Who pays for maintenance of common areas in a Washington townhome with no HOA?

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Question:

I am thinking about buying a zero-lot line townhome. There appear to be common areas within the townhouse development, such as a pool, clubhouse, garden, and parking area. I don’t think there is a homeowners association (HOA), and I am unsure whether I’ll need to contribute to the cost of common area maintenance. Who pays for maintenance of common areas in a Washington townhome with no HOA?

Answer:

These circumstances can result from sloppy subdivision practices. Typically, when a subdivision is formed, the property owner designates common areas and dedicates (quit claims) them to another entity, such as an HOA. The HOA is usually created and charged with common area maintenance in the subdivision covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs).

First, you’ll want to confirm that there are, in fact, common areas within the development. Do so by obtaining a copy of the approved plat map for the subdivision from your county records office. Common areas will be designated on the plat and any dedication will be noted in the certificate or separate writing recorded with the plat. The party to whom the dedication was made is responsible for maintenance, unless another party is identified in the CC&Rs.

If an HOA is named in the county records, its members and the persons responsible for paying maintenance costs are the owners of property within the subdivision – that is, the property over which the HOA has authority. Owners of property within the subdivision will be listed in your county tax assessor’s records by property address or parcel number. Tax assessor’s records are usually available on your county website.

For more information on HOA operation, see the Washington State Homeowners’ Associations Act, Chapter 64.38 RCW.

If the plat appears to contain common areas but no dedication was made, then common areas are still owned by the developer or the developer’s successor in interest. Before making your purchase decision, you might ask your future neighbors whether whoever is responsible is, in fact, maintaining the common areas.

If you do purchase the townhome and find that the maintenance is being neglected, you may need to bring legal action. For legal advice about compelling maintenance work or obtaining compensation for maintenance work completed, consult an attorney in your community.

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