A common cause of conflicts between homeowners associations and their members is a lack of understanding whether the association or the homeowner is responsible for the maintenance, repair or replacement of a particular item or component. The lack of understanding is frequently caused by inadequate coverage of the division of responsibilities in the associations governing documents and/or poor communication on the part of the association relative to maintenance responsibilities. Without a clear understanding of who is responsible there are resulting disagreements between association directors / management personnel, owners, and insurance carriers.
A practical way for homeowners associations to minimize conflicts concerning maintenance responsibilities is to create a Maintenance Responsibility Chart. A Maintenance Responsibility Chart clearly identifies the various items and components within the common areas and the owners separate interests and assigns the responsibility for the maintenance, repair and/or replacement of those items and components. The initial creation of the Maintenance Responsibility Chart requires an investment by the association for an attorney to review and evaluate both the associations governing documents and applicable state laws in order to determine who is responsible for the maintenance, repair and replacement of each component in the development.
After the respective responsibilities have been determined, the Maintenance Responsibility Chart is created by listing all of the possible components in one column (usually listed in alphabetical order, but they can be grouped by classifications or other ways) and then adding columns for Associations Responsibility and for Unit/Lot Owners Responsibility. When completed, the chart should clearly demonstrate items and components that the association is responsible for and those that the owners are responsible for.
A sample Maintenance Responsibility Chart prepared by the law firm of Russell & Mallett, LLP (www.russell-mallett.com) and further developed by Echo Property Management (www.echo-ca-org) is accessible via the below link.
See sample: Sample Maintenance Responsibility Chart
The completed Maintenance Responsibility Chart should be made part of the associations governing documents and distributed to all owner / members of the association. The chart will most likely require revisions over time to add / delete or change entries and association members should be provided with copies when the chart is changed and with annual disclosure statements that are delivered to owners. The current chart should also be accessible via links contained in association newsletters and on association websites.
Homeowners associations that invest in creating and communicating a proper Maintenance Responsibility Chart will experience great returns in the form of less conflicts and greater involvement on the part of homeowners in connection with the maintenance, repair and replacement of items and components that they understand they are responsible for.