Condominiums are a form of real estate development comprised of separately owned units and jointly owned common areas. The term condominium does not refer to the actual units themselves, but rather the arrangement in which a piece of property is legally owned.
In a condominium arrangement, a unit owner enjoys all the rights associated with real estate ownership as if his or her unit were entirely independent. As such each condominium unit can be mortgaged and conveyed, and each is subject to real estate taxes; however, the unit owner only has exclusive ownership of everything within the walls of his or her unit. He or she shares in the ownership rights to areas outside of this boundary, namely common areas, such as hallways, swimming pools, lounges, elevators and parking lots.
Although ownership rights to common areas are shared among unit owners, unit owners with similarly-sized units may have differing percentages of common area ownership. Owning a larger share of the common areas has the perk of entitling an owner to more participation in condominium association business. With a larger percentage of ownership, however, comes more responsibility and burden to pay for a larger portion of common area maintenance. In Massachusetts, condominiums are governed byMassachusetts General Law Chapter 183A.
Various condominium documents must be recorded at the appropriate registry of deeds in order to establish a condominium arrangement. Among these documents is the master deed, which is required to establish a condominium. The master deed divides a single property into individually owned units, provides a master floor plan, defines common areas, and lists the rights and obligations of all unit owners.
An individual unit deed is also required. The individual deed is the instrument that allows a single condominium unit to be transferred from its current owner to a new owner. There are several requirements for an individual deed. To begin it must contain a description of the property’s land and address as well as the book, page and date of recording for its respective master deed. Additionally the unit deed must describe how the unit is intended to be used, and it must define any restrictions to the unit’s use. Finally the unit deed must also define the undivided interest in the common areas and facilities that come with the unit.
Along with the master deed and unit deed, the condominium declaration of trust and bylaws must also be filed. The purpose of the declaration is to form a condominium association and to set forth the rules and procedures necessary for the governance of the condominium owner’s association. The declaration also sets limits on the amount of payments to be made for various shared condominium expenses such the complex’s water and sewage bill, common area maintenance fees, and the condominium’s master insurance premium.
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