The easiest way to understand the concept of condominium ownership and responsibility is to see it as an apartment that is owned. Ownership extends inward from your interior walls, floors and ceilings. In addition unit owners are partners with all the other owners in the association regarding the exterior structure (the foundation, exterior walls and roof) as well as any common areas and amenities (for example, swimming pools, clubhouses, tennis courts, play areas, etc.)
How do you know what the owner maintains and what the association maintains? In general, the association will take care of all of the exterior upkeep of the buildings and grounds. This can vary somewhat from association to association, so it is important for a condominium buyer to have a clear idea of exactly what will (or will not) be covered.
What's Mine and What's Ours
Potential condominium buyers are looking for the separation of maintenance responsibilities between their unit and the common elements. The first step in determining such is researching the association's legal documents to identify the physical assets that the association is responsible for and those that the individual unit owner has responsibility to maintain.
Three Types of Elements
Generally speaking, the governing documents will address that the Association is responsible for the maintenance and repair of Common Elements. The Association shall maintain, repair, and replace all physical assets designated as Common Elements, whether located inside or outside the Units. Unit owners are obligated to maintain, repair, and replace physical assets designated as within the boundaries of the Unit or Limited Common Elements.
Common Elements mean all portions of the Condominium other than the Units. Portions of the walls, floor, and ceilings/attic are considered part of the Common Elements. Any portion serving more than one Unit or any portion of the Common Elements is a part of the Common Elements for definitional purposes.
Unit means a portion of the Condominium designated for separate ownership or occupancy, the boundaries of which are described in the Declaration. The boundaries of each Unit are defined as the interior unfinished surfaces of exterior perimeter walls, middle of interior demising walls, floor, ceiling/attic below nine (9) feet above finished floor, doors and windows of Unit, any wallboard, plaster, paint, tile, wallpaper, etc. All spaces, interior partitions, other fixtures and improvements, within the boundaries of a Unit, are part of the Unit.
Limited Common Elements means any air conditioning or heating units, chute, flue, duct, wire, conduit, bearing wall, bearing column, other fixture, whether located within or outside of the boundaries of a Unit, which serve only that Unit or are allocated solely to that Unit. Any shutters, awnings, window boxes, doorsteps, stoops, porches, decks, balconies, entryways, patios, exterior doors and windows, other fixtures designed to serve a single Unit, but located outside the Unit's boundaries are Limited Common Elements allocated exclusively to that Unit.
If the governing documents of the condominium association are unclear or ambiguous about the definition of Common Elements, Unit, and/or Limited Common Elements, it is imperative that the Board of Directors establish the criteria for these three designations. As the association is developed, and future changes are made to the each of these designations, the responsibility for the maintenance will become muddied. Establishing and updating the criteria will save time and resources into the future.
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