When bad weather or misfortune happens in a community, the last thing an association manager desires is confusion about who is responsible for which repairs. Damaged shingles, leaking pipes, downed trees, and other maintenance issues can cause frustration for homeowners and managers alike. When it comes to maintenance, HOA and COA managers should equip themselves with the right tools to navigate through what can sometimes be murky waters.
What does your governing documents say about maintenance?
Phrases like common area, exterior surfaces, and general maintenance can be the primary source of much frustration. In some ways, the statements that include these words are meant to be vague to avoid being too specific and getting pigeonholed one way or the other. On the other hand, the ambiguity of these phrases also causes uncertainty among interested parties. Ideally, the HOA or COA governing documents will designate with specificity what constitutes common area as well as association maintenance duties. If the association’s bylaws or declarations lack specificity, the association board might want to consider revising the document.
What is the divide between common areas and owner responsibility?
As Eads, Murray, & Pugh indicate, condominium common areas for which the association is responsible for maintenance and insurance, “typically include all building exteriors, hallways, elevators, streets, parking areas, lawns, entrances, and amenities such as pools, clubhouses, and tennis courts.” Owners then would be responsible for “maintaining and insuring everything within their condominium unit, as well as limited common areas reserved for their exclusive use, such as patios or balconies.” While these boundaries may not apply to every HOA or COA, governing documents should communicate clearly, at minimum, a boundary between common areas and owner responsibility.
How are exterior expenses defined and maintained?
Tragedies like Hurricane Irma in Florida and Hurricane Harvey in Texas can wreak havoc on building exteriors and grounds. Here again, the path forward to repairs of this type are best navigated from solid governing documents. Michael S. Hunter, an attorney and partner at Horack Talley in Charlotte, N.C., suggests managers consult with a structural engineer or architect to determine what components they’re willing to pay, seeking specificity as much as possible to avoid problems.” HOA Leader reports that the association in general is responsible for maintaining the envelope of the buildings. However, when owner damage stems from exterior damage then associations may well be responsible for it all.
The takeaway (and path forward in some cases) for working through similar maintenance issues is to ensure HOA/COA governing documents are specific and communication with owners is frequent and reliable. Often managers can avoid conflict by using common sense, foresight, and frequent communication regarding repairs and upkeep, according to Educational Community for Homeowners. A problem avoided is a problem solved.
Shalon Clevenger, HOA Management Consultant