One of the main perks of condo life is the freedom from maintenance and repairs outside your unit. There’s no need to mow the lawn, repair a clogged drain, or clear a driveway from snow: Those tasks are all in the hands of a board of directors. But what can be muddy is what you actually own, and which areas are common grounds or shared spaces.
In some condo buildings, shared spaces and common areas might not be as straightforward as you hope.
Areas outside a unit
Generally, any spaces that are outside your condominium unit’s interior walls are considered common areas. What you own are all of the amenities, fixtures, and structures contained within your interior walls. Anything beyond is a shared space.
Wait a sec. Does that mean someone can sit on your patio and sunbathe or park a vehicle on the walkway in front of your entrance? That’s where it gets a little more complicated. Common areas break down into three categories: common areas, limited shared spaces or common grounds, and exclusive common areas.
What are common areas?
A common area, as mentioned, is anywhere outside of interior condo dwellings that is part of the condominium plan. That includes hallways, outside walls, utilities, elevators, recreational areas, lawns or green spaces, and parking.
Think of it this way. If you’re on your condo’s lot and you might feel uncomfortable going around without pants on because there’s a good chance you’ll run into neighbors, you’re probably in a common area.
What are limited shared spaces?
Some common areas or shared spaces have less access, though. Spots on the condo property that have designated access for occupants of one or more condo units are considered limited shared spaces or limited common areas.
These are areas that you could consider to be rather private. Perhaps you have a small sitting area behind your unit with a table and chairs. You can reasonably expect to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee relatively uninterrupted in your lounge pants.
What are exclusive common areas?
Likewise, there are areas where you should be able to expect unfettered exclusive access. These areas are known as exclusive common areas. For example, a fifth-floor condo with a balcony can comfortably expect that no one will be peering in their patio doors or windows from the balcony, which is often considered a common area.
Leased or rented areas like storage units also have exclusive access in most cases. And for parking stalls, the same exclusivity can be expected.
Who defines common areas?
Unlike a private residence, an elected board of directors sets the rules in what’s known as Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions, and Easements (CC&R’s). When you purchase a condo, these are the terms that define what you own and what items and areas are common to residents.
From condo to condo, even among buildings owned and operated by the same board of directors, common areas may be defined differently. If you own a condo or you’re thinking about buying one, it’s important to know and understand the terms of the CC&R’s. This will help you determine more than just where you are allowed to be on the condo lot, but also what repairs and maintenance you are responsible for as a tenant and what you can expect from your condo association.