Who’s Responsible for Repairs? Board and Owner Maintenance Responsibilities

Say you’re in bed, and you hear what sounds like the shower going. It’s late, and you’re tired, so you pay it no mind. You wake up at 4 a.m. to get a glass of water and find half the rooms in your apartment flooded— you forgot to turn the shower off! You throw blankets and towels on the floor to soak up the water and call your building’s maintenance staff.

With the aid of a dehumidifying machine, they’re able to get most of the moisture out of the flooded areas. But the wooden floor tiles themselves are heavily damaged, and a fair amount of water seeped into your downstairs neighbor’s unit, damaging the ceilings, walls and some artwork. Who’s responsible for restoring the flooring? And what about the water that poured into the apartment below?

The Basics

Finding out what systems and features in an owner’s unit are his or her responsibility and which are the association’s responsibility can be very complicated. Many principles are universal but other details can vary from building to building depending on the rules of that particular community.

According to Lee Heller, a director of business management with Associa, a management company with locations across the U.S., owners are “typically responsible for the interior of their unit, the wall, ceiling and floor coverings. There’s a hot water heater or an air handler, their appliances, the plumbing and electrical panel.” Unfortunately, this would likely include those wooden floor tiles, unless your building administration decides to be generous.

“If it’s not spelled out in detail which quite often it isn’t, the general rule is, whatever is within the boundaries of the unit has to be in the responsibility of the unit owners,” says attorney Saul J. Feldman, founder of the Boston law firm, Feldman & Feldman. “Studs in; unit owners... Studs out; association.”

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3 Comments

  • The inference in you article implies that Limited Common Elements are the responsibility of the Association. In Maine, the Association is responsible to maintain, repair or replace but cost for the limited common element is the responsibility of the unit owners assigned to that limited common elements. Maine Condo Act 1603-115 (c) (1) and confirmed in our Declaration. The Maine Condo Act always takes precedence over the Declaration or By-laws.
  • I own a 2 story Business Condo with 3 other owners, each unit has its own balcony. I take good care of my property including maintenance to ensue the wood balcony is in good working order and not falling apart. its been 10 years and the the other 2 owners are asking for the HOA to build them a new balcony. My balcony has no issues because I pull maintenance on a regular basis. If it not in stipulated in the bi-laws who is responsible for the balcony, the owners or the HOA. The balcony is not common area?
  • Most property management law is intertwined with laws of the community. Property owners have specified maintenance duties assigned to them by rule of law the local Plumbing Code. The intent stated for instance in model plumbing codes is protect life limb health and property. What comes to mind is the debate over changing a water heater every five or six years of service, or conduct safety inspections and preventive maintenance. The later option addresses misconduct or gross negligence, extends the life cycle of the water heater nearer to twenty years and provides safety measures against explosions and water damage. Property owners have little knowledge of plumbing code requirements. That brings up the question of fiduciary duty belonging to board members. The property management group can adopt rules into the governing documents by reference. The reference to the plumbing code will be very clear and say that a unit owner is responsible to prevent injury or damage to people and property. A water heater must be maintained or it is determined to be "Unsafe plumbing" which is a nuisance. Plumbing system safety inspections and preventive maintenance are management tools that are worth the time to peruse. One water heater leaking causes thousands of dollars in damages. University of Florida at TREEO has offered classes that bring light to the details and make it easy for the associations lawyers to correct the language that may be questionable. According to typical plumbing codes the property owners are not allowed to turn a blind eye to plumbing safety and maintenance. Lets use the plumbing code to unwind some difficult issues.