Get Board Authority Over Members’ Unit Maintenance

July 26, 2018
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Proper and timely maintenance of every feature in a planned community or condominium is key to keeping things running smoothly. But members will inevitably have a wide range of attitudes toward their own maintenance obligations. On one end of the spectrum will be members who understand that, depending on the governing documents, they have maintenance obligations that are not the responsibility of the association. On the other end, you’ll encounter members who either don’t understand their obligations or don’t take them seriously.

Unfortunately, control over the inside of a member’s unit is tricky. Items like hot water heaters, washing machines, some kinds of pipes, or even smoke detectors, which have the potential to malfunction and cause damage to the member’s unit and adjoining units, are essentially invisible to the association. These so-called “high-risk components” that are located in a member’s unit belong to the member, and it’s the member’s responsibility to maintain, repair, and replace them. It wouldn’t be surprising to find out that many members tend to fix something only after it breaks—and with these high-risk components, that can be too late to avoid damage to other units or common areas. Creating a policy to deal with high-risk components before disaster strikes can not only help to avoid the serious consequences from things like water heater leaks or the possibly fatal outcome of a faulty smoke detector, but also minimize problems with the association’s insurance. Passing an amendment that gives your association the authority to compel proper care of high-risk components solves the problem.

It’s crucial that your amendment, which can be incorporated into the association’s governing documents, establishes that you’ve given the board authority to designate high-risk components. Say that the board has the authority, from time to time, to pass resolutions designating certain unit components as high risk. Then specify that the board is allowed to set requirements for care of high-risk components. Say in your amendment that whenever the board passes a resolution designating a component as high risk, it will detail what steps members must take to care for the component. Then, in the amendment, list the ways the board can require members to care for high-risk components. These listed requirements should be as broad as possible, to give your board the maximum amount of flexibility in setting specific requirements for specific high-risk components in the resolutions. Since the specific actions will be different for each type of component, don’t go into detail about them in the amendment.

For a list of the requirements the board should be allowed to set, and a Model Amendment you can adapt, see “Preempt Disasters by Getting Board Authority Over Equipment in Members' Units,” available to subscribers here.