Potential condo renovators be warned: Renovating a condominium is not quite like renting a house. There are extra rules and regulations that will apply because the living space is part of a community which sets codes and policies enforced by a very strict Home Owner’s Association. That doesn’t mean you can’t renovate at all, it just means you need to do your research and be thoroughly knowledgeable about what the complex does and doesn’t allow.
What You Own And What You Don’t
First, as a condo owner, you own only the interior of your living space. You do not own or have the right to change the exterior, the plumbing, or the roof of the establishment. These things are collectively owned by all the complex residents.
Bruce Smith, interior design correspondent for the Santa Monica Mirror, explained that the strict conditions and covenants placed on condo owners by their HOA often discourage renovation. In fact, “Many builders don’t even do condo renovations,” according to Smith.
Many Condos Need Updates
However, many condos are from an earlier building period and are in desperate need of updating. Condo owners who are willing to tackle the intricacies of HOA rules can be greatly rewarded with a pleasant, modern living area. Los Angeles contract Gary Drake said, “So many condo owners need to bring their units into the 21st century. Many were built 20 years ago or more, sometimes not with the highest quality. It’s very rewarding to turn an outdated condo into a beautiful, modern unit.”
One family Drake worked with had their entire 2,600 sq ft, 2 bed, 2 1/2 bath interior gutted and renovated. Among other things, Drake was able to raise their ceilings, reconfigure the master bath so there was room for a new walk-in closet, and remove carpet to install new hardwood floors.
Restrictions To Look Out For
Smith said Drake related a long list of restrictions he’s had to grapple with during condo renovations. For instance, “Hours of work are usually confined to 8 am to 4:30 pm, with noisy construction not allowed before 10 am.” Another issue is what to do about crew parking. Condos are notorious for their limited parking space and construction workers often have to be shuttled in to avoid this problem.
Smith said Drake also found that, “Water shut-off hours are restricted to certain times; moving plumbing fixtures is sometimes prohibited; and soundproofing floors and walls is often difficult.” When desired renovations are allowed, there’s difficulty getting supplies where they need to go because of the lack of freight elevators or the presence of spiral staircases.
Advice From An Expert
For condo owners who plan on tackling a renovation, Drake suggested you study your HOA rules closely, asking for clarification if necessary. Alert the condo association to what you plan on doing, keep them updated, and get permission for the renovation in writing. It’s also polite to let your neighbors know and lessen the impact on them as much as possible.
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