Know your homeowner rights and your responsibilities

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As someone who owns a unit or house in a common-interest community, you have certain rights. You also have certain responsibilities to the association and to other homeowners. These rights and responsibilities are described in the association’s governing documents, which include covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws. And by virtue of your ownership, the association—your neighbors and fellow homeowners—presumes you know the governing documents exist and have an idea of what they contain.

 

As a homeowner, you have the right to:

  • Participate in the association board’s decision-making process
  • Attend and participate in all membership meetings
  • Vote in person or by proxy
  • Access association records, financial statements and governing documents
  • Use and enjoy common areas (This privilege can be suspended temporarily for unpaid assessments or rules’ violations.)
  • Sell or rent your individually owned unit or property

 

As a homeowner and member of this community, you are obligated to

  • Pay your fair share—via regularly scheduled and special assessments—of the costs of operating the association and maintaining common areas. It costs money to pay property taxes, collect the trash, maintain the landscaping and shovel snow from the roads, parking areas and sidewalks.
  • Maintain your personal unit or home in accordance with the association’s bylaws and architectural guidelines. Some associations’ rules are more strict about paint colors, yard ornaments and landscaping than others. Be aware of and adhere to what this association’s architectural guidelines prescribe.
  • Be respectful of your neighbors and allow them the “quiet enjoyment” of their own individual units or homes. Loud parties, second-hand smoke or outdoor lighting can infringe on your neighbors’ privacy.

What to Look for in Home Warranties

mistic-warrantyYou probably received a new home warranty when you purchased your home. If you haven’t had any problems with your home, then you probably haven’t read the warranty. But you should.

While most builders are reputable and provide legal and fair warranties, some do not. And too often, home warranties can be complex, ponderous documents that are difficult to decipher. Some warranties waive the homeowner’s right to a jury trial if he or she files a construction defect claim. Others may include liability disclaimers and waivers for some builders’ construction defects. And occasionally, a warranty may include terms that are not enforceable under state law, although you or other homeowners may not realize it.

To make sure your home warranty protects you, have an attorney review it and check for the following provisions:

  • Can you engage an engineer to represent you to determine the nature, cause and extent of the construction problems?
  • Can you pursue a mediation conference with the builder to resolve disputes?
  • If the builder expects binding arbitration, who selects the arbiter—you or the builder?
  • Can the warranty period be reset when repairs are completed?

If you believe you’re bound by an unfair warranty—or even if you aren’t sure you understand your home warranty, consult an attorney who specializes in association law or construction defect law.

How to Donate Used Items Efficiently

 

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Spring cleaning is right around the corner, and for many homeowners that could mean out with the “old” and in with the “new”—but what to do with the “old” when it’s not quite ready for the landfill? Donating used items is a great option as long as you do a little homework to find out which local organizations and donation centers are most appropriate for the items you’d like to give away. Use the following tips as a guideline for determining what goes where and how to get it there.

 

  • Many items are eligible for donation. You might be surprised to learn exactly what items you can donate. In addition to clothing and furniture, cars, cell phones and other electronics, fitness equipment, home appliances—even art supplies and old towels—are widely accepted by specialized organizations. If you’re looking to donate a unique item, or several of the same items in bulk, do some further research about local organizations and donation centers in need of specific things.
  • Consider what shape your items are in to determine where you donate. If you’re planning to donate a broken refrigerator, make sure the organization is aware the item is in need of repair. Some donation centers accept broken items for parts; however, most organizations and donation centers prefer to accept gently used items in working condition. Be sure to communicate the item’s condition prior to arranging a donation.
  • After choosing where to donate, decide how you’ll get the items to the organization. Oftentimes large organizations and donation centers are able to arrange a day and time to pick up your unwanted items directly from your home or business. Smaller organizations in need might instead have certain days and times available for you to arrange a drop off at a specified location.
  • Make sure to get a donation receipt for tax purposes. Before donating, make a detailed list of the items you’ll be giving away along with the estimated values. Keep in mind that, since the items are used, price points might be lower than expected. When your items are picked up or dropped off, request a receipt from the organization or donation center to keep track of what to count as a tax deduction. Speaking with a tax professional for advice also is a good idea.