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Determining who is liable for maintenance in an HOA

Those who live in a condominium or planned unit in California may be confused as to who is responsible for maintenance. As a general rule, the homeowners association is required to maintain all common areas while individuals are responsible for maintaining their units. Features such as porches or balconies may be labeled as exclusive use common areas, and the owner of a unit is generally responsible for their upkeep.

In a planned unit, the homeowners association is generally responsible for maintaining the exterior of the house. This means painting walls, fixing the roof or handling basic landscaping tasks. It may also be possible to make community rules about how to handle pests that eat away at wooden structures. Homes that are impacted by these pests could be subject to levies per Civil Code Section 4780. In many cases, the HOA governing documents can further spell out what the association is liable for and what property owners are liable for.

Generally speaking, an association should aim to make its rules as fair and transparent as possible. For instance, when determining what the association will maintain, it could be a good idea to ask which areas of a property are used mostly for exclusive use versus community use. They should also address the extent to which a planned unit HOA will maintain the exterior of a home.

In many cases, HOA disputes can be resolved through conversations between the board and residents. If talks between homeowners and the association don't work, it may be time to consult with an attorney. An attorney may send a letter or take other steps to compel the board to negotiate in good faith. In the event that this doesn't resolve the matter, an attorney may represent a homeowner in court.

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