Boards and managers are always looking for ways to make the administration of their condominiums more efficient. Having to sort through the Master Deed (and multiple amendments too!) to figure out whether the association or co-owner is responsible for a certain common element can be time-consuming and, occasionally, confusing. To help simplify the process of determining who is responsible for what, some condominiums have elected to prepare a responsibility matrix or maintenance matrix (“matrix”). A matrix acts like a condensed cheat sheet to simplify maintenance, repair and replacement responsibilities for the benefit of directors, managers and co-owners alike.
Although a matrix will never supersede the language of the Master Deed, it can help save you from being inundated with regular requests for the association to take care of common elements the association is not responsible for. To properly convey that information to the co-owners, we would encourage posting the matrix on the association website and making it part of the association’s rules and regulations. Publishing this information and encouraging co-owners to review it, or at least know where it is accessible, may save on emergency calls and resolve disputes before they arise.
Having an updated matrix reviewed by the board of directors and legal counsel for the association is an asset. Far too often, however, we have seen a matrix become a liability for the association and its directors. If your community is currently using an old matrix, do you know who prepared it? We have seen condominium developers unfamiliar with responsibility issues attempt their hand at preparing a matrix. Sometimes, unsuspecting boards copy the matrix from a different community, not realizing that every project’s governing documents are different. In other cases, the matrix was prepared based on the original master deed. Unfortunately, if responsibility sections of the original master deed were subsequently amended, that old matrix is hopelessly out of date.
The impact of an erroneous matrix may not be limited to a minor expenditure that should have ultimately been covered by the co-owner. If directors and managers are relying on an incorrect matrix instead of the Master Deed, significant shortfalls in reserve funding can result. For example, the association’s matrix may state that co-owners are responsible for replacing the windows servicing the unit. However, the Master Deed may state otherwise, with windows being an association responsibility. In the event of that conflict, an ill-advised board will not adequately prepare the community for a massive capital improvement project and the sizable costs necessary to fund that endeavor. We doubt most co-owners will be understanding when confronted with an additional assessment to fund windows because of this error, not to mention those co-owners who relied on the erroneous matrix to replace windows at their expense.
What should you do to help minimize potential pitfalls associated with having a matrix?
- Find out whether your community has a matrix in the first place.
- If you have a matrix, do you know who prepared it? Is it dated? If it is dated, have the Master Deed and Bylaws been amended since the matrix was prepared?
- Have legal counsel review the matrix to ensure it conforms to the actual responsibilities detailed in the current governing documents.
- Add a disclaimer stating that the Master Deed will always control in the event of a conflict or discrepancy with the matrix.
We hope you can utilize these tips to prepare a matrix that will simplify the maintenance, repair and responsibility provisions of the Master Deed for the benefit of all stakeholders in the condominium.