It can be hard to distinguish who is responsible for what regarding HOA and homeowner repairs. The lines that divide resident and homeowners association property are not always immediately apparent. It’s essential to define these responsibilities to avoid conflict and unfair practices.
The Divisions of an HOA
Homeowners associations often have distinct divisions that help identify homeowner and HOA properties. The technical terms for either of these are “separate interests” (homeowner property) and “common areas” (HOA property). Generally speaking, individual unit owners are responsible for and in control of their units. This includes the house, yard, and landscape within the lot purchased. It also consists of structures within the home and the land surrounding the house.
Meanwhile, homeowners associations and their governing boards maintain the community’s common areas. These include the HOA’s roads, walkways, gates, community lighting fixtures, and other structures. Moreover, the community’s shared amenities are under the HOA’s jurisdiction. These can include facilities like pools, gyms, clubhouses, and parks.
How to Determine the Responsibilities of HOA vs Homeowner Repairs
How can homeowners and HOA board members distinguish between what is considered a common area and a separate interest? Here are some ways HOAs divide the lines between the two so all members can understand who fixes what.
Area Distinctions In the CC&Rs
Homeowner repairs do not extend to the community’s common areas. Likewise, homeowners associations do not have to repair the residents’ separate interests. While these distinctions may be clear in theory, they are often unclear and confusing in real life.
What some homeowners may think is their property might be under the HOA’s purview. Others may also complain when an HOA refuses to make repair arrangements on certain parts they claim to be the homeowner’s responsibility.
This is why the HOA’s Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) specifically indicate what the HOA’s maintenance responsibilities are. The CC&Rs contain the community’s area definitions in the plat. This document marks the separate interests within the community. As a general rule, everything outside of these separate interests is considered the HOA’s common areas.
Limited Common Areas
Some communities may have limited or exclusive common areas. These are areas in the neighborhood that are only available to a subset of the HOA members. For example, some parking lots or garages may be accessible to only specific residents. In these cases, these parking lots or garages are considered limited or exclusive common areas.
This is where some people get confused. How do you divide HOA vs homeowner maintenance responsibilities? Since these are considered common areas, is the HOA still responsible for maintaining them? Does this mean others in the community also have to pay for the maintenance of areas they don’t have access to?
Generally speaking, limited common areas are usually the responsibility of the HOA. The burden only shifts if the governing documents state otherwise. However, residents with access to restricted common areas typically have to pay a bit more in HOA fees to cover the cost of maintenance. On the other hand, some CC&Rs do divide repair and maintenance responsibilities between both the HOA and the residents who have access.
Cause of the Damage
Regular wear and tear aren’t the only reasons why some things need to be repaired. Accidents or intentional impairments do happen within homeowners associations. In these cases, the person who caused the damage is the one responsible for the repairs. This is often true regardless of whether or not the damaged item or property is resident property or a common area.
For example, let’s say the association fails to fulfill its HOA plumbing responsibilities. When water damage occurs, and the HOA’s negligence is found to be the culprit, the HOA may be liable for repairing the homeowner’s property. Likewise, homeowners often need to pay to repair the common areas and elements they damaged.
State Laws and Regulations
Most state laws dictate that HOAs are responsible for common areas while homeowners are responsible for separate interests. However, regulations may vary when it comes to the repairs and maintenance of limited common areas. For example, California’s Civil Code Section 4775(a) states that limited common areas must be maintained by the owners who have access to them. However, it also says that repairs and replacement responsibilities fall under the HOA.
Some state laws also have provisions regarding the repair, maintenance, and replacement of elements that transcend boundaries, like pipelines. For example, the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act Section 38-33.3-307 states that the HOA’s responsibility is the repairs and replacement of facilities, drainage structures, and public improvements mandated by local governments. It’s important for homeowners associations and their members to review these laws thoroughly.
At times, state laws and governing documents may not clearly identify which parts of the property are the homeowner’s or HOA’s responsibility. There may also be no zoning regulations or provisions in place for encroachments or structures that transcend boundary lines. This can lead to confusion, conflict, legal battles, and financial strain. That’s why HOAs should clearly define these responsibilities before any issues arise.
To do this, the HOA can seek legal counsel or consult a HOA management company for advice. These professionals can often guide the HOA to distinguish these repair responsibilities. If possible, homeowners associations should also amend the governing documents. They should add transparent amendments with explicit repair responsibilities to avoid confusion and disputes.
An Important Distinction
Separating the responsibilities for HOA and homeowner repairs is vital to community harmony. When the responsibilities are unclear, the homeowners and HOA board members will likely clash when issues crop up. This can throw the community into chaos as tensions heighten and multiply. HOAs that are taken by surprise may have to dip into the reserves or levy heavy special assessments to cover the costs. Moreover, it can even result in lengthy and expensive legal battles.
Is your community struggling to define these responsibilities and communicate them with homeowners? If so, you may want to consider professional help. Elite Management Services offers the finest HOA management services in the industry. Call us today at (855) 238-8488 or contact us online to request a free proposal!