5 Ways to Avoid Emergency Repairs in Condos
February 24th, 2021
Condo ownership can be much less stressful than owning a single-family home. Roof repairs, landscaping, pool maintenance, the list goes on of things that we simply don’t have to worry about. We pay a monthly maintenance fee and someone else takes care of everything, right?
Wrong! Condo owners - particularly first timers - sometimes hold misconceptions with respect to what their homeowner responsibilities are. Association fees do in fact cover a very long list of maintenance projects for the building. But, what happens in your unit is your responsibility.
Image: American Family Insurance
Here are five ways that you can prevent unexpected expenses, and plan for replacement expenses when needed.
1.Know what you are responsible for maintaining, and what your building defines as Common Areas and Limited Common Areas or Elements in your building.
Common areas are defined as parts of the building that everyone can enjoy. Limited common areas are properties of a condo that are assigned to a unit but considered community property and not the owners. These vary depending on the governing documents of your association but can include windows, balconies, and what’s “inside the walls:” riser pipes and electrical.
The association must maintain and repair any common areas and limited common areas. Everything else is the owner’s responsibility to maintain or replace when needed. This can include electrical outlets and switches, plumbing fixtures an water heaters, appliances, AC units, hurricane shutters, and more.
This is why it’s crucial for every condo owner to understand where the association’s responsibility ends and where the owners begin, so read your condo docs carefully, and ask your property manager if you are in doubt.
2.Beware of water damage. It can be very costly!
The average water damage insurance claim is $9,000, according to Hippo insurance. When you live in a condo, water damage can not only impact your property, but likely your neighbor’s and the association’s as well. Even a small undetected shower or tub leak will eventually seep down to your neighbor below. When that happens, you are responsible for your neighbor’s costs, as well as your own. Remember, in Florida water can quickly bring mold! Pay special attention to toilets / toilet flappers, water heaters and refrigerator lines. Your AC can also leak water: replace your filters monthly and get your lines flushed twice a year to avoid issues.
3.Make a preventive maintenance plan.
Here is a checklist of the most common maintenance tasks, and who frequently they should be done. Map out yours and put them on your calendar or get an annual maintenance plan – a subscription to get all of your work scheduled for you, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting!
4. Know the life expectancy of your appliances.
Your appliances won’t last forever, so be prepared for when they need to be replaced. What elements of your home are close to the end of their life cycle? If you don’t know, an inspection can provide a baseline of their current condition, and help you plan ahead for replacement when needed.
Here’s the general lifespan of major appliances – use as a guideline as these will vary based on brand and frequency of use:
Water heater – 10 years
Electric Range – 13 years
Garbage Disposal – 8 to 10 years
Clothes Washer – 10 years
Fridge / Freezer – 14 years
Dishwasher – 6 to 10 years
AC Unit – 15 years
Clothes Dryer – 10 – 13 years
5. Get Condo Insurance
Condo insurance (HO-6 policy) is important to have since your association's policy will not cover your belongings or provide you with personal liability coverage if someone is harmed inside of your residence. An HO-6 policy will cover interior damage to your unit, improvements, additions and alterations you've made and your personal property. It will also cover any damages in other units caused by issues in yours.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." This definitely applies for preventive home maintenance. Taking these steps will ensure that you keep your home – and your community - healthy and happy.
Association fees do in fact cover a very long list of maintenance projects for the building. But, what happens in your unit is your responsibility.