Shared from the 10/27/2018 The Virginian-Pilot eEdition

CONDO CONVERSATIONS

Don’t confuse “no” with “low-maintenance” living

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JENNIFER IRELAND

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JULIE U L R I C H

Ask almost any condo owner why he or she made the decision to buy a condo and you’re guaranteed to get the response, “Because I no longer wanted to be responsible for maintaining a home.”

While owning a condo may involve less maintenance than owning a single-family detached home on a half-acre lot, you’re not off the hook when it comes to regular maintenance.

Condominium documents should spell out the maintenance responsibilities. However, there are often a lot of gray areas. If the governing documents of the association are unclear, it is imperative to ask your association management for clarification.

Let’s first clarify the components of a condominium.

Condominiums consist of limited common and common elements. Common elements are defined in the Virginia Condominium Act as “all portions of the condominium other than the units.” The replacement and repairs of common elements are always the responsibility of the association. This is where you reap the most benefits of “low-maintenance living.”

“Limited common element” means a portion of the common elements reserved for the exclusive use of those entitled to the use of one or more, but less than all, of the units.

Examples of limited common elements could be rear yards, patios, balconies, front porches, mulch/flower beds, driveways, exterior doors and windows. When it comes to limited common elements, each community will vary regarding the unit owners’ maintenance responsibilities. The issue of limited common elements can be quite complicated, and it’s important for you to know your responsibilities for the upkeep.

Then there is the “unit,” a portion of the condominium designed and intended for individual ownership and use. This is where most of your maintenance responsibility lies.

The following tips and best practices apply to just about every homeowner and are even more important in an attached condominium due to the fact you live in such close proximity to your neighbors.

Maintenance tips:

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Check the batteries every six months and replace at least once per year.

Vents: Make sure all kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans are clean and venting properly to the outside. Clean your range hood filter. Dryer exhaust vents should be inspected and cleaned at least once a year.

Fire extinguisher: Check your home fire extinguisher monthly to make sure they are ready if needed. Inspect the seals, check the pressure, and look for any damage.

HVAC: Change the HVAC air filter every month and be sure to remove any debris from around the outdoor unit. Inspect the condensate line that carries water out of the home regularly. No moisture exiting outdoors is a tell-tale sign your condensate lines may be clogged, which can cause serious moisture issues inside the home. Arrange for twice yearly maintenance check-ups from a professional.

Hot water heater: Test your water heater’s pressure relief valve twice a year. This will prevent mineral and corrosion buildup, which safeguards against leaks.

Plumbing: Inspect for leaks, clean aerators on faucets. Pay attention to any drastic changes in your water bill which could indicate an undetected leak.

Absentee owners: Due to the low maintenance lifestyle, many condo owners are often absentee owners or part-time residents. Be sure to have someone watch after your home while you’re away, visually inspecting for leaks, running faucets and flushing toilets regularly. Keep the temperature within a reasonable range (not less than 55 degrees or greater than 80 degrees).

Staying on top of these tasks can save you money, protect your investment, and help keep you and your neighbors safe.

Jennifer Ireland and Julie Ulrich, both with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Towne Realty, are vice-chairs of the Hampton Roads Realtors Association’s Common Interest Community Forum. Have a question about a condo or common interest community topic? Email svegh@hrra.com. For more on HRRA, go to www.hrra.com, or call 757-473-9700. This column is not legal advice nor a legal recommendation.

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