Forget the condo in Boca or the anonymous, singles-only, low-rise golf-course abodes on the edge of town that you may have associated with condos if you’re not from San Francisco or New York. In urban areas like ours, condominiums comprise a huge and expensive part of the real estate inventory in the City. Just as the rest of the city’s inventory, variation in this sector is enormous. From a Twin Peaks economy 1970s model for $300,000 to the gleaming South Beach/FiDi Penthouse in the sky for $20,000,000, you will see almost every type of condo in the City proper. Here are a few items you should know about condos, the laws, documents and entities that govern them. Most HOAs in large buildings will be assisted by property management companies; management will be more procedural and formal. For smaller associations (let’s say 2–4 units) matters are handled more informally where personal relationships and politicking is the norm. Both approaches have detractors and benefits. It’s just a matter of which is right for your needs.
When you purchase a condo, you’re buying a three dimensional space within the condo complex/building while the homeowner association ‘owns’ the rest in common and has obligation to maintain these ‘common areas.’ Parking spaces are usually exclusive use common areas attached to a given condominium.
Relevant condo maps will define how a property is divided into units or lots, parking, and common areas. These maps are recorded and are connected to every deed and mortgage on every unit or lot within the property. Changing the map or plan is next to impossible without every other owner agreeing to do so. Your unit is defined by these documents and the title of your property is defined in relation to the relevant map.
Therefore, common areas generally consist of the parts of the property apart from the units and any other privately deeded properties. Easements and use restrictions or allowances may be part the rights and interests granted to a particular owner.
All the rights defining which parts of the condo development/subdivision belong to who, rules and allowed uses are contained in a series of documents called most commonly known as the “CC&Rs” — Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. The CC&Rs describe the rights and obligations of the homeowners’ association and of each owner. CC&Rs vary widely in content and length and usually cover the following topics:
- the demarcation between private and common areas;
- budgets, reserves, assessments and dues;
- usage restrictions like pet regulations, leasing rights and alteration controls;
- maintenance responsibilities of the association and the individual owners;
- how operating costs are shared among the owners, and the mechanism for collecting owner payments;
- dispute resolution procedures;
- HOA Board or Member enforcement powers; and,
- mortgagor rights.
CC&Rs are required for all condominiums and planned developments and are prepared by lawyers as they do have to conform with various parts of state law.