Real estate condominium law in the United States is governed by laws and legislation at the federal level and further defined by individual states’ statutes and municipal ordinances. Condominium is a legal term defined as a means of housing and real property ownership that is settled amongst other similar arrangements with a common facilitates area that is controlled by a joint-ownership association. In its simplest form, a condominium can be viewed as different from a residence in that the property surrounding the condominium is owned and shared by other residents. Similarly, condominiums contrast from apartments in terminology due to the fact that condominiums imply ownership of the property and airspace. Condominium ownership generally involves the permanent possession of a single home unit on a piece of land, and the exclusive ownership of the individuals includes the airspace of home’s boundaries, which generally prove to be residence walls.
The existence of community areas inevitably contributes to disputes arising between condominium owners and their rights according to real estate condominium law. During the establishment of a condominium living community in the United States, individuals will agree to terms formulated in a document referred to as the Declaration of Condominium, which will reiterate and define the terms of usage for the condominium owners. The terms of these documents are determined by a collective of members known as homeowners association, or other common terms such sectional title, unit title, commonhold, strata council, body corporate, owners corporation, condominium association, or tenant-owner’s association.
Topics often covered in the Declaration of Condominium document, as well as accompanying documents such as rules of governance and other bylaws include:
- Maintenance and repair of main and common areas
- Inclement weather adjustment strategies
- Landscaping and other lawn care items
- Proposal and approval process for building projects
- Rental and leasing allowances and caps for potential residents
- Management and collection of association’s budget and fees
- Pet, guest, and other restrictions
- Adherence to local, state, and federal real estate condominium law
Originally in English common law, the legal definition of property ownership included only those items attached to a parcel of land, however, the rapid growth of populations centered in one area metropolis led to the popularity of condominiums. Soon, state legislations, the first being the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, began enacting legislation and law directly detailing real estate condominium law. Currently, virtually all fifty states have specific laws on the books detailing the rights, practices, and zoning measures necessary in a comprehensive state real estate condominium law. Additionally, it is important to note that while each state has exclusively unique condominium laws, there is also a plethora of municipalities, cities, and towns within each state that may abide by their additionally unique statutes and codes in regards to condominium law.
At the federal level, legislation has been enacted in the past that has allowed for the development of condominiums at a rapid pace, which undoubtedly spurred forward the comprehensive state laws regarding real estate condominium law today. The most notable piece of this legislation is found in the 1961 National Housing Act at Section 234. The Act paved the way for insuring mortgages linked to condominiums and in turn, had every state implementing real estate condominium laws by 1969.
In many instances, real estate condominium law disputes will be settled through civil court, unless a criminal act is committed during or as part of an ongoing dispute. Given the magnitude of losing one’s living space, condominium owners embroiled in a dispute are highly advised to seek counsel from a real estate attorney. Additionally, a real estate attorney can review any and all documents related to the purchase and ownership of a condominium, such as the Declaration of Condominium document.
Are you and your loved ones considering purchasing a condominium? Contact a real estate attorney to help you avoid any problems involving real estate condominium law today.