Are All Condominium and HOA Documents the Same Regarding Common Elements?

J.J. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Hi Bob, I just listened to the podcast about the alligator in the condo fountain (http://askmistercondo.com/alligator-in-the-condo-fountain/)! I have a question that I am hoping you can answer. But, a little on me. I have been involved in the community association maintenance business since 1978, with the last 17 years as a general contractor specializing in condo buildings repair and capital improvements. I have worked for various management companies over the years. Some good and some not good. My question is I understand the laws have changed some years back in regards what the association is responsible for as far as maintenance. When I started, I learned the association covered to the drywall. Now. I am hearing the association covers a lot more inside the unit. I ask managers and no one either knows or won’t give me a straight answer. Can you help so I may service my associations with correct knowledge?

Mister Condo replies:

J.J., the answer literally varies from association to association so there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer. Additionally, I know of some associations that have modified their rules based on “how we’ve always done it” situations, regardless of what their governing documents say. Also, we have a few different types of common interest communities operating in our state and each has their own peculiarities. Condominiums are the most common and your explanation of from the walls in is quite common to describe what the unit owner is responsible for. Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) are also common in our state and often have the same type of rules. Cooperatives (coops) are also plentiful and have similar but not exactly the same rules. Homeowners or Property Owners Associations (HOAs and POAs) are also common but seldom get into the unit interiors. These groups are typically about architectural conformity and shared common amenities (a clubhouse, pool, beach, etc.) Within each of these groups are additional subsets (Adult Communities, 55 and over, Assisted Living, and so on). As you can imagine, each has their own set of governing documents and each has their own specifics on who owns and maintain which elements.

As a contractor to an association, you are going to handle the work assigned to you by the association. You should ask the association where the association responsibility ends and the unit owner responsibility begins. Short of you taking the time to read all of their governance documents, you would have to operate under the assumption that they know what they are talking about. If you complete their work order, and they pay you for your work, it is of no concern to you if they need to then bill an individual unit owner for work you did on their behalf. If they are asking you to bill a unit owner for work you performed at their request, I would ask them to change that arrangement for the sake of your business relationship with the association. You know the association will pay you for work you have contracted with them. You have no way of knowing if a unit owner is going to pay you for work done to their unit at the association’s request. After all, they didn’t hire you. I know haven’t given you a “cut and dry” answer here but that is the nature of the industry. Keep doing the great work you’ve been doing and I am sure the issues of responsibility for maintenance will work itself out, association by association. Good luck!

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