Question: I have a question concerning roof replacement when it involves zero lot line homes.
(Question continued) This case has four homes sharing common walls between them and all under one continuous roof. The roof is at replacement age and should definitely be replaced within the next year as it shows heavy wear per a contractor that made minor repairs. The 4 owners involved were approached, 2 owners agree that it should be replaced, one said wait till next year and the last neighbor refuses totally. He feels that the roof is good for many years and to wait till it starts to leak. Due to it being a continuous roof, the job needs to be done as a whole. There is no way to do a partial job ( 1,2 or 3 homes ) and if it were possible it would look rather shoddy. I believe the hold out is trying to leverage a free roof out of the other 3 owners, which will not happen as one owner has stated he’d pay only his share. How can this be resolved without waiting until there is actual water damage from a leaking roof? If there is damage the holdout has a 3 out of 4 chance it will not involve his property. This is quite a dilemma; can we legal John.
Answer: John. Tough question, and an even tougher answer. The developer may have anticipated this. First, I would review the title history to your property. When you bought the house, you should have obtained a title report. You may be lucky and find some easement language among the land records that addresses situations such as yours. If your settlement file does not contain any such information, perhaps the three of you should chip in and have the title searched.
But it is possible that there is no language in your title that assists you. Accordingly, you really have only two alternatives: first, wait until the roof leaks and then all four of you will have to hire a roofer. Clearly, this is not acceptable for several reasons, the main one is that the rain may cause damage to your property and based on the fact that you were trying to deal with this earlier (and know that there are problems), your insurance carrier may reject any claims.
Your second alternative: the three of you should hire an independent engineer to assess the condition of the roof and its useful life. If the report indicates that you have to deal with the roof now, I would send a formal letter to the holdout neighbor, send him a copy of the report, and put him on notice that he will be held responsible should there be any damage to any or all of the three other houses.
And if the neighbor still balks, and if the report indicates that the roof needs immediate work, your attorney may be able to file suit against the neighbor seeking a permanent injunction, thereby forcing him to cooperate.
It’s not a pleasant situation and unfortunately there’s always one person who stands out in a crowd.