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.