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Ask The HOA Expert: Outdoor Areas

Question: A resident puts her outdoor furniture in the common area adjacent to her unit, insisting she was given permission by the developer.

Answer: A claim that permission was granted by the developer is not valid since the developer has no right to grant some right to one that is not enjoyed by all. The board should advise the offending member the practice should cease.

Question: We have a resident that seems to be suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. He wanders the halls and forgets where he lives. He’s left the stove on several times and has set off the fire alarm. What can we do?

Answer: If this person has family, they should be notified as soon as possible of the danger posed to both the relative and others in the building. If family is unavailable or unwilling to intercede, contact local social services for assistance.

Question: Can payment of HOA fees be withheld if the payer feels the HOA is not doing its job (like rule enforcement, repairs and landscape maintenance)?

Answer: HOA fee payments cannot be withheld. It’s simply too easy for someone that doesn’t want to pay to find an excuse. The board and manager should be informed in writing of the specific repair request or other problem. However, in the case of an urgent repair request that the HOA has failed to perform (like a leaking roof that is damaging the member’s unit), the member might order repairs, pay for them and seek reimbursement.

Question: A unit owner has requested permission to rebuild her deck and expand the size. What issues should the board consider?

Answer: Having unit owners repair and replace their decks is often a problem because those decks are typically attached to the structure which is an HOA responsibility to maintain. So, the unit owner should also be held responsible for any damage caused by the deck to the structure, like dryrot. This agreement should be in writing, dated, signed, notarized and recorded against the unit title to advise future owners of this responsibility. You should use an attorney to put the agreement in proper recordable form.

Will the new deck match the look, design and material of the original installation? Conformity in common wall housing reinforces market value. The new deck should look like the old unless the board has adopted a new standard.

As far as expansion is concerned, the board has no authority to approve a unit owner expanding into common area or to enjoy exclusive use of a common area. This must be approved by a vote of the members which may be 100%.

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