A Q & A on the Heather Knoll Roof Reserve Requirements

The following is based on legal and other documents found at http://www.heatherknoll.org/roof_legal.html.

Why do we have a roof reserve?

In 1993, Heather Knoll’s developer and builder created the roof reserve by executing a Supplementary Declaration (“Declaration”) to subject the Property (meaning the real estate in Section 73, Block 5 that was developed as Heather Knoll) to additional covenants and restrictions.  The Declaration establishing a roof reserve fund (or funds) for the maintenance, repair and replacement of the community’s roofs is recorded in the land records of Fairfax County; it is supplemental to our Deed of Subdivision, which is the document that submits Heather Knoll’s Property to the Reston Deed, formally known as the First Amendment to the Deed of Amendment to the Deeds of Dedication of Reston.  The Declaration spells out the how the roof reserve is to function, the board of director’s responsibilities, penalties, and how the roof reserve might be changed or ended.

Note:  Wherever used in the rest of this document, Association shall mean Heather Knoll Cluster Association and board shall mean the Association’s board of directors.

Why did the developer establish the roof reserve?

Although each homeowner owns their roof, all of the homes in the cluster have a shared roof. Twelve of the thirteen buildings were constructed with a contiguous roof on the fronts of the end and adjoining interior units. One building has a contiguous roof across the front of all four units.  Because of the way the roofs were designed and because the rooms in the front sections of each end unit and adjoining interior unit zigzag with one another, this being known as a Z-lot, you share a roof with your neighbor. For this reason, there is the potential for water to enter and damage either both of the homes or just the adjoining home due to a leak occurring to the roof section above the other home.  In fact, in a couple of instances when roofs began to fail, this actually occurred.

This potential problem does not exist for single family homes or for townhomes that have physical barriers separating their roofs. To deal with this potential problem, the developer added the covenant to establish the roof reserve fund.

What is the history of the roof reserve issue?

Most of the homes in the cluster were built in 1994-95, but beginning around 1999, roofs began experiencing leaks. Concern that the roofs were aging very prematurely led to the board having all roofs inspected. 

In May, 2000, the board passed an amendment to the Association’s Bylaws which, among other things, declared that the roof reserve would apply solely to the complete replacement of roofs.  We now know that this action was invalid because the Declaration cannot be amended solely by a vote of the board.

In the spring of 2001, David Hawn of Dedicated Roof and Hydro-Solutions conducted an exhaustive inspection of all 52 roofs and provided the board president with a Roof Condition Report dated April 4, 2001.  There were six wholesale conditions noted, meaning they were present on all roofs, which required immediate attention, and there were 38 unit-specific conditions noted.  Each owner received a copy of the report so they could address the condition(s) as they saw fit.

In February 2008, a survey of owners was completed.  Of the 25 respondents, 15 owners reported they had made roof repairs collectively totaling $17,000 - repairs that did not involve homeowners’ insurance damage claims.  Other owners made repairs after the survey.  Several owners realized that continuing to repair a failing roof was just throwing good money at a bad situation and decided that replacement was the better way to go.

In 2009, owners began replacing their roofs, accessing the roof reserve funds that had been contributed by them or by the prior owners of their homes.  This continued through 2010 and 2011, and there have been 50 roof replacements to date, although one owner has replaced only the front.

Up until 2009, the boards of directors believed that the roof reserve was intended to act just as the paint reserve had up until that point, meaning that each owner could access only the funds that they, or the previous owner of their unit, had contributed into the roof reserve. The board also believed that the board’s action in May 2000 to amend the bylaws meant that the roof reserve fund could only be used to help with the cost of complete roof replacements. In 2009, the board also voted to allow two adjacent homes to replace a roof versus requiring all four homes in the building to replace their roofs at the same time.

In 2010, however, the board sought legal advice on the Declaration and discovered that the Association was responsible for roof maintenance and repair as well as replacement. Nevertheless, given the lack of funds in the roof reserve fund, the community’s owners continued to replace their roofs, receiving the amount that they, or previous owners of their unit, had contributed to the roof reserve fund and using their own funds to pay for costs above that amount.

What did an attorney say about the roof reserve declaration?

In summary, Ken Chadwick of Chadwick, Washington, Moriarty, Elmore and Brown of Fairfax (a firm specializing in homeowner association governance) indicated, in writing, that the Association is responsible not only for the setting and collection of a roof maintenance assessment, but also for the establishment of a roof (replacement) reserve and for the performance of the roof maintenance itself. He also explained the process for amending or terminating the Declaration.

What are the responsibilities of the Association set out in the Declaration?

  1. The Association is to maintain, repair and replace the roofs;
  2. This responsibility is over and above the responsibilities described in the Reston Deed;
  3. The standards for maintenance, repair and replacement are to be determined by the Board of Directors;
  4. Owners shall pay an annual maintenance assessment to the Association to meet its annual expenses of maintaining the roofs;
  5. The Association is to maintain a separate reserve fund for repairs and replacement;
  6. The Association may establish other reserves for other purposes associated with the roofs.  The Owners’ proportional interest in the roof reserves is considered an appurtenance to the lot and is deemed to transfer with the lot;
  7. The board is to establish an annual maintenance budget for the roofs;
  8. The roof Maintenance Assessment may be increased by 10% over the preceding year without a vote of the owners; a larger increase may be effected as the result of a reserve analysis, as conducted by the board, or with a majority vote of the owners; and
  9. A Special Maintenance Assessment may be levied “for the purpose of defraying…the cost of any construction or reconstruction or the extraordinary repair or replacement of any Roof(s).”


What is the penalty if someone refuses to pay their roof reserve assessment?


The Association has the right to place a lien on a property for the failure to pay such assessment. The board can also charge a late fee of $15 (or other amount established by the board) for any such assessment that is not paid within 10 days of its due date.


How would the Declaration be amended or terminated? The following are required:


  1. A vote by at least 75% of the total owners (one vote per unit), i.e. 39 owners;
  2. The signature of at least one officer of the board; and
  3. The approval of VA or FHA, if any homes are secured by one of them.


Was there a vote taken to terminate the roof reserve in 2010?

In an effort to determine the will of the community, the board initiated a referendum with three options regarding the roof reserve.  Simply stated, they were:

  1. Abolish the roof reserve;
  2. Continue funding the reserve at the (then) current level; or
  3. Increase the rates of funding to a level that would approach full replacement, as required by the Declaration, and to benchmark that rate for inflation over the next 20 years.


With 50 owners voting, the tally was:  Option 1 = 24; Option 2 = 10; Option 3 = 16. 


Because it requires 75% of owners (or 39 votes, one per unit) to amend or terminate the Declaration, it remained unchanged and, at the 2010 annual meeting, the Association voted to increase the quarterly funding rates for the roof reserve fund to a level that would approach full replacement, as required by the Declaration − $65.84 (end units) and $63.84 (interior units).  At the 2011 annual meeting, the Association voted to increase the quarterly funding rates for the roof reserve fund to $80.84 (end units) and $78.84 (interior units).


I don’t plan to be here in 20 years, why should I pay for a future owner’s roof replacement?


While all of the new roofs should have warranties, the company honoring the warranty may go out of business or a warranty may expire while you are still living in your home. If you need a repair, it is the responsibility of the Association to pay for the cost of a repair or replacement (unless it is something covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy or resulting from negligence).  And, if you sell your home, you can use the reserve’s existence as added value. However, the roof reserve stays with the home if you sell your home.

Isn’t my roof mine alone? Why should I help to pay for someone else’s roof if it needs to be repaired or replaced?

We do own our roofs. However, all of the homes in the cluster have a shared roof. This means that a leak that your neighbor experiences can cause (and has caused in the past) damage to your home such as collapsing ceilings and drywall replacement. The roof reserve is designed to address this potential problem.

How can I find out how much is in the roof reserve fund or how much I have paid into the roof reserve?

Detailed information concerning the roof reserve fund’s finances is presented at the annual meeting. Also, you can request information about the roof reserve fund from the board, either in writing or in person at any board meeting.