Design of Units
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 20 May 2008 07:35:02 -0700 (PDT)

On May 19, 2008, at 5:20 PM, Elizabeth Magill wrote:

The whole process was much more complicated than I ever imagined in
my visioning of a totally accessible community!

Another thing to remember is the allocation of limited common elements -- balconies, yards, cement slab patios, etc. Limited common elements are those spaces to which an owner has exclusive rights. After dealing with our limited common elements and their maintenance, I understand why condominium complexes are composed of indentical units.

1. Ensure that you determine how limited common elements will be maintained -- by the Association or the individual homeowner.

2. If the Association maintains the limited common elements, provide equal SQ footage of limited common elements wherever possible, or SQ footage in the same proportions as the percentage interest. If a unit is large and will have a relatively large percentage interest, give them proportionately larger limited common elements.

This is because they will be paying for the maintenance of the limited common elements in their condo fee. We have units with no limited common elements and some with two or three. most have one. It is a headache now that they all need maintenance.

Should someone with no balcony pay for those of others to be cleaned and sealed? And how do you decide the differential? Some owners have a rich income and others are just making it. $25 a month may be nothing to one person but a lot to another. $25 can be a week of lunches.

3. If the individual homeowner is to do the maintenance, stipulate how that maintenance should be done -- quality standards, etc.

How often should a deck be painted or treated? When does a concrete slab have to be replaced? How often does the lawn have to be mowed? Can it be planted with weeds? Who decides?

At least include in your Bylaws provisions that the Association can from time to time make rules about how these elements must be maintained.

4. Design the boundaries between the limited common elements and the common elements clearly so it is intuitive which is which.

Instances have been posted on the list, where someone planted a garden or set up a studio in common spaces because the boundaries were not clear. Or "the land wasn't being used anyway." We have back yards that are not limited common elements but the owners treat them as if they were and put up fences blocking the fire exits of other residents. Getting them taken down is hard work for someone because it can be confrontational.

5. Decide before you move in how you deal with noncompliance. Fines are typical. Some Associations have the right to go in and remove fences, trees, etc. Trees planted too close to foundations can damage the foundations in a few years. Who pays to them up in the back yard of one one resident when 4 share that foundation?

Cohousers tend to be very "good neighbor" about all this when they move in but unless you are a lot development model you can set yourself up for a lot of headaches. Everyone will not have the income to just pay for these things. It affects the low income residents the most.

Consult board members or managers of condominiums in your area to fully understand what you need to plan for. Don't treat them as alien beings because "you are different." You don't have to adopt their overly litigious attitude, but you can learn a lot from them.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing,Washington DC

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