If I had a nickel for every person that told me, “We can’t have one of those awnings. We live in an association,” I could probably fill a small swimming pool with those nickels. In fact, the response, while true, also reveals a myth. When they say, “We can’t have an awning,” they mean, ”we can never have an awning.” This is not true.

There are two obstacles that townhome/condo owners face when it comes to having an awning. First, you need to understand that there is a legal liability for the association. The individual condo or townhome owner does NOT actually own the exterior wall of their home. This means that the association is legally responsible for caring for that wall surface. No association wants to allow another person to alter something that they are ultimately accountable for.

The other obstacle that exists has to do with the community standards. Most associations have set guidelines as to what looks good and is right for their community.

Like most challenges, you need the right tools for the job. To overcome the legal issues, each homeowner that chooses to purchase an awning should sign a responsibility waiver. This waiver should:

1. Identify that the individual condo or townhome owner is paying for the entire expense for the product, the installation and any required maintenance.
2. Take responsibility for any consequences that may occur during installation and beyond.
3. Pay the full cost to restore the wall back to its original condition in the case the homeowner chooses to remove the awning.
4. Notify future owners of the responsibility that they would inherit upon the sale of the unit.

The other tool that is needed is a Rules & Regulations framework. This will address key issues to ensure that community standards are met and maintained. A few items that should be addressed include:

1. Location of the awning. For example: “over deck or patio”, “installed to the wall, not the roof”, or “installed over patio door.”
2. Frame and fabric colors should be limited to ensure consistency. Some associations only allow one color of fabric, while others will offer several choices. It really depends on how many variations exist in the community and how many choices the board chooses to allow its owners.
3. Process. The rules should spell out exactly what needs to be done to obtain approval. Many associations will have a form to be completed that includes the details of the project along with the responsibility waiver.

What’s the upside of allowing Retractable Awnings in your community?
The biggest benefit to the homeowner is that they can purchase and enjoy an awning. In our experience working with associations, somewhere between 10-20% of homeowners purchase a retractable awning when they are allowed to.

The community benefits greatly by having consistency in the type of shade system that is used throughout the community. When an association does not allow awnings, individual owners will use a variety of mismatched products like gazebos, easy-up canopies, and large umbrellas that detract from the look of the homes. By allowing awnings, the decks or patios are less cluttered and more attractive.

By using the right tools, any association can offer their community the option of improving their outdoor living space. After all, what good is all that outdoor space if it’s always too hot to use it?

For a complete set of suggested Rules & Regulations and a Responsibility Waiver that have been reviewed by an attorney, contact us through our website at www.rolloutavacation.com.

Post written by: Rodney Allott