Buying a Condominium: What to Know About Condominium Associations

Condominiums can be a wonderful home ownership option for many people. The reduced maintenance and shared community space are appealing to many types of buyers who also want to own their own dwelling. But condominiums also come with extensive legal frameworks. If you are considering purchasing a condominium, you should first make yourself aware of all the structure surrounding condominium ownership to determine if it is the best fit for your situation.

When you buy a condominium, you are purchasing an individual unit within the condominium complex—basically you own everything within your walls. You are also purchasing a share of the condominium at large—the shared property. This shared property includes any common space, such as lawns, pools, and roofs. In order to maintain this shared space, condominiums collect ownership fees or dues.

Condominiums generally asses your portion of ownership based on the size of the unit that you purchase. The assessment of your unit size along with the expected upkeep of all shared property determines the association fee that you will be required to pay on a monthly, semi-annual, or annual basis.

The collected fees are used to pay for the upkeep of shared condominium property, and can include:

• Lawn Services

• Pool or club house maintenance

• Roof, sidewalk, outdoor building repair

• Road maintenance

• Trash removal services

Condominiums are regulated by laws that are recorded along with the plat of land and unit division at the local land office. The condominium association is the legal entity that is responsible for establishing and enforcing the bylaws. While all unit members hold ownership of the condominium and are technically members of the condominium association, a board of directors typically holds the powers of the condominium association.

Condominium associations vary in what types of rules and regulations they set forth. All condominiums will have a clear structure dictating what individual owners are responsible for maintaining and what the association is responsible for maintaining and repairing. For example, condominium associations are often responsible for the community pool, but individual owners may be responsible for maintaining their own patio space.

Rules and regulations may set forth:

• Who is allowed to be on the premises of the condominium shared property

• Regulations about pets

• Restrictions on parking or the types of vehicles that can be parked in condominium parking lots

• Regulations about how the outside space of a condominium should appear

As legal entities, condominium associations are able to fine, place liens against, or even force foreclosure on an association member who does not follow the rules. Even so, condominium associations do not have complete power—the types of rules and regulations they can establish are governed by local, state, and federal laws.

If you are having a dispute with your condominium association, you should contact a condominium real estate attorney who has experience with condo associations.

You should not try to battle your association on your own. Condominium bylaws can be complicated and lengthy, and an attorney can review the laws to see if you must comply or if loopholes, illegal rules, or contradictions within the laws exist.

If you are considering purchasing a condominium, you should sit down with an attorney who can review the bylaws of the association with you. Never purchase into a condominium association or homeowners association until you know all the rules and regulations that will govern your property ownership.

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