Community Common Area Maintenance
One of the most desirable amenities that make homeowners choose an HOA community is the presence of common areas. These common areas are managed and maintained by the homeowners association and can provide many uses to the community members.
However, one of the most notorious questions that arise within HOA boards is what role they play in the maintenance of common areas.
What is Defined as a Common Area?
Any property within the community that is accessible by community members, with the exception of the property owned by the individual, is considered a common area. The community pool, for example, is considered a common area and so is the sidewalk, roads, and all other areas or items that don’t fall under the definition of separate interests. A separate interest is essentially a piece of property within the association, such as a home or the lot it sits on, that is owned and cared for by the homeowner.
The maintenance and management of the common areas is then deemed the responsibility of the HOA board. However, this responsibility can be outsourced to a reputable property management company such as Elite Management Services.
Typically, the extent of the board’s responsibility for common area maintenance can be found within the CC&Rs of the association, otherwise known as the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions. However, should the HOA find their responsibilities to be unclear or undefined, they can refer to the Ohio Revised Code Section 5312.08(a) for a brief outline of their duties.
§5312.08: Common Elements; Maintenance, Repair, and Replacement
Under the Ohio Revised Code Section 5312.08(a), it states that:
“Unless otherwise provided by the declaration, the owners association is responsible for reasonable maintenance, repair, and replacement of the common elements, and each owner is responsible for maintenance, repair, and replacement of the owner’s lot and improvements to that lot, including the dwelling unit and the utility lines serving that dwelling unit.”
In other words, the HOA is responsible for the general maintenance of the common areas outlined in their bylaws.
Not all repairs are the responsibility of the association though. Should a community member damage a common area, they themselves would then be responsible for its repair. This provision can be found in section 5312.08(b):
“An owner shall permit agents or employees of the owners association and other owners access through the owner’s lot and dwelling unit for the purpose of fulfilling the association’s duties and obligations. Any damage to the common elements, lot, or dwelling unit due to that access is the responsibility of the owner that caused the damage or the owners association if it is responsible for the damage. That owner, or the owners association, is liable for the prompt repair of any damage and, if not repairable, for the value of the damaged property or item as it existed immediately prior to that damage.”
This section also states that any damage to a separate interest caused by the association is their responsibility.
Examples of Common Area Maintenance
In most associations, the board handles the basic repairs and maintenance of common areas. This might include actions such as:
- Ensuring the operation of any heating or cooling elements
- Replacing any lights or light fixtures
- Installing new windows should the former ones become compromised
- Repairing the clubhouse roof
- Maintaining/repairing elevators
- Keeping the community pool and surrounding area maintained
- Landscaping common grounds such as parks and trails
- Replacing or repairing fitness equipment in the community center
These are just a few examples and may or may not be performed by all associations. Certain associations may provide more in terms of repair, replacement, or maintenance of the common areas.
How is Maintenance Paid For?
One of the major responsibilities of an HOA board is to maintain the community common areas, another is to budget for these expenditures. That means the board has to first collect the funds needed, which usually take the form of association fees. A large portion of maintaining the community common areas is create an annual budget that allocates funds for certain maintenance, as well as any unplanned repairs that may arise. Budgeting for these types of expenses can complex, which often leads to a lack of funds for major repairs that pop up down the road. Board members can therefore hire a management company to handle their accounting and financials, including the collection of funds.
Should an HOA board fail to meet their obligatory responsibilities for maintaining common areas, there are a few actions that can be taken. At the annual board elections meeting, new officers can be elected who feel they might do a better job. Often a more simple and effective solution is to contact Elite Management Services, who can then assume the responsibility for maintaining the common areas.
If you’re an HOA board member who finds the maintenance of community common areas to be severely lacking, request a proposal from EMS today.