Maintenance Responsibilities For Condos: Owner Repairs vs COA Repairs

Condo Maintenance Responsibilities: HOA vs. Owner

One of the biggest appeals of the condo lifestyle is that these communities are generally managed by a  property management company known as a condominium owner's association. These parties play a vital role in the maintenance and upkeep of many spaces and amenities within the complex, leaving owners and occupants to handle minimal tasks.

However, it can be confusing who owns what in condo communities and who's responsible for certain repairs. Read on to learn how condo maintenance responsibilities are split between owners and the COA.

What Belongs to the COA & What Belongs to Owners?

Condominium communities are managed differently than single-family homes—even those with a property or condo owner's association. Tenants and owners of condos must abide by a set of bylaws and a legal agreement known as the community's declaration of covenants, codes, and restrictions (CC&Rs) issued by the COA, which may have stricter regulations than a traditional community.

In most cases, the COA owns the community's general and limited common areas, while owners own spaces that constitute their individual units. General common use, limited, and exclusive elements are generally held under the ownership of the COA and/or investors.

Individual units are typically established by what is entailed within the official property line survey and the space between attics and basements, floors and ceilings, and indoor areas between the walls.

Beyond the home itself, owners are typically considered the owners and liable party for major systems, appliances, water pipes, and private decks or patios. Owners are responsible for the bulk of the upkeep within these areas that they own, one of the differences between buying and renting a condo. However, there are exceptions in some situations where units connect or share common spaces, so let's address the maintenance duties now.

Who Handles Maintenance of Common Elements in a Condo Community?

Common elements are areas where the majority of all of the owners in the neighborhood have equal access to use and are considered shared spaces. Common elements most often consist of community amenities such as fitness centers, pools, clubhouses, and sporting courts.

Other common elements can also be those that ultimately serve more than one condo unit or spaces like walls, stairwells, hallways, and patios that connect with one or more units. These areas are generally maintained by the COA, a property management company, and other entities they employ for repairs and upkeep.

In condo communities, common elements tend to include:

  • Landscaping, Sidewalks & Parking Lots
  • Snow & Leaf Removal
  • Exterior Painting, Cleaning & Repairs of Siding & Fencing
  • Tree & Branch Trimming
  • Trash Collection in Common Areas
  • Roofing Repairs

While owners or tenants pay a set fee for these services to the condo owner's association or property managers, there may be periodic special assessment charges for major repairs or upgrades when the community reserve fund can't be expended.

Owner & Landlord Maintenance Obligations in Private Units

Condo Owners Have to Handle Repairs for Their UnitThe individual interior and dedicated space under the declarations and description of the owner's official property is considered part of a "private unit." Owners should be prepared to be held responsible for any repairs, maintenance, and replacements necessary within their individual units.

This means that any needs for new paint or wallpaper, flooring, plumbing, doors, and windows fall on the owner or tenant per their agreements. For the most part, the biggest expenses that owners need to be cautious of fall within the realm of appliances and major systems, like heating and cooling, water heaters, old pipes, and foundation problems.

Maintenance and Upkeep for Limited Use Common Elements

Limited common-use elements are parts of a condo community that are somewhat exclusive. They may be accessed by owners who pay an additional fee and may only be available for use at set dates and times. Many condo neighborhoods might have exclusive use areas that serve as rentable spaces. In these areas, maintenance and upkeep are almost always handled by the COA.

Spaces that fall within this category may include:

  • Elevators & Stairways
  • Conjoined Balconies & Porches
  • Shared Facade Window Boxes
  • Entryways to Multi-Unit Buildings & High-Rise Condos
  • Exterior Doors to Shared Access Points

There could be a bit of leeway in the determination of who is ultimately responsible for handling the upkeep of limited or exclusive common-use elements. This is why having clarity about any COA restrictions and CC&Rs for any community under consideration is so crucial for buyers. In the end, these covenants can assist owners if the need arises to solve disputes or file claims against neighbors or other entities for reimbursement and compliance assessments due to negligence.

What to Do if the COA Isn't Keeping Up With Maintenance Responsibilities

If the COA is not fulfilling its maintenance responsibilities, condo owners should take action. As a first step, you should approach the COA and express your concerns, as the COA may have valid reasons for not completing its tasks (for example, they are waiting on materials or contractor availablility to fix the problem) or may be unaware of the issue. By communicating with them directly, it may be possible to address the issue quickly.

If the COA fails to respond or is uncooperative, you may need to turn to other measures. Depending on the situation, you may choose to use legal action or consult with a lawyer—this is especially true if there are any safety hazards resulting from the lack of maintenance, such as a broken elevator or faulty wiring. In these cases, it may be necessary to take legal action to ensure that the COA follows its maintenance responsibilities and completes necessary repairs.

Ultimately, you should not hesitate to take action if you feel that your COA is not upholding its obligations. By taking steps to resolve the issue, you can help ensure that their condo building remains safe and well-maintained.

Know the Rules & Make the Most of the Condo Lifestyle

While the benefits of owning a condo include less maintenance and amenities for residents, smart buyers will go into investing in these homes with open eyes. Being aware of everyone's responsibilities in the community lets all parties stay on top of their game and be prepared to deal with any unexpected situations when it comes to maintenance.

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