In addition to condominiums and single-family homes, townhomes are one way to own property in a community association. Understanding the in’-s and out’-s of owning a townhome and understanding what your responsibilities are regarding maintenance and maintenance fees will go a long way to ensuring your townhome owning experience is a pleasant one.
What is a townhome
A townhome or townhouse is typically defined as one unit within a larger building. These townhomes have two and three stories to maximize the square footage on a smaller lot footprint. Townhomes will typically share walls with the other units of the building as well as the roof.
What you specifically own will usually be spelled out in the Articles of Incorporation, Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions and the By Laws. Ownership is sometimes defined as your unit from the roof to the ground, but sometimes the homeowners association owns the roof and real estate surrounding your unit. Therefore, it is very important to understand what you will be responsible for when purchasing a townhouse. Prior to your purchase, seek out the experience of a real estate attorney who can answer your questions.
Who does what
Some townhome homeowner associations will consider the area in front of and behind your unit to be a common area and the association will handle the maintenance of that area such as landscaping, irrigation and shrubbery. This should be covered by your association fees that you pay monthly, semiannually or annually. Building exteriors and roofs are sometimes covered as well but always check the documents or with your attorney for confirmation.
Read before you buy
If you have questions about the association documents prior to your purchase, you can always request a copy from your real estate agent. These documents are part of the public records of your respective county so with a rather simple online search of the county’s Clerk of the Court website you can obtain a copy. Do not rely on your general understanding of how townhome associations typically allocate maintenance responsibilities because your governing documents will be specific to your association.
If you plan to purchase a townhome that is controlled by the homeowners and not the developer and you know without a doubt that the association will be obligated to maintain the building exterior and roof, ask to review the association financials. Funds should be set aside each month to provide for roof replacement and building maintenance. How much to place in these funds is up to the Board of Directors and we will address it in another post but as always, check your documents.