for noncombustible items. Our board members now say we cannot store anything over our units and they have the authority to insist we remove them no matter what the fire marshal says. I have lived here for years, and the use of our attics was never an issue. Could you please advise me?
A: You will most likely need to remove your storage from the attic; however, before you do, you should check your condominium documents to see what space you own. The documents will set forth what space you own outright, and what areas are held in common with your neighbors.
Most people usually think of the common areas as the lobby and parking lot, but stairwells, roofs and mechanical systems are generally also owned by your community. This means that putting items in the attic is little different from leaving them in the lobby.
Whether leaving items in the attic is a fire risk is only one consideration. There can be other reasons that you should not use the attic, such as maintenance requirements and fairness to other owners of the common space that don’t have access to the additional storage the attic provides you.
There may be some hope for you, however. You should speak with your board and neighbors about designating storage areas for various members of the community. Perhaps second-floor residents can use the attic and first-floor folks get space in a storage shed. Another idea might be to allow second-floor residents to rent the additional space from the community for a small fee. I’m sure there are other equitable solutions you and your neighbors can come up with if you put your heads together.
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar.
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