Maintenance Responsibilities

We are often asked by Boards of Directors to assist them in determining the maintenance, repair and replacement responsibilities for certain components in their Association when the provisions in their governing documents are ambiguous about such responsibilities or are absent altogether.

First we need to distinguish the difference between ownership of common elements in a condominium association and ownership of common areas in a homeowners association.  In a condominium association each unit is owned individually and the common elements are owned jointly in common with all of the unit owners.  In a homeowners association each lot is owned individually, but the common areas are owned by the Association (not by the lot owners). To make it more challenging sometimes condominium units appear to be small lots. We realize these are subtle differences, but it is important for purposes of this discussion. Continue Reading Maintenance Responsibilities: Who is supposed to do what?


Q:  Our townhouse development has recorded covenants which require upkeep of the exterior to a high standard by each owner.  Not all owners follow the requirements. Some hire third rate contractors who do a poor job or take months to finish what they start.  We need to find a way to get better quality work done by our homeowners and get it done quickly after starting. Our board is thinking about starting a list of acceptable contractors who we have seen perform well and requiring the owners to use them.  Any suggestions?

Continue Reading Owner Maintenance

     Consider the situation where the Board of Directors has decided that they want to upgrade the appearance of an aging townhouse style condominium and they are talking about requiring all the unit owners to replace certain areas of vinyl siding with Hardiplank or similar high grade exterior product which is a much more expensive material. They are also going to require solid wood decorative shutters on some of the windows. The plan is to get bids, enter into a contract, and assess the owners because the association doesn’t have any money in reserve for this project. Some owners consider these improvements to be upgrades and say that the Board shouldn’t be able to require the owners to pay for upgrades as opposed to replacements.   This article can also apply to some degree to townhouse communities which are not condos but where the association has the responsibility to maintain the exteriors of dwelling units and common facilities.

Continue Reading What to do when the Board wants (or needs) to upgrade the condo exterior

I’m a member of the Common Area committee for our homeowners association.  Yesterday a resident asked me what the process is for buying common area property, if there’s a process and, if not, why not.  She’s interested in a tiny piece of land next to her home.  I told her I’d look into it and while I admit my research skills aren’t great, I cant find anything that says she can or she cant, and why.  Can you help point me in the right direction?
In answering you, I am assuming that this community is an HOA vs. a condominium.  There is no process via statute or otherwise, nor a prohibition regarding the acquisition of common area in an HOA.  The ability to do so may be addressed by the Declaration and a determination should be made if it is or not.   If not, then it amounts to a decision being made by the Board of Directors, acting in their fiduciary capacity, as to whether or not the parcel being sought is, or may be, of any real use to the members to use in common.  It would seem that a proposal of this sort should be publicized along with the price being offered and an opportunity given to the association members to comment at a board meeting where time is set aside specifically to hear comments on this owners proposal. I would think that an appraisal would be required so as to insure that the parcel is not sold for too little, which is not to say that the board may not require a significantly greater price.  A title exam should be done to make sure that the association got title to the common area from the developer… sometimes title is overlooked.  Also, there is an issue of getting City approval to carve out a parcel of land to sell to an adjacent owner that intends for it to become part of their lot.  There are City regulations on subdivisions with which you must comply.  You should talk to a local surveyor or engineer to find out if there is an issue.

Question:    I live in a condo subdivision with 176 units in Virginia Beach. Our board threatened to not open our pool this year citing the pool was too expensive to keep open. When we as homeowners purchased in this development we purchased the pool and use of it. I would think it would be pretty much understood all homeowners whether they use the pool or not are responsible via their association fees to maintain the pool and all common areas. If the cost of maintaining the pool increases, like anything else for that matter, shouldn’t the board just raise the association fees to keep the pool open. Can the board decide to just close the pool that we essentially own?

Answer:    Generally, the Board has the authority to make all decisions relating to the Association, unless your governing documents say otherwise. Assuming that your documents say nothing specific about operating the pool, the Board likely has this authority.

Consider that the Board is in a very tough position, as the decision to raise dues would be just as unpopular (perhaps more) than the decision to close the pool. Consider also that the Board may not have the legal authority to raise the dues over a certain amount without a full-blown owner vote (depending on what your documents allow), leaving them with no choice.

You are unhappy with the Board’s decision, but what is the general feeling among the other owners? If you believe that most owners would gladly pay the increased dues in order to keep the pool open, then perhaps you should organize an owner group to gather opinions and share these thoughts with the Board, or to call an owner meeting at which people can appear and voice their opinions. You may also be able to convince the Board to view the results of an owner survey before making their decision final.