Historic Carlyle House in Old Town Alexandria is more than 250 years old.
The historic Carlyle House in Old Town Alexandria is more than 250 years old.

Everything built by man requires some maintenance at some point.

Even so-called maintenance-free homes require some attention. So when making the transition from renting to buying, one aspect of home ownership that must be considered carefully is maintenance.

Renters enjoy few advantages over buyers, but one benefit of renting is that in most cases renters needn’t worry about the expense maintaining a property. Many first time buyers aren’t ready to take on the hassles and expenses of yard work, gutter cleaning, painting and so on, and for this reason condos are a viable and interesting alternative.

In the case of a condo, maintenance can be separated into two categories: owner’s responsibilities and association responsibilities.

These exact nature of these duties and responsibilities will vary from condo to condo, but there are a few rules of thumb. For example, certain retirement communities provide maid service as part of the condo, but most often the condo owner is responsible for cleaning his own unit.

In most cases, the condo owner must clean the condo interior, including all windows which are reachable from the interior. The condo owner must clean of his or her private balcony or patio. Most renters are accustomed to this type of arrangement already.

kitchen
An updated kitchen in a Belle View condo.

Unlike renters, condo owners own the appliances in the unit. Thus, the condo owner cleans and maintains all the appliances, but the condo owner also pays for repairs and replacements as needed. A condo owner has the power to pick his own appliances, but with that benefit comes the duty of maintaining that unit.

In most older condos, the association supplies the heating and cooling to the unit, and the condo owner owns the convector or radiator (heat transfer appliance) in the unit. In new condos, the owner typically owns the HVAC (heat pump / air conditioner) that heats and cools his unit.

Plumbing and electrical concerns remain for owners of single family homes and townhouses, but in all but a few rare cases the condo owner need only worry about systems that are outside the walls. For example, the condo owner typically owns the bathroom vanity and the pipes supporting that vanity, but not the pipes which supply water and take sewage away from the bathroom. A condo owner owns his kitchen cabinets, but not the electrical wires inside the wall that bring power to his kitchen appliances.

In general, the condominium owner is responsible for his personal space, but the condo association is responsible for all common areas. This includes maintaining and operating the elevators and outside doors. In most cases this includes the windows. Most always, the association maintains the lawns, flowers and shrubs. The condo association maintains the roof.

While the owner of a single family home must maintain his own driveway, a condo parking lot is maintained by the condominium association. The parking garage can be private, common, or common with assignments. If the parking garage is common, with or without assignments, the condo association will clean and maintain the parking. A private garage is the domain of the condominium owner.

Parking Grounds at Montebello
Parking Grounds at Montebello

Review your docs

Ultimately, you’ll want review your condo documents, charter and by-law to determine exactly how your condo association interprets its domain. Rest assured, a condo owner will have more to maintain than a renter, but significantly less responsibility than the owner of a single family residence or townhouse.

Condo Living, condos, ,

Will Nesbitt

View posts by Will Nesbitt
Will is the principal broker of Nesbitt Realty and Condo Alexandria. He is licensed in anywhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but focuses on those communities found in and around Alexandria, Arlington, Mount Vernon and Springfield/Franconia. Will has been involved in real estate management, sales and investment for more than twenty years. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army. While in the army, he studied Russian at Monterey's Defense Language Institute. He is also a "veteran of the dotcom wars" and built most of the sites associated with NesbittRealty.com Will currently resides in Belle Haven Estates just outside Old Town, overlooking New Alexandria. He is a former president of the Mount Vernon Youth Athletic Association and founded the Alexandria Fun with Friends Group. Will is the author of BattlestorM, a tabletop fantasy game, which was published by Ral Partha Publishing in the late '90's, and Arthur's Realm, a boardgame available at the Gamecrafter.