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Q: In our private gated community, all owners who live in multi-family communities are provided access roads to their driveways, with the exception of three multi-family communities located on one particular street. The owners in those three communities are required to pay for their own road maintenance, in addition to the dues they are required to pay to the master association. All other owners enjoy access and road maintenance without additional fees. Is it legal for for the master association to charge these additional maintenance fees to only certain communities, or should road maintenance be a common expense for all residents?

A: The answer to your question is probably found in the community documents. In most communities with a “master” association, common facilities such as the gatehouse, roadways, clubhouse, lakes and recreational facilities are operated by the master association and the expenses are shared equally by all residents. It is also possible for developer to allocate a larger or smaller share of the expenses based on square footage. It is natural for certain homeowners to feel that they are paying more than their fair share of the operating expenses. For instance, a homeowner who lives very close to the community entrance uses the private roadways far less than a resident who lives a couple miles from the entrance, but the essence of community living is that owners by and large share in the common expenses equally regardless of the actual amount of use. Without having the benefit of reading your community documents, our guess is that these three communities that pay more money for the roadways are not part of the original development and may share in the expense by a separate cost-sharing access agreement created for another developer or phase. You need to have legal counsel review the community documents, subdivision plat(s) and the master budget to get a more precise answer.