By Robert M. Nordlund, PE, RS
Association Reserves, Inc.
It is never appropriate for the association to set aside or expend association funds for assets the association is not responsible to maintain. If the fences belong to homeowners, expending association funds for maintenance would be inappropriate.
Yet there are two exceptions to this rule.
1) Where there is deterioration/neglect below community standards. In these cases, the association is responsible to maintain the asset, but bills the individual homeowner for the cost.
2) Where the association has established a clear precedent of taking care of the asset for the good of the community. Therefore it may not be legally written in the association’s governing documents, but the expectation and the budget is established such that fences are maintained by the association. This may be for one of many reasons: the fences are high visibility and a uniform high standard of appearance is important, or perhaps there are significant economies of scale all owners enjoy when the association contracts out the entire project.
We have some clients where the Governing Documents are strictly written, unfortunately, that there are different replacement, maintenance, and painting responsibilities for the fence! For instance, the association may be responsible for painting the outside and the homeowner the inside, but the association may be responsible for the entire replacement cost of the perimeter areas and adjoining neighbors responsible for replacing the portion separating their two yards. In these cases, it may be appropriate and wisest for the association to take the lead on the project, coordinating and accomplishing the entire project and then “billing back” the individual homeowners for their proportional share of the expense.