For any homeowner, homeowners association (HOA) board member, or HOA, the pressing question of HOA responsibilities to homeowners constantly arises.

Understanding the answer to this question is important for not only clarity but also seamless functioning and financial stability for the HOA community and those who live or own properties within it.

With that in mind, we wrote this guide to provide you with a comprehensive breakdown of repair responsibilities within HOAs, from the the foundation of an HOA's governing documents, civil code, and legal responsibilities to the specifics about HOA plumbing responsibilities, structural issues, shared spaces, and more.

Whether you're an HOA board member, community manager, or even HOA president, this guide will equip you with the knowledge necessary to have an informed decision-making process and maintain transparent communication with unit owners and other residents.

The Structure of Homeowners Associations

Let's start by providing an overview of the structure of homeowners associations.

HOA structures can be intricate, thanks to the multifaceted nature of community living. An understanding of this structure is pivotal, not just for grasping repair responsibilities, but also for ensuring consistent governance and operations.

Individual Units

Individual units refer to the separately owned spaces within the community, typically a homeowner's personal residence. These can be standalone homes, apartments within a building, condos, or townhouses.

While homeowners have a degree of autonomy here, there are certain boundaries, especially when the units share walls, floors, or other elements.

Depending on the HOA's rules and regulations, some unit owners might actually rent out their properties too.

Typically, homeowners are responsible for the maintenance and repair of everything within their unit's walls. However, this can vary based on the specific HOA guidelines.

Limited Common Elements

Limited common elements are areas or features that serve more than one unit but aren't accessible to the entire community. These elements are "limited" because, while they aren't exclusive to a single unit, they're not communal either.

Examples include shared hallways in apartment buildings, balconies, or a shared courtyard between two townhouses.

Responsibility for these can be a gray area. Usually, the HOA takes on major repairs and maintenance, but day-to-day upkeep might fall to the homeowners who use these spaces.

General Common Areas

General common areas are spaces within the community that every member has a right to use. Here are some examples:

These areas are maintained using the collective funds of the community, which are gathered through HOA dues.

Maintenance, repairs, and improvements of these areas are squarely on the HOA's shoulders. Proper care ensures that all community members can enjoy these amenities without hindrance.

what areas do hoa governing documents discuss

How HOA Responsibilities Are Governed

The foundation of any HOA's operations lies in the association's governing documents.

Among the most pivotal of these documents are the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&R) and the relevant state or local Civil Code.

Both play integral roles in defining responsibilities, especially when it comes to repairs.

Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions

As far as governing documents go, the CC&R is, in essence, the rulebook for the HOA. It stipulates what unit owners can and cannot do with their properties and outlines the responsibilities of the HOA, the HOA board members, and community members.

The CC&R often provides detailed guidelines about who's responsible for what repairs, from common areas to individual units and limited common elements.

While homeowners are generally liable for everything within their own units, exceptions can be detailed in the CC&R, especially concerning shared elements like walls or roofs.

It's imperative for board members and community managers to familiarize themselves with the CC&R to ensure consistent enforcement and address member queries effectively.

The Civil Code

While the CC&R lays out the internal rules for HOA members included in HOA documents, the Civil Code establishes the broader legal framework that all associations must adhere to.

These codes vary from state to state and can sometimes override what's written in the CC&R.

In general, Civil Codes provide overarching guidelines concerning property rights, responsibilities, and dispute resolutions.

The HOA Board and the HOA management company should periodically review and, if necessary, update their HOA rules to ensure alignment with current Civil Codes and avoid potential legal entanglements. Staying up to date is crucial.

what is a cc&r and civil code in hoa management companies

HOA Responsibilities vs. Homeowner Responsibilities

Now that we've differentiated the elements of community associations and established how HOA communities are governed, we can go over all the common questions:

  • What is the HOA responsible for in a condo?
  • What is the HOA's plumbing responsibilities?
  • How is damage due to negligence handled by the HOA board and its members?
  • Who is responsible for structural issues? The owner or the HOA management company?

We'll go over it all and below below.

Rules of Thumb for HOA Repairs

While the CC&R and Civil Code provide the foundation for understanding responsibilities, there are general guidelines or "rules of thumb" that can aid in simplifying this division.

Over time, certain norms and practices have evolved within the HOA ecosystem. While not set in stone, these can provide a starting point for understanding who typically handles what.

Here are the key points:

  • Interior vs. Exterior: Generally, homeowners handle repairs within their unit's interior, while the HOA manages exterior repairs and maintenance.
  • Individual vs. Collective Use: If a repair impacts only one homeowner (like a malfunctioning kitchen appliance within a private unit), it's typically the homeowner's responsibility. In contrast, repairs for appliances in areas benefiting multiple homeowners (like a washer or dryer in a shared laundry room) often fall to the HOA.

Condos, Plumbing, and Water Damage

Condominiums, with their unique structure, often blur the lines of responsibility.

Couple that with issues like plumbing or water damage, which can span multiple units, and things can get complicated.

Is the HOA responsible for water damage? In condos, the HOA usually handles the building's external elements and shared systems.

However, if damage in a common element stems from a homeowner's negligence (e.g., a water leak from one unit damaging another), the responsible homeowner might bear repair costs.

For shared plumbing systems or main lines, the HOA often steps in. But if a plumbing issue arises from a homeowner's unit and impacts only them, it's generally their responsibility.

The source of the damage is pivotal. If it originates from a common area (e.g., a leaky roof), the HOA is typically responsible. But if it starts within a homeowner's unit and affects others, the initiating homeowner might be held accountable.

Common Areas and Amenities

These are spaces and facilities that serve the entire community. They are integral to the communal living experience.

When it comes to common areas and amenities, here's what HOA board members need to take care of:

  • Grounds and communal landscaping
  • Swimming pools
  • Tennis courts
  • Clubhouses
  • Gyms
  • Playgrounds
  • Other recreational facilities
  • Parking lots
  • Roads

Depending on the governing documents or the HOA management company, this sometimes extends to things like snow removal from shared parking areas and internal roads as well.

Building Exteriors and Structural Components

HOA board members commonly shoulder the responsibility for the exterior health of the buildings within the community.

This may include the following:

  • Roof leaks and replacements
  • Gutter cleaning
  • Exterior walls (e.g., painting, damages, and wear and tear)
  • Foundation
  • Support structures

Any repairs or evaluations related to structural elements are usually the HOA's responsibility.

Shared Systems

Many communities have systems that serve multiple units or the entire community. This includes HVAC systems, plumbing, and electrical.

For example, for shared HVAC systems, the HOA often handles maintenance, repairs, and replacements.

Main lines or shared plumbing systems are usually overseen by the HOA as well, especially if a problem could impact multiple units.

When it comes to electrical systems, the HOA board members and HOA managers typically address lighting in common areas or electrical systems shared between units.

Safety and Security Measures

Ensuring a safe environment is a core responsibility of any HOA.

If there are gate systems, security cameras, or other security measures in place, the HOA typically manages their maintenance and repair.

HOA board members are also responsible for maintaining fire alarms in common areas, ensuring fire escape routes are clear, and sometimes even checking fire extinguishers.

Damage Due to Negligence

Responsibilities can shift based on the nature and cause of damage. Structural issues and instances of negligence particularly stand out.

For example, as discussed, when it comes to integral and structural components like foundation or support beams, the HOA usually bears responsibility, given the collective interest in maintaining the building's structural integrity.

However, if damage arises due to a homeowner's carelessness (e.g., a fire caused by leaving a stove on), the cost of repairs, even in common areas, might fall to the negligent homeowner.

What Happens If an HOA Refuses to Make a Repair?

As an HOA board member or management team, you may encounter instances where residents believe a repair is your responsibility, while the board has reservations or reasons for not immediately addressing it.

Effectively handling such scenarios is critical to maintaining the trust and respect of your community members. Here's a guide on how to navigate these situations.

Clarifying Reasons for Hesitation or Refusal

Clear communication is crucial to prevent misunderstandings and potential disputes.

If the board believes the repair is the homeowner's responsibility based on the CC&R or governing documents, clarify this with supporting references.

If finances are tight, transparently communicate the budgetary challenges to the homeowners and explain the HOA's financial priorities.

In communities with many maintenance demands, clarify how repairs are prioritized and provide a tentative timeline for when the repair in question might be addressed.

Managing Legal Implications and Potential Actions

Homeowners might consider legal avenues if they believe their concerns are not being addressed. It's always a good idea to consult with the HOA's legal counsel in such scenarios.

Besides that, however, you should regularly review the CC&R and be familiar with the HOA's precise obligations regarding repairs to avoid unintentional oversights.

Along the way, encourage homeowners to communicate their concerns. Active listening can often prevent issues from escalating.

If there's a stalemate, consider mediation to find a middle ground without resorting to legal confrontations.

Embracing a Proactive Approach

A forward-thinking and proactive management style can significantly reduce potential repair disputes.

To this end, you should regularly evaluate common areas and shared infrastructure to identify potential issues early.

From there, proactively inform residents about upcoming maintenance, repair timelines, and any budgetary considerations.

In the end, the HOA board should stay ahead so that property damage is mitigated and property values are unharmed. Waiting too long to tackle an issue can lead to financial issues, costly special assessments, escalation within the HOA board, and strained relationships between the HOA board and homeowners.

HOA's Core Responsibilities to Homeowners

The symbiotic relationship between an HOA board member and their homeowners is underpinned by mutual expectations and responsibilities.

While homeowners are expected to adhere to the community’s rules and pay their dues on time, the HOA board members also have core responsibilities to their community.

These responsibilities go beyond just repairs and touch upon the very essence of communal living. Beyond repairs, here's what HOA board members, HOA managers, HOA management companies, and other board members should be cognizant of:

  • Maintaining the safety of the community
  • Ensuring the community is a welcoming place for all residents
  • Responsibly handling fiduciary duties
  • Responsibly managing HOA finances, the community's collective funds, and the reserve fund
  • Creating and adhering to a clear annual budget
  • Providing homeowners with regular and transparent financial reports about how dues are used
  • Enforcing HOA rules and regulations consistently and with impartiality
  • Resolving disputes with a clear and fair process
  • Sending regular updates to residents through newsletters, community board meetings, or digital platforms
  • Offering a method for homeowners to voice their feedback to HOA board members about concerns, governing documents, maintenance requests, or other issues
  • Operating within the bounds of the law and ethical norms
  • Respecting homeowner rights (e.g., privacy and property boundaries)

In essence, while homeowners have obligations to the community, the HOA's responsibilities to its members and their best interests are profound.

When fulfilled conscientiously, these duties foster trust, harmony, and a sense of collective identity among residents, making the community a true haven for its members.

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The information on this website is from public sources, for informational purposes only and not intended for legal or accounting advice. DoorLoop does not guarantee its accuracy and is not liable for any damages or inaccuracies.