What is a condominium association? People purchasing condos might only look into how much the assessment fees cost. Many do not look into what condo associations do and how they handle the assessment fees. What is a condo association and how can it affect you? Let’s find out.
What Is a Condo Association?
A condominium owners association (COA) is the governing entity that oversees condominiums. Much like an HOA, the COA works with the condo’s residents to maintain property values. A COA’s board of directors is made up of unit owners within the condominium. Their fellow neighbors usually elect them.
The Purpose of a COA: What Does a Condo Association Do?
What is a condominium owners association aiming to do? In other words, what is its objective? COAs are mainly responsible for maintaining the shared spaces and common elements of a condominium. Condominium associations handle the association’s finances and hire vendors to repair, clean, and maintain the community.
Through this, COAs can improve the residents’ quality of life. They also keep the property values of the condominium units high. Moreover, governing documents guide the COA on what they can and should do. They also enforce the rules written in their CC&Rs.
HOA vs Condominium Association
Condominium associations and homeowners associations are very similar. You could say that a COA is the condominium version of an HOA. Likewise, a COA collects fees from residents to handle the condo’s upkeep. They also work with management companies to contact vendors, handle maintenance and repairs, and enforce rules.
That said, what is the difference between a condo association and a homeowners association? The main difference between the two pertains to ownership; mainly, who owns a condo association and its common areas differs from that of an HOA.
Homeowners associations own the community’s common areas. Meanwhile, the residents own a percentage of all the shared properties in COAs. Unlike traditional communities, condominium owners co-own the building and grounds. The association does not own any of the common areas or real estate.
This can change the way the COA implements policies, runs operations, or maintains the building. It also has different implications when it comes to taxing, refinancing, and insurance. COA fees also cover general building maintenance and repairs instead of only covering shared amenities.
What Are COA Fees and Common Elements?
Like an HOA, condo unit owners must pay COA assessment fees. These cover all the association’s expenses related to maintaining common elements. But, what are common elements anyway? What if a condominium doesn’t have unique amenities like pools, clubhouses, or function rooms?
Unlike an HOA, common elements in a condominium not only encompass amenities like pools and clubhouses. They also refer to the things all owners of the building use and own. These include elevators, sidewalks, common hallways, lobbies, and staircases. Some examples of condominium maintenance responsibilities include:
- Landscaping and groundskeeping
- Roof repairs
- Removing snow and leaves
- Cleaning debris from parking lots and sidewalks
- Trimming tree branches
- Cleaning the outside of the condo’s siding and fencing
Apart from common elements, COA assessments also cover other expenses like accounting, insurance, and legal services. It may also include the association’s reserve funds for unforeseen emergency expenses. Moreover, assessment fees can cover necessary services like water, heating, cable, electricity, and waste collection.
Limited Use Common Elements
The COA may also be in charge of caring for limited common elements. These elements are slightly private and include those that only one or more owners can access. A few examples of these limited-use common elements include:
- Joint porches or balconies
- Exterior doors to common access points
- Entryways to shared buildings
- Shared facade window boxes
- Parking lots and driveways
These limited common elements can often be a point of confusion for COAs and unit owners. As such, it’s important for COAs to clearly define them in the CC&Rs. This ensures that property owners understand what they’re responsible for. Clear CC&Rs also help unit owners manage claim reimbursements and handle disputes due to delinquent neighbors.
What Belongs to the COA vs the Owners?
Condo owners are only responsible for maintaining and repairing their own units. But, the lines between common elements and individual units are blurrier in condominiums. Which parts are condo owners responsible for? For many associations, one unit is the outside surface of the drywall inward. It also includes the primary floor (wood or concrete slab) upward.
COAs can usually consult the CC&Rs to understand what encompasses a common element and an individual unit. Moreover, unit owners can reference their deeds and surveys to understand which is part of their property line. In some cases, condominiums may also have extra stipulations to define ownership of areas shared by two or more units.
Generally, condominium owners also own all the things inside their units. These include the floors, ceilings, basements, pipes, appliances, walls, attics, and private decks. They also own all the land within the survey lines. Everything outside of these boundaries is commonly owned.
Can You Opt Out of COA Membership?
If you purchase a unit with an existing COA, membership is not optional. You must join, pay the assessment fees, and follow the COA’s rules. It is one of the requirements you must agree to upon purchasing a condominium unit.
How Much Do Condominium Association Fees Cost?
The cost of COA fees varies per location and condominium. But, the fees in condominium associations are typically higher than that of HOAs. This is because everyone is equally responsible for maintaining the property. Meanwhile, individual homeowners in an HOA only need to maintain their houses.
In addition, more amenities like pools, clubhouses, gyms, or function rooms also mean higher fees. The fees each unit owner pays also vary depending on their percentage of ownership. This is different from an HOA where all homeowners pay an equal amount. Condominium fees can be cheap or expensive based on these factors. They can be as low as $50 or as high as $1,000 monthly.
What Are the Consequences of Not Paying Fees?
If unit owners fail to pay their monthly assessments, the association can place a lien on the member’s property. This makes sure that the owner cannot sell or refinance their unit until they pay the charges. COAs may also implement penalties that add to what the condo owner owes the association.
Furthermore, COAs may send the late account to a collections agency that can collect the debt according to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This can harm the unit owner’s credit score. In some states, COAs may also file a lawsuit against unit owners that don’t make their payments. They may also foreclose the property according to the state’s laws. However, some states, like Texas, don’t allow associations to prohibit delinquent members from voting.
Effective Condominium Association Management
Living in a condominium association entails many things, including submitting to the rules and paying COA fees. Nonetheless, a COA provides many benefits as it manages and maintains the condominium’s common elements.
Maintaining common elements in a condominium can be a difficult task for COAs. Board members have jobs and other responsibilities. Many are also not equipped to handle maintenance, disputes, or accounting. We can help with that. Call us at (512) 348-8821 or get in touch with us online today!