Real estate Q&A: Ask a real estate pro: Who pays for common services if only one owner is responsible for issue?

Q: We live in a single-family home where our homeowners’ association takes care of some items customarily left for individual owners. The monthly dues cover water, landscaping, and even house painting every few years. It makes life easy, but I can see where it could lead to problems. If one owner uses too much water or their power line breaks, would we all have to pay for it? – Alan

A: I usually see arrangements like yours in townhome communities, but there is no reason not to use them for other property types. People often confuse the type of ownership with the type of property. For example, if you said you lived in a condo, most people would think you had an apartment in a high-rise, but there is no reason that single-family houses can not be owned as condominiums. While condominium ownership usually makes the most sense for apartment-style housing, there is no reason it has to be that way. The same variety can be found in how each community is governed, regardless of the form of ownership.

No matter which type of community association you live in, you will need to read your association’s recorded agreements and other documents to learn your rights and responsibilities. This might be called a condominium declaration, CC&Rs, by-laws, rules, or some other name, but a set of restrictive documents governs every association. You may also have to review the laws, called “statutes,” that govern your particular type of community. These laws will cover what must and cannot be, in your community documents, along with how to deal with certain situations not covered in them.

Generally, the entire membership shares the cost when an association covers utilities like water. However, if an extra charge is due to the actions of a particular unit, that owner may have to cover the overage. Repairs, like replacing their power line, will likely have to be paid for by the homeowner whose house it connects to. But these are just general guidelines, and your community rules will decide what to do. This is why I encourage everyone who lives in a community association to become familiar with the rules they agreed to live by.

(Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.) ©2023 South Florida Sun Sentinel. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

This story was originally published July 27, 2023, 10:26 AM.

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