A condominium is a type of common interest community in which each owner purchases fee simple interest in an individual unit and also receives undivided ownership interest in the community's common property. Although most people think of apartment-type dwellings when they hear the term condo, a condominium may actually consist of any type of property, including undeveloped land. What defines a condominium is the type of ownership and the way the community is governed.
Creating a Condominium
The property developer creates a condominium with a document called a master deed and a condominium declaration that states the developer's intent. Although state laws outline the specific requirements of the master deed and declaration, the document generally must contain the legal description of the property, explain the covenants and restrictions that will govern the community and show the locations of each unit and the common areas on a type of map known as a plat. In addition, the developer must create a homeowner association, or HOA, to government the community. Each condominium buyer is automatically a member of the association.
The condominium unit is the individual property each owner purchases. Precisely what comprises the unit depends on the type of property, but most often, a condominium unit is the space between the boundary walls that divide one unit from another or one unit from common areas. This space is called an air lot. The footprint of land on which a condo sits, as well as the space above the building, may be part of a unit when units are constructed side by side.
Common areas are those that all the owners share. They include lobbies, hallways and other public areas of the buildings, as well as the land and such amenities as gardens, pools, playgrounds and other recreational spaces. Limited common elements are those that benefit one or more individual units but aren't part of the units. Examples include the parts of plumbing and electrical systems that run from the main systems of the building to provide water and power to individual units.
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HOA or Regime
"Regime" is a general term that refers to a system of governance. The word is interchangeable with the term HOA, which denotes the specific type of body that governs condominiums. Although HOA and condo association are more widely used, use of the term regime is common in southern states, particularly South Carolina.
The association membership elects a board of directors to act on its behalf as administrators of the community. The association enforces the condominium bylaws; levies fees and assessments for maintenance of common areas; creates the budget; and insures the structure against fire, liability and other hazards. The board may also hire a property management firm to oversee maintenance. Each association member has the right to vote on issues.