Condo Maintenance FAQs: What Repairs Are Condo Owners Responsible For?

Condo Maintenance for Owners and HOAs

Condo owners will quickly find that regular maintenance is essential for keeping their investment in prime condition. Understanding the division of maintenance responsibilities between condo owners and their condo owners' association enables buyers to make informed decisions when purchasing condos for sale.

While each COA's declaration ultimately determines who is responsible for what, these responsibilities tend to break down in similar ways across condo complexes. Generally speaking, the condo owner must maintain their private unit, the COA cares for shared common elements, and they share responsibility for limited common elements. One of the main differences between buying and renting a condo is that owners must fund and facilitate most of the repairs in their private unit. Keep reading to learn more about the maintenance responsibilities for condo owners.

What Belongs to the COA & What Belongs to Me?

The various parts of a condo belong to three categories: the private unit, common elements, and limited common elements. Although private units belong to their respective condo owners, common elements belong to the community, and limited common elements generally belong to the condo owners that use them. The specific condo portions belonging to each category can vary by location, so verifying the division of ownership by checking the COA's documents is crucial.

Private units are parts of the condo designated for individual use. What counts as part of the unit? Typically, the unit includes its interior floors, ceilings, and walls. Any interior fixtures and decor like paint or wallpaper are also part of the unit.

Common elements include all parts of the condo outside the unit, such as its exterior walls, floors, ceilings, and roof. This category also includes common areas like clubhouses, gyms, and swimming pools. Anyone in the condo community can use these areas, so the association holds responsibility for their maintenance.

Limited common elements are portions of the condo that some members of the community share, such as patios, balconies, or air conditioners. Unlike shared common elements, these areas have limited access. Typically, the residents that use them take primary responsibility for their upkeep, but the COA may have some involvement in their maintenance schedule.

Maintenance for Common Elements

Common elements comprise any part of the condo outside its private units. The condo's association maintains common elements, including the building, grounds, and amenities like pools or clubhouses.

Ever wondered where COA dues go? Typically, they go back into caring for the condo complex's common elements. Common elements can include diverse spaces, from essentials like roofs and windows to luxurious pools and other amenities. In addition to these areas, a condo's common elements may include:

  • Landscaping
  • Parking garages or lots
  • Elevators
  • Stairways
  • Hallways
  • HVAC systems
  • Electrical systems outside of units
  • Plumbing systems outside of units
  • Utility lines servicing common areas
  • Clubhouse
  • Fitness center
  • Sports facilities
  • Laundry facilities

While many COAs outsource maintenance to condo management companies, others hire in-house maintenance staff to ensure a quick response in emergencies. In some cases, COA board members may be responsible for specific maintenance tasks themselves.

If a COA fails to maintain common elements, referring back to the governing documents can help. These will outline the full extent of the COA's maintenance responsibilities and what condo owners can do to resolve the issue. Note that every COA is different, and some may pass some of these responsibilities on to condo owners. For example, in some condominiums, the owners are responsible for roof maintenance, not the COA.

Maintenance in Private Units

Fixing a Bathroom SinkThe condo owner is responsible for maintaining everything in their private unit, including the interior structures, fixtures, and appliances.

The COA's declaration should indicate precisely where the unit's boundaries lie. Generally, the unit's boundaries include the walls, ceilings, floors, doors, and windows. Walls can get complicated, but the unit typically ends with the unfinished interior surface of perimeter walls and the middle interior of demising walls. This boundary means owners are responsible for any paint, wallpaper, or wallboards the unit may have. Additionally, attic space above the ceiling may also be part of the unit.

Condo owners should expect to maintain everything in their unit, from paint and flooring to appliances and other fixtures. If the stove breaks or a faucet leaks, the owner has to repair or replace it. Likewise, if the wallpaper starts to peel, it's the owner's responsibility to fix it.

Maintenance for Limited Common Elements

Limited common elements are features in shared spaces that only select condo residents may use. Condo owners typically are responsible for maintaining the limited common elements attached to their units, which can sometimes involve shared responsibility among neighbors. However, some COAs may share responsibility for maintaining some areas. Consulting the COA's declaration is the best way to understand what features the COA considers limited common elements and how the division of maintenance responsibilities breaks down.

What types of features do COAs typically consider limited common elements? Many limited common elements are intuitive, like porches, patios, and balconies. However, others are less obvious, and the division of responsibilities even less so.

Dealing with plumbing, electricity, and HVAC systems is sometimes the COA's responsibility, but maintaining these utilities often falls on the owner. While the COA may sometimes take care of repairs if the damage was in some way their fault, condo owners can usually expect to be fully responsible for maintaining plumbing and electrical wires in and immediately around their units.

External doors and windows may be limited common elements. The COA may give condo owners full responsibility for their maintenance and replacement, or it may only expect residents to make minor repairs.

Similarly, shared spaces like balconies and patios that belong to more than one unit have shared maintenance responsibilities. While the COA may play some role, the condo owners using the space generally share responsibility for its maintenance.

Who is Responsible for Electrical Wiring in a Condo?

Electrical wiring is a condo element that can fall into some gray area since it can be unclear where the wires exist in comparison to property lines. However, the responsibility of electrical wiring in a condo depends on the management rules and regulations that a COA enforces. Generally, the homeowner is responsible for maintaining any wiring within their unit or in common areas shared between units, while the association is usually responsible for all other infrastructure related to the household wiring (i.e., utility lines, panels, etc.). Additionally, the association may be responsible for wiring outside of the units but within the common areas of the complex.  

Ultimately, it is important to check your COA documents so that you know which duties are assigned to each party. 

Maintain Your Condo With Ease

Condo owners generally need to maintain their private units and any limited common elements they use, while COAs maintain common elements using member dues. Still trying to decide between a house or condo? The division of responsibilities enables condo residents to enjoy various amenities and the benefits of homeownership without some of the added responsibilities that come with owning other types of homes. Additionally, this responsibility allows condo owners to implement space-saving design tips and other high-ROI upgrades in their homes.

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