What Are the Maintenance Responsibilities for Condo Owners?

Who's Responsible for Condo Maintenance?

One of the more common questions among those considering buying a condo is what maintenance the condo owner is responsible for versus what maintenance the condo association takes care of. Understanding these responsibilities before buying can help prospective condo owners make an informed decision about whether or not a condo is right for them. Keep reading to learn more about the maintenance responsibilities for condo owners vs. a condo association.

What Belongs to the HOA vs. the Condo Owner?

Condo complexes can generally be divided into three types of areas: common elements, private units, and limited common elements. 

Common elements are typically areas like hallways, entrances, walkways, outdoor patio space, and parking lots. These spaces are owned by the condo association or HOA.

Private units, or individual condos within the complex, are generally considered to be anything within the condo, including the interior surfaces of exterior walls, floors, and ceilings, as well as the appliances in the kitchen and bathrooms. These spaces are owned by the condo owner.

Limited common elements (LCE) are generally considered any areas that multiple condo owners, but not all condo owners in the complex, can access or use but that don't fall into either of the previous two categories. For example, a balcony shared between two units is a limited common element. However, these can also include infrastructure elements designated for only one household, such as parking spaces or private balconies. Limited common elements may also include such things as building-wide plumbing or wiring.

Limited common elements can have various definitions and expectations of ownership and maintenance depending on the condo community, so it's essential to read through the specific community's covenants, conditions, and restrictions to determine who owns what.

Who Pays for What Maintenance in a Condo Complex?

Condo Owner Installing BlindsCondo associations usually set out budgets for their maintenance funds in an annual budget. The HOA or condo association is then responsible for taking care of the common elements, such as landscape upkeep and exterior painting. Most associations will require homeowners to contribute monthly dues towards maintaining these common spaces. When an HOA has designated funds specifically for certain types of maintenance, it is generally not allowed to use those funds for anything other than what it is intended for.

Depending on state and local customs, the condo association or HOA also generally pays for pest control and regular trash collection.

Condo owners generally maintain their own private units and common elements with which they are personally associated or that belong to them, such as deck furniture. When a condo owner has a maintenance issue inside their unit, they typically take care of it themselves. This could include fixing faulty electrical switches, repairing leaky faucets, and installing new blinds. However, many condo associations will require annual inspections by the owner of any exterior portions of the unit. An example is an inspection for wood rot on a balcony before winter sets in if required by the HOA.

What About Maintenance on Appliances?

A condo owner is responsible for all maintenance on their unit, including appliances and fixtures. This includes repairing or replacing broken washers, dryers, ovens, microwaves, dishwashers, refrigerators, toilets, sinks, tubs, showers, blinds, and other items.

What about Wiring and Plumbing?

Generally speaking, all wiring and plumbing within the unit is the responsibility of the condo owner. However, if there are any pipes or wires in common areas that run through a private unit, be sure to check ownership before starting any work—maintenance on plumbing and wiring that serves multiple units is generally the condo association's responsibility.

What About My Unit's Exterior?

Decorative elements such as window boxes and planters are generally the unit owner's responsibility, with some exceptions. For example, any planters located on shared space between units—such as in a garden area—would be jointly owned and maintained by all condo owners within that community or building. The condo association often pays for common elements like landscaping.

Responsibilities for windows, doors, and roofs may change depending on the condo community, so be sure to check with the condo association.

When Do I Need an HOA's Permission for Maintenance?

The answer to this question will vary depending on the specific condo community. However, as a general rule of thumb, an HOA or condo association should be asked for permission before commencing any major work such as extensive repairs or renovations. They may require owners to submit plans and documentation proving that the work is necessary and that they have the proper permits before allowing it.

In addition, it is crucial to be aware of any restrictions that may apply, such as a specific color the unit must be painted or a set amount owners can spend remodeling. If the proposed work does not meet these guidelines, the HOA may deny permission for it. So, when looking to maximize space in a condo, major overhauls like removing walls should definitely be run by the HOA. It may also be wise to double-check even for more minor tricks like repainting to provide the illusion of larger rooms.

Of course, emergencies should be handled as they arise. However, asking first is a good policy to establish for all future projects.

Ready to Become a Condo Owner?

All in all, HOAs and condo associations take care of much-needed maintenance to keep buildings running smoothly, but it is the condo owner's responsibility to maintain their individual unit. This can impact a person's decision when it comes to purchasing a condo, but understanding these responsibilities beforehand can help people make informed decisions about whether buying or renting a condo is the right decision for them.

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