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Common area maintenance

By Paula Felps

When one of the residents in Deonna Lierman’s condominium community wanted to make improvements to the common area behind her unit, she approached the condominium board with a clear-cut plan.

“She wanted to add some landscaping, and explained what she was going to do and also said she would pick up all the expenses,” says Lierman, president of the Condo Association for Pebblebrook Lane Condominiums in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Before she could do anything, she had to bring it before the board and get it approved.”

But passing the board’s approval meant promising more than just improving an area – it also meant they had to determine who would be responsible for the area’s upkeep.

“It’s up to the board to decide if they, the board, are going to be responsible for maintaining it or if the woman who did the landscaping should be responsible. Those are the things that become a case-by-case basis, and oftentimes will depend upon how a board’s declarations are written.”

And, when another resident panicked at the sight of her neighbor digging up the area, it was up to Lierman to promise her that the new landscaping would be an improvement, not an eyesore.

“The whole process has to go through the board, and that’s the most important thing to remember,” she says. “Everything has to comply with the association rules.”

Common problems

Maintaining common areas is an important issue that every community association faces. Boards must decide not only who is responsible for maintaining common areas, but also must create guidelines for how the area is maintained. Regardless of whether the residents are responsible for maintenance or the association hires someone to do it, certain ground rules must be established.

“A lot of what you are able to do in a common area, including its maintenance, is determined by your board,” Lierman says.

Common areas can include fitness centers, swimming pools, rooftop gardens and more, and are designed to be used for the common enjoyment of residents. In some communities, upkeep may be provided by the association, and paid for with dues. In others, residents may be responsible for maintenance, and do it on a rotating basis.

Regardless of who is responsible for the maintenance of common areas, here are some basics to keep in mind:

  • Know who’s responsible. Everyone should become familiar with their association’s rules – and know what the guidelines are for maintaining common areas.
  • Do your share. If residents are expected to help maintain the common areas, make sure you’re doing your part to comply. And if someone else is maintaining it, but you see violations, don’t be afraid to inform the board. Boards count on resident participation to ensure compliance is being met.
  • Be proactive. If you see something that needs changed, or have a suggestion for improving how the maintenance is being performed, speak up.

“You have to do your best and do your part,” Lierman says. “If you want to live in a good community, be a good neighbor.”