What Does Your Association Allow?
Buying a condo isn’t quite like buying a single family home. The latter allows you to do just about anything you want: tear walls down, put walls up, run new water lines, run new gas lines, and more. The opportunities are endless.
But when it comes to a condo, keep in mind that you’re not the only resident in the building. Your walls are essentially your neighbor’s walls. Your floors may be your neighbor’s ceiling (and vice versa). And removing or altering something without talking to your condo association first can have serious — and potentially costly — consequences.
Protecting yourself and your neighbors is as easy as having a conversation with the condo association. Call them up, and just ask. Talk through what you want to do.
If your condo is new construction, there’s probably not a lot of customizing that you need to do. The flooring, paint, layout, and finishings are virtually untouched. You may have even been a part of selecting them if the designers or builders offered that service.
But if the condo has been around a while, or if there’s just more customization that you want to add, it’s critical that you talk to the condo association first and explain what you want to do. Also, refer to your association rules and regulations for specific details about condo customization.
While you probably won’t need association approval for small changes like new fixtures or painting a wall, but changes that modify the structural layout of the condo or require changes to plumbing or electricity will because they may impact other residents. The association may also require the contractor you want to work with to be reviewed to ensure they’re properly licensed and insured.
Why It’s Important to Talk to Your Association
If you moved forward with customizing your condo yourself, or if you worked with an unlicensed, uninsured contractor, you could find yourself in a bad spot if something were to go wrong.
Say you remove a wall to make a certain space more open. It looks more contemporary, the room gets more light, and you feel comfy and cozy in an open space. That’s great, but you neglected to consider why that wall was there. Now, your ceiling has a crack from end to end, and the floor in the unit above you is sinking.
You now have to move out while the damage is repaired (along with your upstairs neighbor), and because you didn’t work with an insured contractor, guess who’s footing the bill? Yep, you.
Thankfully, most high-end condos will work with you to customize the condo’s interiors to your liking. So apart from hanging art, decorating, and perhaps painting a wall down the road, there shouldn’t be much you need to do.
OK, OK — If You Still Want to Customize, Start Here
We understand — tastes, styles, and trends change. So if the time comes to customize your condo, follow these instructions to make sure you do things right.
Assuming you’ve already talked everything through with your association and received their blessing, you can start searching for a reputable, licensed, and insured contractor. There are quite a few out there, so you shouldn’t have any trouble identifying solid candidates.
Get recommendations from family and friends. Read as many reviews as you can, particularly reviews on third party and consumer advocate sites. Look for photos of their work, and search for any complaints against them. Keep in mind that one or two complaints but hundreds of positive reviews doesn’t mean they should be disqualified from the running. Check the complaints and weigh them against their context and the overall impression others have had working with them.
And don’t go straight for the lowest-bidding contractor. Experience, reviews, communication, and responsiveness all count and can make the difference between a successful remodel and a very uncomfortable, unsightly one. If a mid-range or higher-end contractor can do the work better or faster, it may be worth considering.
Next, make sure they’re licensed and insured. Don’t waste time explaining your condo remodeling project and getting estimates if they’re not legally permitted to do the work. Research a few contractors, let them know you’re interested in a remodel and ask about their licensing. Ask to see or receive their certificates and licenses. An ethical contractor should be more than willing to assist.
Once you’ve received their licenses and bid and have selected a contractor, review them with the condo association. As we mentioned earlier, you’ll likely have to get the plans, bids, and contractor details reviewed and approved. Navigate this process and provide the association with any additional information they require.
Once the association has approved, your contractor can get to work. Stay in touch with your contractor often so you can stay apprised of progress and make adjustments as necessary. Do your part to be available to your contractor as well so you can make decisions on any questions or problems as they arise. Communicating well together and being available will keep your remodel on track toward success.
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