What Building Systems Are You Responsible For Accountability Confusion

 One of the most important things to understand as a member of a condo or HOA is  how responsibility for maintaining and repairing various building systems is  divided between individual unit owners and the association at large.  

 When it comes to most buildings systems like HVAC or security, the  responsibility for maintenance and repair falls to the association itself. But  for other systems, it’s not so clear-cut. Especially for elements like pipes and radiators that are  part of a community-wide system, but which terminate in private homes. For  these elements, responsibility for repair and maintenance generally depend on  the type of ownership and the community’s governing documents, and can vary significantly from one HOA to another.  

 These variations can be in the language of the documents or in the policies  adopted by boards regarding repairs, says Karim G. Kaspar, an attorney who  represents more than a dozen New Jersey condos as a senior counsel with the  Roseland-based law firm of Lowenstein Sandler. “That’s why it’s vital to clarify who is liable for repairs, upkeep and maintenance for all  building systems before something happens and you’re left footing the bill for the damage,” he says. “When you look at the big picture, generally speaking the common elements are  defined in the master deed and that controls who has responsibility for those  repairs.”  

 Up to the Association

 Looking at the governing documents is the easiest way to know what the  association is responsible for, but the general rule of thumb follows the  inside/outside the wall model.  

 “The big pipes for plumbing, and the main electrical panels that are in the walls  or in a common area that control the power to the building are usually the  association’s responsibility,” Kaspar continues. “If there is a swimming pool or other amenities, those would be the association’s responsibility as well when it came to their wiring and plumbing.”  

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5 Comments

  • marlene Lundquist on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 9:39 PM
    What about rain gutters that run along the roof edges?
  • What about gas pipes from the outside meter?
  • Gerald Nave Electrical Inspector on Sunday, August 30, 2015 3:55 PM
    We are doing townhouses that may be sold. My question I think that the service feeders from the meter center ( located remote from the building) to the individual units can't pass below the slabs of other units which will be owned per property deed. The international building code states that a townhouse is owned to the foundation which can be part of ( turn down slab construction) or above the slab poured above the foundation. Thank you
  • Is there a code requirement to keep locks on exterior electrical (conduit?) boxes, to which building unit wiring is connected? I live in a townhome style condo complex with power boxes on the outside of each of 4 buildings. I am also the president of the board of directors for this complex, which has been around for 30 years. Recently, a couple residents have expressed concern that the power boxes are not secured with locks, and that should anything happen, the association could be fined. Up until now, there have never been any locks on each box, and no one has ever been concerned about over the years. The residents are concerned someone could pull the circuits, turning off all the power and do harm to the building or residents. Again, my question is whether or not there is a regulation regarding keeping locks on exterior building power boxes?
  • I've never been a member of an HOA before, so it is really interesting to learn about the repsonibilities. I agree that it is important to determine clearly who is responsible for mainitianing the utilities. For instance, I'm not sure if I am responible for the repairs to the pipeline that connect to the meter outside my home. I'll have to call my landlord to find out.