News & Insights

Condo Must Knows: What to Consider Before Buying

If you are considering purchasing a condominium (condo), it’s essential to understand the unique rules and regulations that may apply to your condo community. Condos can provide additional amenities that don’t typically come with a home or apartment, such as garages, elevators, gyms, tennis courts, or pools. Purchasing a condo can be a great option for buyers who are looking for those amenities, keeping in mind that there are additional fees and rules that owners must abide by. In some ways, condos are the middle-ground between owning a single-family home and renting an apartment. To ensure a condo is the right fit for you, it is important to do your due diligence in understanding your potential condominium association’s rules, regulations, and fees.

Rules and regulations

When a condo is formed, the Homeowners Association (HOA) rules and regulations are agreed upon, documented, and then recorded at the Registry of Deeds. The public record of the Homeowners Association bylaws allows the HOA to enforce the rules and regulations within the community.

In larger condo associations, i.e., more than five units, a property management company may run and maintain the association on behalf of the condo trustees. These property management companies, with said approval from the condo association, may hold additional rules and regulations accountable that have not been recorded at the Registry of Deeds. These undocumented rules often include move-in and move-out procedures, maintaining common areas such as the gym, or even installing personal entertainment systems that may exceed noise limits. Despite the fact that these are not recorded publicly, these rules and regulations are enforceable. When purchasing a condo unit, it is imperative that a buyer conduct research and speak to the condo association to ascertain if there are any unrecorded rules and regulations to be aware of.

Rule enforcement and your responsibility

When considering purchasing a condo, it’s important to not only learn the associated rules and regulations, but to become familiar with the enforcement mechanisms. Typically, fines are the most common enforcement mechanism. Minor violations may result in a fine as low as $25; however, if the infraction is major, the condo association may decide to take legal action against the unit owner. In situations where a unit owner believes they are not in violation of the rules and regulations, the unit owner and condo association may choose to enter arbitration or mediation if allowed by the Condominium Documents.

Another important thing to consider before buying a condo, is that unit owners are responsible for the action of their guests and tenants. If there is a violation by those individuals, the unit owners are held liable by the condo association, not the guests. While these rules may seem excessive or overbearing to someone considering condo living, they ensure an orderly community in which all of the tenants can enjoy the shared amenities and their personal unit. Without the guidance of these rules, the demand for condo units in the real estate market would decrease because condo communities would lack enforcement and may become disorderly.

Questions to ask

To get a full picture of the amenities, expectations, and rules that apply to purchasing a condo, we recommend asking the following questions:

  • How much are the condo fees, and what exactly do they cover?
  • Are any special assessments coming up shortly, and how much do they cost? How often do these assessments occur? Is there any upcoming common area work?
  • What is the parking policy? Do I own my space? Are there parking lots or designated guest parking?
  • Is the condo professionally managed, or are the owners directly responsible?
  • What is the policy on renting condos in the condo?
  • Are there any pending lawsuits against the condominium association?

Purchasing a condo may be the right choice for you, but it is critical to ask the right questions before committing. If possible, another way to get a better sense of the community is to speak to other unit owners, specifically trustees of the condo association. Current residents can provide a realistic perspective that goes beyond what is presented in the written rules and regulations and trustees have an inner knowledge of the condo association. A great way to be certain you understand all of the factors that apply to your potential condo is to work with a seasoned real estate attorney. If you think living in a condo may be the next move for you, reach out to David Forrest, real estate attorney at Ligris + Associates PC.

Posted In: Articles