A fundamental duty of a board is to maintain and repair the common areas. Collecting sufficient assessments to carry out that duty is required by statute. (Civ. Code § 5600.) The maintenance obligation includes maintaining the common areas in a reasonably safe condition. (Ritter & Ritter v. Churchill Condominium Assn. (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 103, 119.) Following are four types of maintenance:
1. Preventive (or Preventative) Maintenance. Preventive maintenance is routine and planned for. The cost of materials and labor are budgeted and expected.
A. Regular or Common Maintenance. Examples of common preventive maintenance include:
- cleaning hallways
- mowing lawns
- treating pool chemicals
- lubricating gate an door hardware
B. Planned Maintenance. This is maintenance that is performed while equipment is still working so as to reduce the likelihood of its failing. It extends the life of equipment and structures. It involves regular inspections and sometimes early replacement of components to ensure the smooth operation of the equipment. Examples include things such as:
- annual inspection of roofs and the applying sealants as-needed
- cleaning roof gutters
- caulking windows before leaks occur
- changing filters
- touching up paint
2. Corrective Maintenance. The main difference between corrective maintenance and preventive maintenance is that corrective maintenance is performed after a failure has occurred, while preventive maintenance is performed before a failure occurs. Corrective maintenance is reactive, while preventive maintenance is proactive.
A. Scheduled Corrective Maintenance. Examples include:
- Changing burned out lightbulbs
- Replacing sidewalks buckled by tree roots
- Removing graffiti
- Repairing broken water lines
- Repairing boilers
- Repairing roof leaks
B. Emergency Corrective Maintenance. Emergency maintenance is unexpected. More often than not, it involves water damage from a burst pipe, or unanticipated roof leaks, or a slope failure. Emergency maintenance may also require an emergency special assessment to fund the repairs.
3. Deferred Maintenance. Postponing maintenance that needs to be done. Deferring needed maintenance can lead to premature failures and create health and safety issues.
A. Proper Delays. Planned short delays in maintenance to (i) raise funds for making repairs or (ii) staggering repairs for scheduling purposes are acceptable business practices. Even so, boards must take care to protect members from any damage that might be caused by such delays.
B. Improper Deferrals. Deferring maintenance for the wrong reasons can be a breach of the board's fiduciary duties. Deferring maintenance to avoid spending money or raising dues is harmful to the membership because it (i) exposes the association to litigation and potential liability for damage caused by the deferrals, (ii) lowers property values, and (iii) increases the cost of the eventual repairs (which can result in huge special assessments). In addition, it may expose directors to claims of gross negligence, breach of CC&Rs, breach of statute (Civ. Code § 4775), and breach of fiduciary duties. Under those conditions, the business judgment rule will probably not protect the directors from personal liability. (See Champlain Towers.)
Insurance. Insurance carriers will not pay for deferred maintenance. The purpose of insurance is to pay for unexpected catastrophic losses, such as fires, storms, floods, etc. Board members who think they can get a free ride by dumping their deferred maintenance on an insurance carrier are incredibly misguided.
Maintenance Manuals. To assist associations with proper maintenance of common area components, boards should prepare a maintenance manual. This is different from a reserve study which projects the remaining useful life of common area components and the projected cost to replace each one. A maintenance manual addresses preventive maintenance issues by photographing and listing each component and providing information about when to inspect them, what work is suggested or required by Industry Standard or Product Manufacturers to extend the life of the item. It also provides consistenency in the maintenance program from board to board and management company to management company. Following are sample manuals:
There are companies that specialize in the preparation of association maintenance manuals. Following is one example:
ProTec Building Services
10180 Willow Creek Road
San Diego, CA 92131
Special Assessments. To fund large maintenance projects when reserves are insufficient, see Special Assessments.
Property Inspections. For general maintenance inspections, see Property Inspections.
Foundation Research. For a more comprehensive explanation, see "Community Association Maintenance" Best Practices Report by the Foundation for Community Association Research, which is affiliated with the Community Associations Institute.
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