Condominium living has a lot of benefits for homeowners – less maintenance, amenities like pools and fitness centers, and the security of living close to other people, and no need to cut grass or clean gutters.
Condominium living also means you have additional responsibilities, especially if you want to remodel your living space. Yes, you own your condo unit. Still, it is part of a community that is subject to more stringent rules than a single-family home in a neighborhood might be.
Certain things inside your unit (like electric and plumbing) are often considered common property since changes you make can affect everyone else in the building.
If you are going to embark on a condo remodel, here are items you need to consider beforehand.
Know Your HOA Rules
What items within the condo unit are yours, and what items within your unit are considered common property? This is extremely important for every condo owner to understand. Sure, some are obvious, such as pools and fitness centers, but others, like plumbing and electric, are not so obvious.
Every homeowner's association (HOA) is governed by something called Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs). These are rules that you are legally bound to follow when you purchase your unit. The CC&Rs are incredibly detailed to help you understand how your HOA defines which elements are common and which are solely yours. This will assist you when first contemplating a remodel.
Let's say the faucet in your kitchen breaks. It's your faucet, and it's your responsibility to fix it. However, to do that, the plumber must shut off the water. Now, other people in the building may be affected.
Did you get permission from your HOA to shut off the water to fix the leak in your unit? If you didn't, you could run into trouble.
Or, what if you want to replace the windows in your unit with newer, more energy-efficient windows? That's great unless the windows are supposed to match from the outside to contribute to the overall aesthetics. While the windows may be your responsibility to maintain, you might not be allowed to change them unless you use a specific style or color approved by the HOA.
Even seemingly simple things, such as flooring choice, could be restricted. For example, if you live in a stacked building where there are units on top of one another, you might not be allowed to replace the carpet in the living room with hardwood floors. It's too noisy and disturbing to the neighbor who lives below.
Adjust Your Timeline
When remodeling requests require the permission of an HOA, you can assume this will cause some changes to your timeline.
There is going to be a process that you will have to follow to get permission to make the changes you want, and it could take time. For instance, your HOA may only meet once a month to consider these types of remodeling requests.
In addition to seeking your HOA's approval, you may also need to get building permits from the local jurisdiction in which you reside. For example, if you live in the city of Destin, Florida, you have to work with both a building contractor and a general contractor on any condo remodeling project.
Once you have all the proper permissions and permits, there may be other items that slow down a typical construction timeline. Your HOA may have policies about what days or times to have materials brought into the building. Your HOA may also have restrictions on the days and times construction activity can take place. Additionally, there may be restrictions on what elevators can be used to bring in construction materials or where contractors can park.
Remember, your HOA is responsible for making sure everyone in the community enjoys a certain standard of living, so hammering on the wall at 10:00 p.m. won't be allowed.
Ask for Assistance
Before starting on a remodeling project, it might be helpful to talk to your neighbors in the building who have undergone remodeling projects and ask them for tips and advice.
You may even want to ask your HOA or neighbors for contractor recommendations. Contractors who have worked in the building before are familiar with things like:
- What the turning clearances out of the elevators are, so contractors can move materials in
- What licensing and insurance requirements must the contractor have to be approved by the HOA to work in the unit
- Where are common elements like pipelines, vents, or structural supports located
Get Everything in Writing
Don't start replacing your front door after a quick conversation with your condo board president in the hallway. Besides the fact the front door is likely common property, your board president may have had ten other things on his or her mind that day. It would be easy for them to forget your request, and the fines and penalties for violating your CC&Rs can be hefty, so make sure you get everything in writing.
If you are considering a condo remodeling project, contact the experienced team at Kitchen & Bath Center. We are happy to guide you through the process of a remodel in these particular circumstances. Our project managers assist you from day one, helping you plan each piece, arrange contractors, and pick out materials.