One of the most desirable amenities that make homeowners choose an HOA community is the presence of common areas. The homeowners association manages and maintains these common areas that provide many uses to the community members.
However, one of the most notorious questions that arise within HOA boards is what role they play in the maintenance of common areas.
What Is a Common Area?
Any property within the community that is accessible by community members, with the exception of the property owned by the individual, is considered a common area.
The community pool, for example, is a common area. So is the sidewalk, roads, and all other areas or items that don’t fall under the definition of separate interests. A separate interest is essentially a piece of property within the association. This can be a home or the lot it sits on, that a homeowner owns or cares for.
The maintenance and management of the common areas are the responsibilities of the HOA board. However, they may opt to outsource a reputable property management company for the task.
Typically, the extent of the board’s responsibility for common area maintenance can be found within the CC&Rs of the association, otherwise known as the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions. However, should the HOA find their responsibilities to be unclear or undefined. They can refer to the Ohio Revised Code Section 5312.08(a) for a brief outline of their duties.
What Is the HOA’s Role in Community Common Area Maintenance?
Some communities have small, easily accessible common areas that are simple to maintain and look after. Condominium associations, for example, usually don’t have a lot of ground to cover when it comes to their landscaping responsibilities. Some communities, on the other hand, have a lot of natural areas around the homes of their residents. Rural communities, for example, can have wide expanses of brush and even the occasional creek or wetland area.
When it comes to HOA common area maintenance, the HOA board has a duty to balance their services in a way that is in the best interest of its residents. An HOA is therefore responsible for reasonable maintenance of the common areas of the community.
For example, an HOA may try to landscape all the common areas in the development, including the natural areas behind the homes. One could say that the HOA board has been thorough in their drive to maintain community common areas. On the other hand, the resulting increase in expenses and assessments may turn out to be detrimental for the community in the long run.
Some associations may provide more services for the repair and maintenance of their common areas. Other associations may instead focus on the upkeep of the more important amenities, thus keeping the HOA fees reasonable for everyone.
At the end of the day, the role of the HOA is to do sound planning of common area maintenance, as consistent with their bylaws, existing regulations, and their financial capability at the time.
§5312.08: Common Elements; Maintenance, Repair, and Replacement
Under the Ohio Revised Code Section 5312.08(a), it states that:
“Unless otherwise provided by the declaration, the owners association is responsible for reasonable maintenance, repair, and replacement of the common elements, and each owner is responsible for maintenance, repair, and replacement of the owner’s lot and improvements to that lot, including the dwelling unit and the utility lines serving that dwelling unit.”
In other words, the HOA is responsible for the general maintenance of the common areas as written in their bylaws.
Not all repairs are the responsibility of the association though. Should a community member damage a common area, they themselves would be responsible for its repair. This provision can be found in section 5312.08(b):
“An owner shall permit agents or employees of the owners association and other owners access through the owner’s lot and dwelling unit for the purpose of fulfilling the association’s duties and obligations. Any damage to the common elements, lot, or dwelling unit due to that access is the responsibility of the owner that caused the damage or the owners association if it is responsible for the damage. That owner, or the owners association, is liable for the prompt repair of any damage and, if not repairable, for the value of the damaged property or item as it existed immediately prior to that damage.”
This section also states that any damage to a separate interest caused by the association is their responsibility.
Examples of Common Area Maintenance
In most associations, the board handles the basic repairs and maintenance of common areas. This might include actions such as:
- Ensuring the operation of any heating or cooling elements
- Replacing any lights or light fixtures
- Installing new windows should the former ones become compromised
- Repairing the clubhouse roof
- Maintaining/repairing elevators
- Keeping the community pool and surrounding area maintained
- Landscaping common grounds such as parks and trails
- Replacing or repairing fitness equipment in the community center
These are just a few examples and may or may not be performed by all associations. Certain associations may provide more in terms of repair, replacement, or maintenance of the common areas.
Payment of Maintenance Costs
One of the major responsibilities of an HOA board is to maintain the community common areas. Another is to budget for these expenditures. That means the board has to first collect the funds needed, which usually take the form of association fees. A large portion of maintaining the community common areas is creating an annual budget. This budget covers the maintenance costs as well as any unplanned repairs that may arise.
Budgeting for these types of expenses can be complex, which often leads to a lack of funds for major repairs that pop up down the road. Board members can, therefore, hire a management company to handle their accounting and financials, including the collection of funds.
Should an HOA board fail to meet their obligatory responsibilities for maintaining common areas, there are a few actions that can be taken. At the annual board elections meeting, new officers can be elected who feel they might do a better job.
Community Common Area Maintenance Made Simple
Often a more simple and effective solution is to contact expert HOA management services who can then assume a share of the responsibility for maintaining the common areas. If you’re an HOA board member who finds the maintenance of community common areas to be severely lacking, request a proposal today!