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Townhouse and Condominium Associations

If you have never attended a Homeowner's Association meeting--whether for a townhouse or a condominium association--you many not be aware of how pervasive they can be and how important it is that you investigate an association when you buy a townhouse or condominium.

The Homeowners' Association has a number of duties and responsibilities. It will be responsible for not only the day-to-day operation of the complex, but also for long term planning. It is this association that monitors adherence to the various restrictions--for example what modifications you can or can't make to your unit--for the entire complex.

Repairs and Maintenance

In general, the association will take care of all of the exterior upkeep of the buildings and grounds. This can vary a little from association to association, so it is important for a condominium or townhouse buyer to have a clear idea of exactly what will (or will not) be covered, so as to not have a big surprise when you find out that you--and not the association--are responsible for some needed exterior repair or maintenance.

Covenants, Restrictions, and "Don't Even Think About It"

Every condominium and townhouse association is required to file a declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions. Simply put, this document discloses precisely how the homeowners' association is to be structured, exactly what its duties and responsibilities are, and what restrictions are to be placed on all owners as to acceptable modifications and improvements to their individual units. This document will be specific--for example, it may state that no owner can make any modification to the color of doors or windows, or may even stipulate what type of interior window coverings in the way of curtains and drapes that are acceptable. The goal is to have as much uniformity throughout the complex as possible.

The Financial Health of the Association

One aspect of the association that you will want to investigate closely for any townhouse or condominium that you are considering is its financial condition. Associations are required to develop an annual budget for both income (homeowners' fees) and expenses, as well as the current state of its financial condition. The more solvent (the more cash reserves available) an association is, the more protected the homeowners are. If there is a lack of cash reserves and an expensive repair becomes necessary, there is only one place for the association to go to get the needed funds: To the homeowners via a special assessment (a one time charge to all members of the association).

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