Rowhomes and townhomes are a popular form of multi-family dwelling, but not all attached homes are organized the same way, and they don’t all have the same maintenance obligations between the homeowners’ association (if there is one) and the individual owners. Knowing how a townhome community is organized can help you decide if purchasing is right for you. If you already own a townhome, it is important to understand the maintenance responsibilities of the homeowners’ association and yourself, should any issues arise.
Rowhomes and townhomes in Oregon may be organized as Condominiums, under the Oregon Condominium Act (ORS Chapter 100) or as Planned Communities, under the Planned Community Act (parts of ORS Chapter 94). To add a wrinkle to all of this, people often refer to Planned Communities as “Townhomes,” but a community may look like townhomes and be organized as Condominiums and a community of detached homes could be organized as a planned community.
Generally, in condominiums, individual owners own the interiors of their units, and everything outside each unit is a common area or limited common area that the HOA is responsible for maintaining and repairing. In Planned Communities, individual owners generally own the entire lot, but the HOA has some maintenance responsibility. In a townhome-type building model, the HOA generally, but not always, is responsible for the maintenance of the exterior of the units, but is not always responsible for maintaining or repairing party walls. In some communities, the HOA is responsible for maintaining the front side of homes and yards, and the owners are responsible for the backs. Additionally, in condominiums and planned communities, if window glass breaks, it is often the owner’s responsibility to repair it, but if the frame is broken or otherwise defective, it is the HOA’s responsibility. Whether or not a component of the window is the responsibility of the Association or the unit owner depends on the governing documents and is often specifically mentioned in the governing documents.
The bottom line is that you have to check the governing documents (the Plat, the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, and the Bylaws) of your Association to determine the maintenance and repair responsibilities.