In condo buildings and communities, it is generally accepted that the HOA is responsible for damage and maintenance outside the unit. At the same time, the homeowner takes care of the inside or any area under their exclusive control. But are there exceptions? And what repairs and maintenance fall into this category?
Today, we’ll discuss repairs and maintenance, who’s responsible for payment a homeowner incurs, and when the homeowner or a neighbor is liable.
Understanding the Divisions of an HOA Community
Each HOA or community has various sections categorized specifically to assign ownership and liability. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of who’s responsible for what, let’s first review some of the terminology.
- Individual units refer to the abode itself; in other words, the unit that is owned and occupied. The unit’s walls, ceilings, floors, and appliances are under the homeowner’s exclusive control. Thus, the onus falls upon them to maintain and repair these features in most cases.
- In townhouse communities, the exclusive use areas extend outdoors to yards, driveways, and any land or structure within the boundaries of the property.
- Common areas are considered shared spaces, implying shared responsibility between unit owners for upkeep and repair. These include swimming pools, gardens, greenspace, fitness facilities, games rooms, etc.
- Exclusive common-use areas refer to features at the boundaries of a property, such as door frames, air conditioning units, balconies, terraces, fences, exterior doors, and so on.
Who Pays for Damage and Upkeep?
The HOA’s governing documents generally outline how upkeep costs are allocated. However, there are provisions in the California Civil Code that state HOAs are responsible for repairs and maintenance to common areas and exclusive use common areas, which can include exterior doors, hardware, and door frames (unless the HOA governance docs state otherwise).
What that means is that if there is damage to an exterior door (for example), it would be expected of the HOA to take care of it. Unless, of course, the unit owner caused the damage, which could be a sticky point.
If a homeowner causes damage to exclusive use areas, it is their responsibility to pay for repairs. However, if the damage was caused by negligence on the part of the HOA, such as if a plumbing issue led to damage, then it’s up to the HOA to have it fixed, even if it only impacts one unit.
Who Pays for Maintenance?
Monthly HOA fees pay for ongoing maintenance; that’s part of the agreement. Special assessments may be occasionally levied for unforeseen issues over and above typical expenses.
Special assessments shouldn’t be a concern if the HOA manages its budget well and has adequate reserve funds. It’s always a good idea for unit owners to keep track of fees paid and work done to know their money is being allocated efficiently.
Insurable Repairs and Shared Responsibilities
Property damage can occur for myriad reasons. Wear and tear, natural disasters, unintentional damage, or negligence on the part of the HOA are just a few.
HOA insurance covers unforeseen damage, covered perils, and some disasters. Still, it does not cover replacement or repair inside a unit, like walls, floors, ceilings, cabinets, HVAC equipment, furniture, fixtures, and other property—unless the HOA’s negligence caused the damage. Otherwise, owners are responsible for obtaining their own insurance to cover everything inside the owned unit.
Mold damage, water leaks, or maintenance issues that cause damage inside a unit are technically the HOA’s responsibility. So, if damage occurs inside or outside a unit or happens in common or exclusive common-use areas, if it is caused by negligence, the negligent party must remedy the situation.
Dealing with Repair and Maintenance Issues
Keeping a property well-maintained is in the HOA’s best interests as it helps to maintain property values and ensures residents have a great place to call home. But sometimes, when maintenance issues arise, it’s not always easy to see the solution.
Maintenance issues and how to deal with them should be detailed in HOA governing documents, especially when it comes to common areas and exclusive common-use areas. If the documents do not provide clear solutions for maintenance incidents, the oversight should be addressed. Doing so may help avoid unnecessary friction.
What About Damage Caused by a Guest of the Resident?
HOA fees generally cover damage to common areas caused by invited guests, but depending on the circumstances, the resident responsible for the person may be charged back.
Such matters may or may not be addressed in HOA governing documents. If not, it’s a bit of a grey area, meaning incidents are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. If the damage is minor and there is money in the budget to cover the repair, it may not be an issue.
What if the HOA is Neglecting General Maintenance?
Nobody wants to live on a property that looks run-down. You’re paying monthly fees for a reason, and if the grounds or amenities are unkempt, it’s within a resident’s rights to raise the issue.
Refer to the governing documents to be clear on the HOA’s obligations and what, if any, recourse is available. Keep in mind that it’s not always the HOA’s fault. The organization hires people and companies to look after specific aspects of the property, and it could be that they are not doing their jobs.
It’s always a good idea to get to the bottom of a problem before making a lot of noise. The issue may be an oversight, which can be fixed easily enough. Keeping discussions as friendly as possible is always the best strategy.
If maintenance and repair issues continue, taking photographs and documenting dates and times is recommended, as this will provide evidence if the dispute goes any further. Ultimately, you don’t want the situation to escalate or become a matter for the courts. But if it does, you’ll need to prove your case, and documentation becomes a key factor.
The question of HOA vs. homeowner repair responsibility is an ongoing issue in many communities. Detailed documentation can help to clarify who’s responsible for repairs in various circumstances.
In brief, anything inside the unit is the owner’s responsibility, while anything outside falls under the HOA’s purview. Areas shared by more than one resident are a shared responsibility. Still, HOA documentation should provide enough detail to ensure all parties understand how to respond in case of a dispute.
For any questions about HOA responsibility and documentation, contact the HOA experts at Belwood Properties today.