fter all, the landscaping company will take care of the lawn, trees and flowers; in the winter, the association’s snow removal company will plow the snow and salt the walks; and the association’s management company has a maintenance department on hand to address any necessary repairs that could arise, both in the community and in your unit.

If you look around your new condo and visualize “maintenance-free” stickers on your walls, windows and appliances, it’s possible you may be hallucinating… or indulging in influences of the Woodstock variety. Falling prey to the “maintenance-free living” myth that seems to circulate in the common interest realty association community is a natural-occurring phenomenon. Many people hear the “maintenance-free living” tag that is bandied about by developers, real estate agents or others in the industry in order to catch buyers’ attention, but don’t fully comprehend the true nature and responsibilities of residential associations.

In order not to experience these homeownership hallucinations, it is important to familiarize yourself with

the association governing documents, the declarations, bylaws or CCRs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions). Many condominium or townhome associations have “drywall-in, drywall-out” language in the declarations and other governing documents. This can generally mean, in loose terms, that the association is responsible for repairs and replacements from the drywall out to the exterior walls of the building, whereas the owner of the unit is responsible for repairs and replacements from the drywall in to the interior of the unit.

If your dishwasher isn’t working or the kitchen sink has a constant drip, you’ll be calling a handyman instead of your association’s management company. Don’t like the color of the paint on the walls? You’ll be handling the repainting yourself or paying someone to do it out of your own pocket. In many associations, you may also be responsible for repairing and replacing your own windows and doors. Balconies, patios or terraces may also have specific requirements of responsibility between owner and the association, depending on the association’s declarations or CCRs.

Leaks can be especially problematic in a high-rise or condominium association where there are floors of units on top of each other. If the water heater in your unit springs a leak and you’re not home to spot it before it can leak down to the unit below you, you now could be responsible for not only the water damage in your unit but the damages incurred in the unit underneath yours.

The best way to avoid hallucinating over who bears responsibility for maintenance and repairs in your association is to EDUCATE YOURSELF.

In some associations, you may also be responsible for financing common area repairs and replacements. Yes, the condominium buildings’ roofs and siding may be the obligation of the association to repair and replace. However, if the association is planning a major siding or roof replacement project and it does not have sufficient monies in reserves to afford the project, the association may turn to its owners to finance the cost through special assessments. In situations like that, you might not be directly responsible for hiring a vendor and setting project specifications, but would be indirectly responsible for the project by paying for it.

While the landscaping, snow removal, cleaning and maintenance of other amenities such as a pool, fitness center or clubhouse are generally borne by the association and are included in the cost of your assessments, there may also be some limitations to this. For example, some snow removal contracts include

language that they will plow streets, driveways and walks when two inches or more of snow has fallen. Some janitorial companies will clean the lobbies and interior hallways of a building, but may not be responsible for picking up litter in the streets and sidewalks surrounding your association.

The best way to avoid hallucinating over who bears responsibility for maintenance and repairs in your association is to EDUCATE YOURSELF. Read the association’s declarations, bylaws or CCRs and understand where the association’s responsibility stops and yours starts. Look at the association’s annual budgets and financial statements to see what costs and expenses are included. If your association had a recent reserve study done, it could spell out what larger repairs and replacements of common area items are looming and if the association has sufficient reserve funds to cover them. Attend board meetings to learn how the association operates and what concerns or issues it may have. Ask questions of your board or management company. Knowledge is power and if you understand the facts, you’ll be less likely to believe the myths. • 847.301.7505 | 27

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