For the most part, the idea of actual “maintenance free living” in a homeowners association is just that – an idea. In reality, people living in associations still have some maintenance responsibilities. When it comes time to perform maintenance on your home, here are some tips from the association’s perspective to keep in mind:
- Does the Work Require Architectural Approval? In most cases, any change to the exterior of the home or yard area – including a simple color change – requires prior written approval of your association. Be sure to allow time for the processing of your application. DON’T even consider starting your project without written approval.
- Did You Do Your Due Diligence? Before you sign any contracts, consider:
- Is the work you plan to do actually your responsibility? Check your governing documents and ask the Board/property manager.
- Does the work to be done require a license and/or permit? Check with your city.
- If the work requires a license, check the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s website at https://secure.doli.state.mn.us to verify an individual’s or company’s current licensure status. If you choose to have an unlicensed contractor to do your work, there is no guarantee the person is properly trained to do the work. Further, if there are issues with the work, your recovery options may be limited.
- If a permit is required, clarify with your contractor as to who is responsible for pulling the permit (in almost all cases, the contractor pulls the permit, but better safe than sorry.) If the contractor will be pulling the permit, is the permit cost reflected in the contract amount?
- Is the contractor insured? In particular, if the contractor has workers, does the contractor have workers’ compensation insurance? Ask for proof. Be very wary of a contractor who tells you she doesn’t need workers’ compensation insurance because all her workers are independent contractors. If that’s true (and it often isn’t), then a worker injured on the job may come knocking on your door seeking compensation and/or coverage for medical bills.
- Feel free to check reviews on social media, but take them with a grain of salt. Anonymous reviews are often not accurate and may be flat-out false.
- Ask for references, keeping in mind a contractor is likely to give names of only those customers who were satisfied with the work done.
- Ask friends, family, neighbors and others whom you trust for referrals.
Once you’ve chosen the contractor, have a frank discussion with her about working conditions: time of day work will be done, placement of dumpsters (if needed), etc. [Check with your association on this, too.]
If the contractor will need to go on to your neighbor’s property to access an area where work is being done, talk to your neighbor to be sure they are okay with the plan. Your neighbor is not likely to be pleased to find your contractor’s ladder smashing the flowers in her garden, or to find debris from your job in his yard. Keep your neighbors informed about the job status, especially for noisier or dustier parts of the job. Finally, it’s never a bad idea to share some cookies or other treats with your neighbors when the job is complete as a thank you for putting up with noise and dust.
Residents of homeowners associations are all working toward the common goal of creating a community they are proud to call home. Maintenance projects require a homeowner to do his due diligence when choosing a contractor. Just as important, however, is remembering that everything you do affects everyone else. If you do your homework, you’re more likely to have the job go smoothly, which will make you and your neighbors happy!
The information in this article is provided solely as general information and not as legal advice. Receipt of this information or its use does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Readers are urged to speak with a qualified attorney experienced in community association law when making decisions regarding a specific legal issue.