Living in a condominium has many advantages such as not needing to perform yard maintenance and having amenities like a swimming pool available. As with any living situation, it also has its challenges. In San Francisco, only 31% of the housing stock is made up of traditional single family residences, and the remainder is apartments or condominiums.

One of these is the challengers that condo owners face is the need to obtain permission from the Homeowners Association (HOA) before making significant structural changes such as replacing the windows. While that can feel frustrating, knowing how to approach and work with the HOA is half the battle. Condo owners should also understand their options for replacing windows before attempting to do so.

Private and Shared Elements Explained

When a person buys a condo, he or she legally purchases a private living space as well as an interest in shared spaces like the wall between two units. That means both the HOA and the condo owner pay specific upkeep costs. It can become even more complicated depending on whether the HOA classifies the shared space as exclusive, general, or limited. The classification matters because it can dictate whether the condo owner can replace a window at all. To gain approval from an HOA for replacement, the windows must be listed as part of the individual unit.

Issues to Consider Before Purchasing Replacement Windows for a Condo

The most common reason for replacing windows among people living in condos is that they have found something more energy efficient. This is an excellent reason from their viewpoint, which can make it difficult and frustrating to understand the many factors HOAs consider when granting or denying permission for the window replacement. Some of these include:

  • The proposed replacement window doesn’t match the size and décor of other windows in the building.
  • The new window looks too dissimilar to the windows it’s replacing.
  • Whether the condo owner intends to install new construction or retrofit window replacements.
  • Who will pay for the permit if the city requires one?
  • Who is responsible for covering any damages caused by the window replacement?
  • Can the condo owner ensure that the contractors replacing the window will follow all safety guidelines?

Condo owners can typically find the answers to these and similar questions in the HOA Agreement. If they don’t see anything specific to their window replacement issue, they may be in a stronger position to negotiate the purchase and installation of a newer and more energy efficient window.

Be Sure to Choose an Approved Vendor

Condo owners want to avoid going through the process of approval to install a replacement window only to choose a contractor not listed by the HOA. They can avoid this problem by finding the list, selecting a vendor, and including that information with their original application. Because the HOA has worked with the vendor several times in the past, its members trust the installers to follow the rules and complete quality work. The vendor will also have previous experience with the building and neighborhood, ensuring that the new window will match the current look and feel.

While the approval process for window replacement might feel cumbersome to condo owners, it’s worth it for the benefits that installing an energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing window brings.

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