Condominium Living: Be Prepared to Abide by the Rules

rules-of-condo-livingLooking for a starter home, searching for the home of your dreams, or downsizing for retirement? There are many factors to consider: multi-story or ranch, move-in ready or fixer upper, big lawn or low maintenance, and of course… location, location, location! Lost in the mix of these considerations can be one VERY important item – is the home in a condominium development?

Different Kinds of Condos, Fees, and Regulations

Homeowners often think of condominiums as a group of joined structures, with fees paid by the owners to an association for various maintenance responsibilities including mowing, snow removal, and exterior cleaning. But even stand-alone homes can be part of a condominium organization. Under real estate laws in Michigan and elsewhere, these homes and the land they occupy are commonly known as site condominiums.

The roads in a condominium development may be private, which, along with swaths of manicured land and common areas, are owned and managed by the condo association. The association charges fees to maintain this infrastructure (think bike and walking trails, lawn sprinkler systems, lawn maintenance, snow plowing, etc.), and establishes rules that govern community living and impact the homeowners’ use of their own homes and yards.

These rules are commonly set forth in a master deed, and along with association bylaws, they can be extensive, regulating many items, such as:

  • Garbage cans.
  • Satellite dishes.
  • Basketball hoops.
  • Landscaping and hardscaping.
  • Color of your home.
  • Swimming pools and hot tubs.
  • Sheds and other structures (which may be prohibited altogether).
  • Number of vehicles parked in driveways.
  • Overnight parking on neighborhood roads.
  • Noise restrictions.

While some condo buyers embrace such rules and the neighborhood aesthetics they promote, others find the rules stifling.

Know Before You Buy

When a home in a condo catches your eye, you need to ask your realtor for a copy of the condominium association’s governing provisions and determine whether you can abide by the restrictions BEFORE making an offer on the home. Failure to adequately inform yourself may lead to disappointment.

If you think you will move in and bend or break the rules that don’t suit you, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. Master deeds give homeowners associations the ability to force your compliance with the rules, including the right to order removal of offending structures and impose fines.

And if you intend to move into your new condo and work to modify the rules to meet your needs, you may face an uphill battle. Changes often require votes from many homeowners – homeowners who moved into the same neighborhood after presumably reviewing the same rules you did. You can’t assume they will share your desire to amend or repeal the provisions they find reasonable or necessary.

Make an Informed Buying Decision – Talk to a Real Estate Lawyer

Condominium living can be a great choice and a satisfying experience for the well-informed buyer; alternatively, it can be a regrettable mistake and miserable for the ill-informed. Therefore, you must do your homework before committing yourself to life in a condominium community.

If you are thinking of purchasing a condo and need assistance reviewing the master deed and governing documents, please contact the real estate attorneys at Kreis Enderle – we can help.

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