Condo Maintenance Responsibilities: What Owners Pay Vs. What the Association Pays
Many condos offer fantastic benefits, like being close to downtown areas or popular tourism destinations. Although smaller living options, they can be designed to maximize space for a comfortable living experience. Condos may offer great onsite features, like pools and fitness centers. However, before buyers make a purchasing decision, they must understand the maintenance responsibilities of these properties. Quite often, tasks like cutting the grass and shoveling snow no longer are the owner's responsibility. Yet, owners may still be responsible for things like the plumbing inside the home. What about the roof or updates to the kitchen? Read on to discover the maintenance responsibilities of condo owners.
What Belongs to the COA & What Belongs to Owners?
A good starting point is learning as much as possible about the condo owner's association (COA). The COA has rules that define the association's responsibilities and what falls on owners' shoulders. This information is outlined in a declarations document, which is often provided to owners at the time of purchase. Read through these requirements to know what is expected before moving in.
The COA is often responsible for maintaining common, shared spaces. These may include exterior maintenance, landscaping, and trash removal. Owners pay for these maintenance and repair costs through monthly or periodic assessment dues. The key benefit is that the organization remains responsible for completing those tasks.
Most often, what's inside the unit is the owner's responsibility. Condo owners also typically pay for private-use common areas. These are areas where two or more condo owners share the space, but that space isn't shared by everyone else in the community.
What Are Limited Common Elements? Who Is Responsible For Them?
Limited common elements are a bit more complicated. The ultimate decision on whether something is considered a limited common element and the association's responsibility to maintain it should be stated in the declaration. The declaration is put in place to outline these specific items, and it can differ from one location to another.
Examples of limited common elements typically include air conditioning and heating units, ductwork, wiring, plumbing, bearing walls, fixtures, conduit, and other items, whether or not they are located within or outside the unit.
Limited common elements are also things that serve a single unit but are outside of the boundaries of that unit. These can be items like shutters, doorsteps, porches, decks, and balconies. Even the flower boxes hanging outside the window may fall in this area.
Sometimes the governing documents are unclear about what falls into limited common elements. If that's the case, owners should verify this information at the start. Over time, the condo association needs to update the declaration as new features or changes are made to the community.
What Are Common Elements in a Condo Community?
Common elements in an COA agreement often include all condo portions other than the units themselves, including the walls, attic space, ceilings, and floors shared by more than one unit. These are the responsibility of the COA to maintain in most situations.
The declaration also outlines how the condo association is to maintain these areas. For example, there may be a required annual inspection of some of these shared areas to determine if repairs are necessary and how those repairs will take place. The association's responsibility is to maintain, repair, and replace these areas when deemed necessary. The declaration documents often define the frequency of inspections and the conditions that warrant replacement.
What's more, if the condo association does not maintain these properties, it can be held liable for failure to do so. That helps to provide the property owners with some leverage should these areas of the property not receive the maintenance and upkeep needed.
One key thing to remember is that if a common area suffers damage from a condo owner or a guest of that condo owner, the condo association may require the owner to pay for the repair costs. This rule is also defined within the declaration and does not apply to general wear and tear but rather to the destruction or accidents that owners can prevent.
Condo Owners Are Responsible For Private Units
The unit itself is the portion of the community that is deemed separate ownership from the rest of the community. The declaration determines where the unit's boundaries are, but this typically includes anything within the home, like:
- Unfinished interior surfaces of exterior walls
- Unit's doors and windows
- Paint and tile within these spaces and similar spaces
In most cases, these are the responsibility of the condo owner to maintain and update. For example, the condo owner is responsible for replacing light fixtures, improving the kitchen cabinets, or installing new flooring within the bedroom.
What about specific concerns? Plumbing within the unit is generally the owner's responsibility, but plumbing systems that run into common areas are the condo association's responsibility.
The roof is another common issue, and its maintenance responsibilities are often outlined in the declaration.
What if Exterior Problems Affect Private Property?
When you own a condo, there's always a chance that the a clear delineation between whose responsibility is what, but that line can potentially be muddled in certain circumstances. For instance, if a leaky roof causes water damage inside a unit, who should be responsible? The roof was the COA's responsibility, and the condo owner had no control over it, after all.
Cases like these can vary from community to community, but here's a common outcome for this sort of situation: the COA will be responsible for repairing the roof, while the condo owner will be responsible for all interior repairs. In some cases, if the fault lies with the COA, they will be required to pay for the interior damages as well, but this will be outlined in the COA rules and regulations. Risk of damages like these makes it especially important for condo owners to have proper insurance.
Considering the Purchase of a Condo?
Whether someone buys or rents a condo, they need to know what to expect before living there. Interested buyers should learn as much about the terms, especially regarding maintenance, repair, and replacement of core systems within and outside of the condo.