It is reasonable to think that owners of real property are responsible for maintaining and insuring that property. In community associations, however, the maintenance and insurance obligations are often not entirely consistent with ownership. Knowing the maintenance and insurance obligations for your community association and its unit owners is critical.

Ownership. Ascertaining who owns what property in a community association depends on the structure of the community – condominium, townhomes, cooperative, single-family home, etc. – and how it was created: by master deed, declaration, or proprietary lease. The owner of a single family home may own everything that is on his lot while the owner of a condominium unit may only own everything within her unit boundaries. In a co-op, the shareholders own no real property, just shares of stock in a corporation which owns the real property. While a homeowners association owns all of the common property, in a condominium association the common and limited common property is owned proportionately by each of the unit owners.

Maintenance. Unit owners may or may not be responsible for maintenance, repair and replacement of the property they own in a community association. A homeowners association may mow lawns on individual single family home lots or maintain, repair, and replace the roofs and exteriors of a townhome. A condominium association may be responsible for maintenance, repair, and replacement of pipes and wires which are part of the unit and a condominium unit owner may be responsible for maintenance and repairs of limited common elements adjacent to the unit. Ownership of property in a community association does not necessarily dictate the maintenance obligations.

Insurance. The insurance requirements in community associations may also be inconsistent with property ownership. Condominium associations and unit owners should be most concerned about insurance requirements because poor interpretation can result in duplicative insurance or even gaps in insurance. An association may be required to insure portions of the unit such as drywall, appliances, cabinets, and floor coverings or it may only be required to insure the building from the “studs out” (excluding drywall and all interior furnishings). Understanding the insurance requirements for unit owners and associations is essential to ensure sufficient coverage in the event of a casualty loss.

The association master deed/declaration and by-laws must be carefully reviewed to understand the ownership interests, maintenance obligations, and insurance requirements of unit owners and the association. A thorough understanding of these important provisions is fundamental to proper administration and management of a community association.