A condominium association, though similar in many respects to a homeowners association, is more complex. It has protective covenants and common areas. It levies assessments as provided in its declaration or master deed. However, the maintenance of its common areas are likely more expensive and the declaration or master deed also creates the individual units.
Conceptually, a condominium development is comprised of three separate types of property: units, limited common elements, and general common elements. A unit is that three-dimensional volume that is transferable and owned by a member. A limited common element is that portion of the condominium development that serves at least one but less than all units. A general common element is that portion of the condominium development that serves all units. At times documents will also refer to “common elements” which are the aggregation of all limited common elements and general common elements.
There is no common definition of a unit. Without looking at your individual declaration or master deed, you cannot definitively state what your unit is. For example, some declarations and master deed include exterior windows in their definition of the unit, while others do not (instead stating that the unit extends to a plane extending across some imaginary boundary across the window or the window frame). Additionally, the unit may extend to items beyond the conceptual three-dimensional space that one would normally conceive as a unit. Pipes, electrical conduits, and air conditioning units that solely serve a unit may be included in the definition of a unit even if they are otherwise outside of the three-dimensional boundaries of the unit. Thus, the definition of a unit is important, and it is solely driven by the declaration or master deed governing your condominium development. The unit owner will be responsible for the maintenance and repair of the unit.
Typical limited common elements are balconies, patios, parking spaces, and hallways. They serve one or more units, but not all of the units in the development. Since each condominium development is unique, what comprises the limited common elements in each development is unique to that development. Consequently, the declaration and master deed create and govern limited common elements. The maintenance and repair obligations of the limited common elements will be governed by the declaration or master deed. In some instances (i.e., parking spaces) limited common elements can be assigned to unit owners.
General common elements are best conceived as the structural portions of the condominium development, exterior walls, the roof, elevators (in some instances), lobbies, parking lots, etc. The maintenance and repair obligations of the general common elements are the responsibility of the association.
The condominium association, because of the nature of a condominium, has more to maintain. The members of a condominium association, generally, have a more vested interest in ensuring that the common elements are maintained as they directly support their individual units. Thus, assessments in condominiums are typically higher.
In addition to the maintenance and repair provisions in the declaration or master deed, those documents include restrictive covenants similar to those found in CCRs, discussed previously.
The association maintains the property and enforces the protective covenants in accordance with the declaration and master deed and the Horizontal Property Act or the Condominium Act. The association is governed in accordance with the charter and bylaws.