Re: Private use of Common Space
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 16 Sep 2005 07:22:58 -0700 (PDT)

On Sep 15, 2005, at 5:57 AM, OCC611ng wrote:

We are in the process of defining parcels of community-owned land as
private-use areas behind people's homes. We are, for the most part, of the
opinion that such use should be without cost to the owner.

The common practice is to define three kinds of areas-- common, limited common, and the units that are owner controlled. Limited common elements are things like balconies, back yards, front yards -- areas that belong to the association but are reserved for the exclusive use of a specific unit.

Limited common elements are included in the condo fee and are either maintained by the association or required to be maintained in accordance with rules set by the association (no 6 foot high fences, no ferris wheels, etc.).

Determining condo fees -- there are formulas for this and they are based on (1) the percentage of exclusively owned space that is under the control of the owner plus (2) the percentage of limited commonspace allocated for the exclusive use of the owner.

Limited commonspace may be apportioned at a smaller percentage than the exclusive space -- for example 50% of the square footage cost or something. It can get complicated and depends on the upkeep done by the association and that done by the owner.

That gives you the percentage interest that each owner owes each year. Condo fees are based on that percentage of the annual budget of the association. That budget should include various "reserves" as well. Reserves are savings -- the money is reserved for specific purposes. You are required by the state to maintain a reserve account for capital improvements, for example, to replace construction elements like roofs, sidewalks, lighting fixtures, etc. Then it is wise to also have reserves for major maintenance like painting, repairing damage to drywall from leaking pipes, sealing parking lots, etc. A reserve for capital improvements like a new playground or new garden plantings or acoustical panels. An emergency reserve fund for emergencies like a sink hole opens in the green.

Current owners should be paying for these items so future owners don't receive the full force of these expenses. When people are deciding to buy units, their lawyers will look at these reserve funds to determine if your community is financially responsible. Bad financials can really hurt your reputation, even if you are cohousing.

Cohousing communities are becoming more numerous and regular condos are including more cohousing-like features. When a buyer is deciding whether to choose this community or that one, financials are important. Cohousing will soon be under the same competitive pressures as other condos are.

Sharon Villines
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