Category Archives: capital repairs

hammer with nails

HOA or Homeowner Repairs: Who Is Responsible For What? 

The regular and thorough maintenance of a condominium community is one of the aspects of living in a homeowner’s association (HOA) that many unit owners appreciate. In fact, many unit owners potentially chose a community because they would not need to take care of typical chores that other homeowners need to deal with, such as mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes, regular repairs, plowing the driveway, repairing broken and well-worn aspects of the building, and cleaning of the common areas and amenities. 

While most HOAs have bylaws and governing documents that clearly outline who needs to maintain and repair what areas, it can sometimes be confusing to figure out who handles certain repairs. Therefore, the goal of today’s blog is to educate unit owners, future buyers, and association members about maintenance responsibilities which fall in a unit owner domain versus those of a homeowner’s association. 

How HOA’s Are Divided

Before buying a condo or moving into a community, it is always good to understand how the responsibilities are divided. Association responsibilities are usually divided between the governing board and the individual unit owners. 

Individual unit owners are generally in control of the rights of that unit. Unless otherwise stated in the association bylaws or documents, this includes: the floors, ceilings, and walls of each unit including the airspace and paint on the interior walls. In townhome communities, this area of responsibility extended to the individual piece of land surrounding each individual unit, as well as any other structure/s within it.

Likewise, associations and the governing boards connected to them, have areas that they are responsible for maintaining and repairing. The Declaration, Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) document should have detailed information that will set out specifics for each community. This document is made available to all community members. 

The HOA handles the maintenance of shared common areas as well as the overall building structure. Limited common areas are the shared responsibility of the HOA and unit owners who benefit from them. 

Specifics to Your Association 

Before you request a repair or start working on one within your individual unit, you may want to consult the CC&R for your association. Here are a few areas that could get confusing so you will want to ask for clarification. 

  • Roof and exterior walls: Depending upon the guidelines of your community, these areas are most often defined as common elements, but the unit might include the interior surface or drywall.
  • Floors or ceilings: Similar to walls, the unit might include just the surface, halfway through, or the whole floor or ceiling. Check your CC&R for specifics. 
  • Windows and doors: As determined by your association contract, the frames, glass, and the hardware might or might not be a part of the unit. It could be considered a common area. 
  • Permanent fixtures: Cabinets, flooring, sinks, and the like are typically considered part of the unit and thus the responsibility falls to the owner of the unit. However, certain fixtures including outdoor porch lights or garage lights might not be included.
  • Plumbing, electric, air conditioning systems: The portions serving air, water, and electricity to the unit may be under the unit owner’s domain, but when these areas serve other units as well, it could be considered a common area.  
  • Decks, balconies, and patios: These might be part of the unit, common elements, or limited common elements. (Source: Nolo Law) 

As you can see, the determining factors of what responsibilities belong to which party is mostly included in the documentation given to unit owners at the time of the purchase of the property. Examine those documents before you begin any repairs to determine who is physically and financially responsible. 

 

pool

Capital Improvements Vs Regular Maintenance

One of the frequently cited reasons why residents choose condo or community living is the idea that they have very little responsibility when it comes to maintenance, upkeep, and repairs for the structure of the buildings, outdoor areas and amenity areas. In fact, it frees up quite a bit of time and energy for homeowners who live busy work lives and want to spend their free time tending to family, friends, or hobbies they enjoy. 

Capital repairs or improvements, therefore, are an important part of the management of a condo or rental community. It is critical that the board in charge has a plan for what major upkeep items are scheduled each year and, in particular, what season is best to complete those repairs. Some projects are of greater consequence than others, so creating a calendar and list that is prioritized should be a part of the HOA or property management team’s responsibility. 

condo

What’s The Goal Of Capital Repairs? 

According to the Homeowners Protection Bureau, LLC, “A capital improvement is a planned discretionary permanent replacement, renovation, or alteration to the property that serves to increase the value,  makes it more useful, or  prolong its life.”  

As a member of an HOA or a community you will probably pay annual assessments, special assessments, and capital improvement assessments subject to being a part of that HOA. If you rent an apartment or home, your landlord will probably build the fees into the monthly rent or as a part of your deposit or downpayment. 

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What Are Included In Capital Repairs? 

Capital repairs otherwise known as capital improvements are not HOA maintenance fees. Those fees are generally maintenance fees for the regular upkeep of the property such as landscaping, gardening, cleaning the pool, maintaining the fitness room, maintaining the safety of the driveways during the winter months, and caring for common areas. 

Capital repairs or improvements are completely different. For example, cleaning and maintaining the pool area would fall under regular maintenance that you pay your HOA fee for. Capital repairs could include replacing the changing rooms, switching out new tables and patio equipment, or replacing the stone pavers. These things are larger ticket items that would need to be saved for and would only occur once every few years rather than annually. 

Another example of the difference between regular maintenance and the capital improvements would be plowing the walkways and parking lots in the winter vs repaving the lots or repairing frost heaves or cracks. Again, these repairs are more costly and don’t happen as regularly as the maintenance items do. 

Talk to your landlord or HOA about what the schedule is for your community in regard to capital repairs or improvements and find out how your voice can be heard on recommendations of future repairs. 

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