HVAC and your HOA - Who is Responsible?
Summer is around the corner which means rising temperatures and increased usage of air conditioning systems. After many months of sporadic use HVAC systems go into overdrive as the summer months approach; the increase in use gives rise to a number of problems often-times requiring repair or replacement. When a home is part of a homeowner's association or condo association there can be confusion as to who is responsible to make the necessary repairs. High temperatures can lead to hot tempers and frustration; it is important for homeowners and HOA's to understand the differences in common HVAC systems and who exactly is responsible for repairs.
Is the HVAC system part of a shared or individual system?
There are areas within an HOA that are easily identifiable as a common area such as a clubhouse, office, gym, etc. In these instances, the HOA is clearly responsible for any HVAC repairs or replacement that is needed but when it comes to units that are close in proximity or connected such as condominiums, the answer to who is responsible for HVAC repairs is not always so clear.
In general HVAC systems that produce multiple outputs to various units and share components of the HVAC system and ductwork means the responsibility for repair or replacement of the system will fall on the HOA. For units that have individual HVAC systems with dedicated ductwork and components used only by the one unit then the repairs and maintenance of the system will fall on the homeowner.
Confusion arises in situations when individual units may have a dedicated HVAC system but ductwork that runs through common areas of the building. In these instances, it is important to note that it does not matter if the HVAC system only benefits the one unit but rather the manner in which the ductwork is accessible to the homeowner. In these situations, you should review the CC&R's which delineate the areas considered common use and note whether ductwork is noted. There may be some unique situations when an HOA may be responsible for the repairs of an HVAC system that is benefiting only one unit.
Some Scenarios When Your HOA May Be Responsible
As an HOA you should be aware of certain extenuating circumstances when an HOA would be responsible for the repair or replacement of an HVAC system whether the system is used individually or in common. During incidents of casualty such as a fire, hurricane, tornado, hail storm, etc. the HOA may be responsible for repair or replacement of the system if the damage or loss is covered by the current insurance policy of the HOA.
Other Important HVAC Considerations
Maintenance, repair, or replacements are not the only controversies to arise surrounding HVAC systems between homeowners and an HOA. Homeowners should be kept informed and aware of any restrictions within HOA regulations regarding HVAC systems and their components that will be installed on the exterior of the home or condominium. Oftentimes, there may be requirements regarding the location of HVAC systems in the exterior as well as noise limitations and indications regarding shared components. It is important that homeowners are aware of these restrictions and limitations so that they do not interfere with the usage of other homeowners or inadvertently violate HOA bylaws and regulations such as installing a window cooling system.
Communicate Your HOA HVAC Policy Before Any Problems Arise
One way you can reduce the confusion and frustrations revolving HVAC systems is to keep your homeowners informed and clearly communicate your HOA policies and regulations regarding these systems. Summer is approaching and the occurrence of broken down cooling systems is inevitable; keep your shared HVAC systems maintained and make sure to preemptively communicate your HOA HVAC system policies so that your homeowners know what to expect before the issues arise.