Many times, I will get asked the question,” What Does the HOA maintain in our Community?” Usually, this comes with a bit of anger behind the question. Unless the CC&Rs provide otherwise, the homeowners association is responsible for repairing, replacing, or maintaining the common areas, and owners are responsible for maintaining their separate interests and any exclusive use common area.
In most planned developments, depending on the CC&Rs, maintenance responsibilities are generally allocated as follows:
Owner Entirely Responsible. In planned developments where the homes are single family residences, owners are responsible for maintaining all aspects of their house and lot unless the CC&Rs provide otherwise.
Shared Responsibilities. In some documents, maintenance of the roofs and painting of the exteriors is assigned to the homeowners association. All other aspects of repairs and maintenance are assigned to the owner. This is especially true when the homes are constructed in "pods" or "clusters" with shared walls.
Enforcement: Let’s not forget that the owner is responsible for maintenance as well. When owners fail to maintain their property, the Association can enforce maintenance standards as provided for in the governing documents. This may start with a phone call by Management or your typical violation letter.
What Else Does the HOA Need to Maintain?
Duty to Inspect Common Areas. Associations must visually inspect the common areas every three years and prepare a reserve study listing all major components, the remaining useful life of those components and the cost to repair or replace them.
Duty to Investigate Complaints. Whenever the HOA board learns of common area problems, such as cracked sidewalks, roof leaks, plumbing backups, etc., it must investigate the problems. Board members don't need to personally inspect them, they can rely on managing agents, plumbers, etc. to investigate and report back to the Board. If an owner reports a water damage or flood inside his/her unit, the Board must determine if the leak is originating from (i) the owner's own plumbing, which is the owner's responsibility to repair, or (ii) the common area, which is the Association's responsibility to repair.
Duty to Repair. Regardless of fault, damaged common areas must be repaired and replaced.
Do Owners or Board Members Decide?
I often get members who feel they are entitled to make all decisions for a community they pay HOA fee’s to; while Boards may consider member input, it is the HOA board not the membership that has the legal authority to make maintenance decisions related to the common areas. There are many reasons why members do not legally vote on common area repair decisions.
Accordingly, outside of certain issues such as approving assessments and (in some cases) loans or capital improvements, the members cannot generally decide whether or how to perform common area repairs.
However, members may from time to time have important decisions to make related to maintenance projects. If reserve funding is not sufficient to cover the cost, members must decide whether to approve an assessment or (in some cases) construction loans to fund the project.