Getting Ready for the Summer Season
Spring has officially sprung! This is a time to shed the heavy coats and blankets of winter and welcome in the fresh air and warmth of spring. Spring is also a time for general home maintenance items that are performed as part of your “spring cleaning” routine. Many people are not aware that there are maintenance tasks to be performed as an owner of a condominium. It is true, the Condominium will be responsible for taking care of all common area maintenance, such as general property cleanup, spring landscaping work and preparing the pool for the upcoming season. However, those items within the unit or that service only your unit are generally the responsibility of the homeowner. Every condominium is different; please refer to your handbook, governing documents or other condominium rules and regulations to determine your responsibility before performing any of the following maintenance tasks.
After a long hard winter of providing heat, your HVAC unit is most likely taking a rest during the spring before the air conditioning season begins. This is an ideal time to have your system checked for any leaks and to perform preventative maintenance. Most HVAC companies offer an annual contract in which they will check your system in the spring and fall. What you don’t want to happen is on the first 90 degree day, you turn on the air conditioning only to find that it does not work. You can avoid this hassle by having a regular seasonal maintenance visit from an HVAC contractor, as well as regularly cleaning out the condensate line with vinegar. You can ask your HVAC contractor for their recommendation on how and when this should be done. Cleaning out the condensate line eliminates backups and costly water damage repairs to your unit and the units below.
Washing Machine Hoses and Dryer Vents
Spring is a great time to inspect your washer and dryer components. Washing machine hoses can fail without any warning and have the potential to spill hundreds of gallons of water when they burst. You should inspect your hoses twice a year, looking for any obvious wear or bubbles on the hoses, and making sure the connections are tight. If you currently have old rubber hoses, you may want to consider upgrading them to Floodchek hoses. Most condominiums recommend Floodchek hoses for use by their residents; they have a warranty for 20 years or the life of the washing machine and are available for purchase from several online retailers.
Cleaning of the dryer vents and hoses should also be performed twice a year. This not only keeps your dryer operating at its most efficient level, but also reduces the chance of fire caused by dryer lint backed up in the lines. You should also check the exterior dryer vent cap and make sure the flap or guard is securely in place to deter birds from nesting. Please check with your Association to determine who is responsible for maintenance of the dryer vents before beginning any work. Generally, since the vent services only one unit, it would be the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain. Some Associations offer bulk pricing through a selected contractor as a way to encourage its residents to have the vents cleaned regularly.
Storage and use of grills can be a confusing and frustrating issue for residents in a condominium. Everyone wants to be able to enjoy outdoor cooking, but the local fire codes will most certainly forbid grilling of any sort within 15 feet of any structure (including fences and sheds). The only exception may be use of an electric grill. Storage of propane tanks in or around the unit is generally prohibited. Following are links to the local fire codes for jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. Please also check your condominium’s rules and regulations, for they must be at least as strict as local fire code but may also be more restrictive.
Balconies and patios are often designated as “limited common element”. This means that a unit owner has exclusive use of the balcony/patio, but the Association is responsible for maintenance and replacement. This also means the Association can place restrictions on how the area is used, in order to protect the common area investment and keep a consistent look throughout the community. Aesthetics play a big part in property values and the appeal of the community as a whole. Condominiums often do not permit storage of any items on the balcony, with the exception of outdoor furniture and plants. You should also avoid placing a covering of any sort on the floor of a balcony structure or a concrete patio. This can cause moisture to be trapped and will cause deterioration/damage to the structure. Avoid permanently affixing any outdoor decorative items to railings, siding or other common area structures. You will also want to check your condominium rules regarding birdfeeders, as many do not permit them due to the attraction of rodents to the bird seed debris on the ground.
Many people love to garden and can find it difficult to do so in a condominium environment. Container gardens are a nice option if you have a balcony or patio on which to place your containers. In order to help beautify the community, many associations have grounds committees or “Adopt-A-Bed” programs that allow their residents to enjoy gardening while improving the general appearance of the community. Please check your Association’s rules regarding planting on common areas before spending any money on new spring flowers!
Spring is a time of fresh air, bright colors and outdoor fun! Striking a balance between “fun” and “rules” is not always easy, but it is possible. Just be sure to contact your management representative if you have any questions, and let your Board of Directors know if you are interested in becoming more involved in community activities. This is a great time to get out and spend time with your neighbors. By taking care of these few maintenance items now, and you will be free to enjoy this beautiful spring weather before the dog days of summer arrive!
Author: Andrea Galler, Assistant Controller and IT Administrator, KPA Management