Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 9, 2020

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Oftentimes, members of a homeowners association (HOA) that own real property in a planned unit development are faced with a situation where they need to make repairs to a home or condominium. The areas in need of repair may be defined as “common areas” under recorded documents or HOA vote. Examples of common areas in need of repair are a common wall between two condominiums or a leaky roof.

Handling Repair Issues and the HOA

So, the HOA has been advised about the roof water intrusion problem and has agreed to make the repairs. Unfortunately for the homeowner, the HOA is taking a lot of time getting a licensed roofer on site to do a job estimate so that necessary repairs can begin. What options does the homeowner have?

When a homeowner is faced with needed repairs to his or her property, such as a degraded roof that could fall within the definition of a common area, the homeowner needs to notify the association of the problem in writing. Assuming the association considers the area in need of repair a common area, it is the association’s responsibility to make the repairs as opposed to the individual homeowner. Keep in mind that most roofs in need of repair are deemed a common area repair issue. The property owner needs to confirm any decision in writing by keeping a copy of the written confirmation. The property owner must also request a start date for the needed repairs.

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Problems with DIY Home Repairs and HOA Reimbursements

Problems arise when the HOA is slow to start the needed repairs in a common area. The delay naturally creates frustration for the property owner who has to live with a problem that is not being addressed. In an attempt to expedite repairs, the homeowner might make the repairs on his own and ask the HOA to reimburse her later. Unfortunately, many slow starts are due to lack of reserves or other financial issues.

The problem that occasionally occurs at this point is the HOA refusing to promptly reimburse the homeowner for the repairs that she made—repairs that were the responsibility of the association to make in the first place. The first thing the homeowner should do in order to obtain reimbursement is compose a letter stating what has been done to rectify the situation, and include with it any repair invoices and evidence that the payment for the repairs has been made. The letter should include a request for payment by a certain date and it must be sent directly to the HOA’s board of directors. The homeowner must keep a copy of the letter (and proof that it was sent) for future reference.

HOA Reimbursement Remedies After First Letter

If payment is not made by the due date/deadline, a second request letter should be sent directly to the HOA’s board of directors. A second deadline should be included and the homeowner must keep a copy of the letter (and proof that it was sent) for future reference. If the deadline passes and payment hasn’t been received, the homeowner should consult with a real estate attorney experienced in association disputes. If the costs of repairs are low enough to remain in the realm of small claims court, then the homeowner should consider filing an action for reimbursement against the HOA.

If the reimbursement amount exceeds the amount typically allowed in small claims (usually between $5,000 and $10,000), the homeowner should rely upon the advice of her real estate attorney. The real estate attorney will advise the homeowner on how to proceed, be it another demand letter (on the attorney’s stationery) or the filing of a legal action.