S.C. from Litchfield County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I live in a planned community. Since its inception in 2005, the exterior maintenance of our buildings has always been the responsibility of the association. That is about to change. The new board has decided, with the help of an attorney, but not one who specializes in associations, to do some exterior maintenance (painting, cleaning, staining of cedar shingles) this coming spring and are going to be charging the unit owners of those buildings that need the work (approximately $2000 per unit). While it is clear to me that our declaration states that the exterior is the responsibility of the association, the board is being told by their attorney that the siding and trim are limited common elements and therefore, according to our declaration, have the right to perform the work and charge back the unit owner. I believe the siding and the trim and the roofs are common elements and therefore are the responsibility of the association. They claim the building exteriors are part of the unit but based on the CIOA, the boundaries of the unit are enclosed by the interior walls, floors and ceilings and the exterior is outside the residence maintenance area. The declaration says elements outside the residence maintenance area are the responsibility of the association. What makes more sense to you?
Mister Condo replies:
S.C., the way it has always been done makes the most sense to me but I am neither an attorney nor have I had the opportunity to read your governance documents and compare them to the Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA). Regardless of the advice of the attorney, the association is bound to manage the association in accordance with their own governing documents except where CIOA supersedes the documents. Of course, once the Board take any action, it is up to the homeowners to call them on that action. Sometimes, a simple “hey, that not how this works” will do. When not, a legal action may be required. That is expensive and time consuming for the homeowner and the Board. It is always better for the Board to get expert advice from an attorney who does specialize in community association management. This attorney may be giving an opinion that ends up costing the association a lot of money in the long run. I would recommend to you that you insist your Board use an experienced community association attorney when making such important financial decisions that have far-reaching consequences to all association members. Good luck!