Recently we received the following question the answer to which could be helpful to many of you.

Q.       Our condominium has a serious need for some renovation work on windows, doors and some balconies. It is going to cost around $3,000 a unit as best we can tell right now. One contractor we consulted said it was not urgent and that we could do it over a period of time. Another contractor indicated that he thought the deterioration would accelerate and we needed to do all the work right away. The Board is divided on which way to go, and right now we only have four Board members, and it is a 50/50 split. Our next election is September and we cannot agree on a new Board member either. We have been at this standoff for four months now, and we need to move ahead with some plans, but we do not seem to be able to do so. Do you have any suggestions?

Continue Reading What to do when your board is deadlocked

     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

Q.        Our condo is a moderately priced community which was built in the 80’s and is now beginning to look dated.  The new condos of the same approximate unit size and same general location have a better curb appeal.  We are afraid that as interest rates creep up our owners will have more and more difficulty competing with other units.  Our board of directors wants to take action, but we don’t know where to begin in deciding what to do first to make improvements.  Our ideas might not be shared by other owners who may question our plan.  How can we address this critical issue and not make a big mistake that will cost us and our fellow homeowner’s lots of unnecessary money?


QUESTION: In my community, the work performed by hired contractors has been poorly done.  The most recent project involved painting the doors of individual units.  This work was performed just six months ago, and the paint is already peeling.  In Virginia, what steps can be taken to protect our community against hiring companies with poor job performance, and do arbitration clauses make it difficult to obtain monetary compensation once the contractor’s bill has been paid?

RESPONSE: Thanks for your question.  This isn’t necessarily a community association question, but is instead a general contract law question.  In other words, the advice I might give your association would be the same I might give an individual homeowner who got a bad paint job but doesn’t live in an HOA or condo.  Therefore, if your association is looking to hire an attorney to go after this contractor, it wouldn’t necessarily have to be one who specializes in community association law.

Continue Reading Poor Workmanship by Contractors

QUESTION:  I live in a condominium and despite repeated requests over a 2 year period, I cannot get the homeowner association to perform needed repairs on my home. A piece of siding blew off in March 07 and it is still off and it is now over six months later.  My door frame is rotted to the point that the door leans and needs to be propped up before the lock will meet the strike plate. I don’t know what to do, my insurance company won’t cover the damage because by the bylaws the association has to perform the tasks. Can anyone help me?

ANSWER:  Unfortunately, sometimes people (including associations) do not do what the law or the governing documents require them to do. Assuming your documents do require the association to fix the problem you’ve described (and this is never a sure thing, and something I cannot advise you on without thoroughly examining the documents), then you are essentially stuck waiting on the association for the time being, and you would ultimately have to file a lawsuit to force the association to act if it refuses.

Continue Reading Repair and Maintenance

An issue causing significant confusion in many condominium associations is “Who is responsible for maintaining or repairing what?” The best method of spelling out the answer to this question for the unit owners is to create an easy-to-read chart based on the pertinent provisions in the documents and the Condominium Act.

The first step in determining and clearly communicating maintenance and repair responsibilities is to create a chart that shows every item that will need replacing or require maintenance or repair. This would include such items as roofs, asphalt, pools, exterior siding and fences, as well as all of the other common elements. The list should also include all of the limited common elements and portions of the units such as drywall, flooring, cabinets, doors and windows.

The next step is to go through the list and make a determination as to whether the item is a common element, limited common element or part of the unit. The association’s Declaration should define which items are common elements and which are limited common elements or part of a unit. You should also review the recorded condominium plats and plans in order to make this determination. At this point you should get your attorney to review your preliminary work to make sure you are reading the documents correctly and are on the right track. Continue Reading Maintenance and Repair – Who’s Responsible?