HOA Maintenance Responsibilities
One of the most important things of an HOA is maintenance of the property. I think we can all agree that it’s refreshing when you drive by or walk through a community that’s really well maintained. Or, perhaps that might frustrate you to see that because it makes you wonder,
"Why doesn’t my community look this nice?"
Well, let’s take a quick look at what maintenance is and how your community can become one that others admire or even envy.
General HOA Maintenance Responsibilities
First let’s be clear on what maintenance is. Some examples of general maintenance would include things like:
- Gutter cleaning
- Minor repairs to roofs and siding
- Basically your general, every day upkeep of the property
General maintenance would not include things that come out of your association’s reserve account. For more information on this, take a look at our video that explains the difference between an operating and reserve account, or even our reserve study video to give you a better idea of what would be included or classified as a reserve expense.
Why HOA Maintenance Should Be a Priority
If maintenance is prioritized, it could potentially delay these larger reserve or capital improvement projects. Some states are even requiring associations to implement a preventative maintenance plan to ensure that associations are doing their due diligence by keeping maintenance a priority to prolong the life of certain assets the association has and to help keep property values high. If maintenance isn’t prioritized, it could lead to special assessments, loans, or an increase in association dues to help restore a property that may have been ignored, which negatively affects homeowners because now they have a large increase in payments to the association that they didn’t budget for, or even worse, having trouble buying or selling a property.
Understanding Maintenance Priorities in an Association
One of the biggest frustrations for homeowners is feeling out of control in regard to this topic of maintenance—wondering when certain things are going to be repaired and what the priority list is in the community. However, the board is more than likely discussing these things on a regular basis, and prioritizing what needs to be done based on the budget.
The Board Makes Decisions for the Entire Community
Homeowners elect board members to make decisions on their behalf. This is why it’s very important to attend these board and annual meetings and be at least somewhat involved so that you have a bit of a pulse on what’s happening around you. If the board isn’t doing this, maybe this is your cue to step up to the plate and get involved by running for a position on the board of starting a committee. At the same time, give your board a little grace because they’re limited by budgetary constraints, and every decision a board makes has a direct impact on everyone in the community. It’s not necessarily an easy task and some decisions can’t be made at a drop of a hat. Most of the time, if something isn’t getting done, it’s because there isn’t enough money set aside to do it.
A lot of homeowners believe their maintenance concern is top priority when, frankly it just may not be based on some of the other things the board has on their list. So, again, attend the meetings and ask questions. Bring your concerns so that they can listen, evaluate,and hopefully tell you when they might be able to take care of it for you.
Invest in a Maintenance Responsibility Guide
A very valuable tool that can help ease tension between homeowners and board members is something called the "Maintenance Responsibility Guide." This is a very black and white document that outlines what the association pays for versus what each individual pays for. It might outline if it’s a common element or a limited common element and whether or not the expense should come out of the association’s operating account or reserve account.
Consider Hiring an Attorney
If it is in fact something that falls under the association’s responsibility, we believe it’s best to have an attorney, preferably one who specializes in HOA law, go over your governing documents and put a maintenance guide together instead of doing it yourself. If, like most people, you hear the word "attorney" or "lawyer" and you immediately wonder about the cost, don’t worry.
The good news is most attorneys can put these together pretty quick, and it doesn’t break the bank. It’s common to only have to spend about $500 on this document, which we believe is money well spent. It’s important to remember that the maintenance guide is not designed to be an end-all, be-all. It’s intended to be exactly what the name says it is: a guide.
The association’s declaration will ultimately determine what the associations versus the homeowners’ responsibilities are. Instead of digging through the declaration to find it, the maintenance guide is typically a very quick, easy, and clear reference for you to look at and share with your community.
Final Thoughts on HOA Maintenance Responsibilities
If you’re a board member, what you do and the decisions that you make—they matter. Please keep an open mind when homeowners come to you with concerns because they may not have a clear understanding of the financial situation the association might be in. If you’re a homeowner, try to remember that your board members are volunteers. They take time away from family, work, and other things to try and make decisions for the betterment of the entire community. Please be respectful of that. It’s a very thankless job, and it’s not necessarily easy to run a community. For more information on HOA maintenance responsibilities, contact us today.