Owning a Condo: What Repairs Are Condo Owners Responsible For?

Who Handles Condo Maintenance?

Condos are one of the best types of real estate investments for beginners. Not only are condos for sale more affordable than single-family homes, but they also have a great sense of community and can yield a phenomenal return on investment. Most of them are close to urban centers, and some even feature community convenience stores and top-notch shared amenities like swimming pools.

But given that a majority of condo communities feature an COA responsible for tasks like trash removal, what exactly are the maintenance responsibilities for condo owners? Read on to find out the differences between condo owner maintenance responsibilities and COA maintenance responsibilities.

What Belongs to the COA & What Belongs to Me?

Condoowner associations (COA) are organizations that create and enforce rules regarding security, standard utilities, maintenance and finances, and other issues affecting the greater community.

A board of directors made up of member residents chosen by other residents often runs these associations. In COA-managed condo neighbourhoods, the community is sectioned into three parts: individual units, common areas, and exclusive or limited common areas. Individual units typically belong to the condo owner, while common elements belong to and are managed by the COA.

Exclusive or limited common elements are often owned and maintained by a few condo owners and may include spaces like the balcony, patio, or porch. On the other hand, common elements are usually maintained by the condo owners association. These elements include all areas in the condo community that all condo owners can access freely at any time, such as pathways, picnic areas, swimming pools, and other shared amenities present. As a result, condo owners are often responsible for maintaining their units and any limited common elements in the community. COAs, on the other hand, are responsible for common elements maintenance.

Maintenance of Common Elements

Common areas, as mentioned, are all parts of a condo community that serve more than individual unit owners. They include elevators, HVAC systems, hallways, utility lines, swimming pools, walkways, and sidewalks. Generally, if all condo owners can freely access a space, it's considered a common area, and the COA is responsible for its maintenance.

The COA identifies and manages all repair and routine maintenance tasks such as landscaping, snow and leaf removal, roof repairs, trash collection, exterior condo wall repairs, and fencing using monthly or annual fees paid by residents. These associations will also cover the upkeep and repair of amenities in the community, such as clubhouses, fitness centers, and parking areas. They're also often responsible for any unexpected repairs, for instance, a broken elevator and scheduled exterior upgrades.

However, that doesn't mean the board will repair common areas damaged by negligence or misuse by the condo owners or their guests. In such instances, the unit owner is often required to cover the costs out of pocket. If damage occurs in common areas and no one claims responsibility or is identified, residents are often required to pay an equally distributed common area damage charge. If the damage is a result of natural disasters such as weather, the condo association will usually cover the costs, in most cases, using compensation funds from the community's insurance.

Maintenance in Private Units

The maintenance of private strata is often the responsibility of individual owners. It entails all repairs, upgrades, and tasks done within the unit's boundaries or any attached private spaces such as balconies. Condo unit's boundaries often include the unfinished interior elements of an exterior wall, interior walls, ceilings, windows, and doors.

A condo owner must generally handle all interior fixtures such as lighting and flooring, all electrical systems, plumbing, and even appliance upgrades. That means if the interior paint is chipping, the owner is 100% responsible for the paint job costs. If an appliance, for instance, a dishwasher, requires repairs or upgrades, the strata owner should handle it. However, when it comes to plumbing, condo owners will be responsible for any repairs or upgrades within the interior. Still, if there's a plumbing issue affecting the entire community, such as a blocked exterior water line, the COA will be responsible for it.

Maintenance for Limited Common Elements

Parking SpacesAs noted, limited common elements are areas in a strata neighbourhood exclusive to specific residents within the community. They may include a patio area only accessible to condo residents of a particular floor or a parking spot only accessible to homeowners in units that immediately surround it.

Such elements are often more prevalent in large communities, and, besides the things mentioned, they may also include smaller shared accessories such as window boxes, entryways, exterior doors, and doorsteps.

Condo owners are only assigned the exclusive use of these elements if all association members approve. Maintenance of all limited elements is often the responsibility of those sharing them. For example, if two strata owners share a parking spot, they'll need to work together to oversee parking maintenance tasks such as cleaning, seal coating, and routine visual inspections.

COA Deferred Maintenance & Damage to Private Property

In some cases, the delineation between common and private elements can be obscured. For instance, if your condo building has deferred maintenance that causes water to leak through the roof and into your unit, who pays for drywall repairs? In this sort of situation, you will need to check your covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R) to determine who is responsible for payment. 

CC&Rs are the governing documents of a condominium association and they outline the rules, regulations, duties and responsibilities that all condo owners must agree to follow. They also provide information about common elements shared by all homeowners and private areas assigned to individual unit owners. Additionally, CC&Rs specify certain maintenance requirements such as who is responsible for making repairs and who pays for those repairs. 

Strata Maintenance in a Nutshell

Trying to decide if you should buy a condo or rent? Understanding maintenance differences can help you decide. Before you commit to any contract to buy a condo, review and understand the maintenance responsibilities of a condo owner by examining the declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R).

Generally, condo owners are responsible for maintaining anything, from lighting flooring to paintwork, that's within their wall's interiors. They are also expected to cover maintenance and repair costs of any limited common elements they have access to.

General community maintenance tasks such as trash removal and landscaping and the upkeep of shared amenities like swimming pools and neighbourhood clubhouses often fall on the condo owners association. Although this is a rule of thumb, some COAs tend to shift more maintenance to the residents. That is why you need to carefully review community bylaws before you commit or work with a professional and reputable real estate expert to get your next strata.

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