Condominium Best Practices & Law Books
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2018 09:07:20 -0700 (PDT)
It has only been in the last few years that cohousing has been openly discussed 
as a condominium. I wish I had read all the condominium code as soon as 
development started. Our Bylaws would be better and the design of our building 
would have been clearer. And we could have explained how things work to new 

We are still for example sorting out what our condo fees are based on — the 
numbers don’t add up to the original explanation. Half our units have some lack 
of clarity about LCEs. The condo docs contradict each other.

I found two books this week that explain condo life and law.

The first is "The Condominium Concept: A Practical Guide for Officers, Owners, 
Realtors, Attorneys, and Directors of Florida Condominiums" (Condominium 
Concepts) 15th Edition by Peter M. Dunbar (Author) 2017

Any book in the 15th edition that is available outside college bookstores is 
likely to be complete and helpful. Dunbar teaches at the University of Florida, 
has law practice, has worked in the Florida state government office governing 
condominiums, has served on the Community Association Institutes Governing 
Board, etc. The book goes through every aspect of the law and includes many 
sample forms that can be very helpful for giving you a clue about what should 
be in a notice of annual meeting, for example.

Even though Dunbar is writing for Florida he also discusses difference between 
Florida law and other states, and much of condo law everywhere is based on the 
Uniform Law Commission’s Common Interest Ownership Act (2008, updated). In 
other words, states vary in details but the range is not huge and the basic 
concepts are the same. If you read the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act, 
you will see where many of the boiler plate provisions come from. A copy can be 
found here:

Dunbar's approach is to explain legal requirements but he uses Plain English. 
The book has a detailed table of contents and an index so it is good to use as 
a reference book as well. 

The second book is "New Neighborhoods: The Consumer's Guide to Condominium, 
Co-op, and HOA Living” by Gary Poliakoff and Ryan Poliakoff, 2009 

This one is more cohousing friendly because it addresses co ops and homeowner 
associations as well as condominiums. However, remember than the Property 
Manager’s Association considers 400 units small. The authors’ discussion 
becomes regulation focused and discusses the board as an exclusive authority 
because they are accustomed to talking about communities of 2000 and 4000 
units. And even more.

Never the less, this book explains the concepts in everyday language and, even 
more helpful, tells you when “This is important, pay attention” and gives 
everyday examples that demonstrate why. For example, I was looking for a 
conceptual explanation of LCEs. That LCEs are common elements that are reserved 
for exclusive use by one or more units, why aren’t they just owned by that 
unit? Why are back yards LCEs and not owned?

The Poliakoffs explain that the community wants to retain the ability to 
regulate behavior those areas. If they were owned this would be much less 
possible. Often, this also shifts to the Association responsibility for major 
repairs and replacement. The Association maybe able to require that 80% of 
floor space in upstairs units be covered with carpet, but they can’t tell you 
what color to paint your walls. These are yours. 

They can say things like furniture on decks and balconies must be designed for 
outdoor use. Meaning no overstuffed armchairs growing mold and bursting at the 
seams. And satellite dishes and TV antennas cannot be mounted in back yards. Or 
they can’t be fenced in because access is required for pest control.

There are also appurtenances like door lights and mailboxes that are LCEs. They 
cannot be changed by the owner without permission. The consistency of design is 
a legally justified reason for regulating appearance of the exterior. The 
outside doors and windows may be yours their design and material are probably 

I highly recommend that you read at least this book. And have the first around 
for reference —perhaps requiring the legal and finance team members read it.

On thing I learned after trying to sort out a fair basis for condo fees is why 
most condos are cookie cutter with all the one bedrooms in one building and all 
the two bedrooms in another and individual homes off to the side. DC requires 
that the costs of LCE maintenance and repair be paid by the owner to which it 
is assigned. Figuring out the maintenance costs of unfinished wood sealing when 
some of it is a General Common Element, some units have no unfinished wood, and 
all the rest have varying amounts is daunting. It makes things complicated that 
don’t have to be. We could have designed the place with essentially equal 
maintenance costs while preserving variety.

So do read these, certainly if you are in the developing stage.

Sharon Villines
Sociocracy: A Deeper Democracy

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