Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken, is one of the most popular and most praised works in all of American literature. But if you are like me, you probably remember the poem as The Road Less Traveled. It’s true; one of the most famous pieces of American poetry is generally mis-titled. (It is also widely misunderstood, but that’s another post!)
Frost presents readers with two paths, but no matter which one you pick, someone has to take care of it. HOAs are typically responsible to care for roadways on HOA property. Summer brings high heat and cracked pavement. Winter brings salt treatments and snowplows. Before long, the paths that get homeowners use to get in and out of the community will succumb to wear and tear. Scattered debris, potholes, and faded lines are always lurking and can be extremely expensive. HOAs must be able to assess, maintain, and correct damaged roads in their community.
The HOA’s governing documents should provide direction as to which roads are under the HOA’s care. (If they don’t, as always, consult your legal team for further guidance.) Many HOAs have included language in their CC&Rs about the following road maintenance concerns.
The most obvious concern for roadways anywhere is drivability. They must be safe to maneuver with as few bumps, dips, and potholes as possible. They should also be clear of refuse and roadkill. The HOA is usually responsible to repair potholes and remove debris when necessary. Of course, homeowners may alert you to issues themselves by submitting repair requests. As mentioned below, having regular maintenance schedules to get ahead of those requests is always a good idea.
Line maintenance typically falls under the HOA’s responsibility. It goes without saying that properly painted — and visible — lines are crucial to the safety of any roadway. While these lines are painted when the roads are first built, they can fade over time, particularly through extreme weather conditions. Communities in high temperatures with a lot of direct sunlight or cold temperatures that demand regular salt treatments should pay particular attention to fading lines. Lines that are difficult to see can lead to dangerous situations for drivers, cyclers, and pedestrians alike.
Open lots are pathways that need to be maintained just like roadways. They can become overused and experience wear and tear over time. Trash can build up near dumpsters and recycling containers. The HOA is responsible for clearing parking lots and ensuring their safety and functionality.
Much of the lure associated with living in an HOA is increased property values. Not only does maintaining the roadways make your community safe and secure, it increases curb appeal. Keeping the common areas looking sharp makes your community a more desirable place to live.
Preparedness Reduces Future Costs
As is the case in many other areas of an HOA, a regular, preventative inspection and maintenance schedule is the best way to care for roadways. Taking the time to ensure that small concerns don’t become big ones reduces future costs — and homeowner complaints. Imagine a small pothole on the shoulder of the main roadway in your community. It probably isn’t bothering too many people. If you let it go for months or years, however, that little hole could grow and cause cracks that affect the driving lanes. The costs for this project are now double the regular maintenance costs, and you have one of the major roadways blocked off for repairs! Save your board and your homeowners headaches by planning ahead.
Hiring the Right Contractor
It is important to hire an honest contractor for road repairs. If you are starting from scratch, here are a few tips as you explore your options:
1. Look for knowledge and experience. Not all maintenance companies are equal. Who owns the company and what are their credentials? How many similar jobs has this company done? Have they done work specifically in an HOA before?
2. Ensure availability to service your needs. Depending on the size of your HOA, you may be using a contractor on a regular basis. How many other contracts do they have? Will they be able to commit to immediate repairs when called upon?
3. Find the best value for your money. Remember that value doesn’t mean the least expensive. Does the company first meet all your needs? Is the total cost within the allocated budget for road repair? Will hiring this company affect association fees?
As you examine your governing documents, assess your needs, and hire a roadway maintenance company, keep in mind some of the suggestions above. Like Robert Frost reminds us, the path you choose makes “all the difference.”