Common vs Limited Common Elements [was Exterior modifications
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 07:54:36 -0800 (PST)
On Feb 18, 2014, at 4:32 PM, Diana Carroll <dianaecarroll [at]> wrote:

> Can you say more about this?  Why would building a deck (or in our current
> example, an access ramp) in common space automatically change the
> classification of the space?  In this case, I was assuming the space
> continues to be common unless we take some legal action to change it (such
> as the easement I was wondering about.)

As a previous poster noted, the legal opinion in their case was that it de 
facto becomes limited because it is not available to other residents. I noted 
this in a previous message but wanted to emphasize it.

Common means common to all owners. Limited means limited to one or more owners.

The Limited Common Elements should be factored in to the Condo fees so those 
who have more Limited Common Elements pay more to cover the added maintenance 
costs, taxes on exclusive use SF, etc.

As Ann said, sometimes condo fees are based on Percentage Interest and 
sometimes on SF. Ours are split between the two 50-50. Percentage interest can 
be based on many things including one or more of the following: Interior SF, 
Limited Common Elements, basements, storage space, decks, desirability, nicer 
views, initial selling price, etc.

SF is usually Interior SF, basement space, etc. In DC the interior SF is valued 
at 100%, the basement SF at 20%, etc. Each Limited Common Element can be valued 
differently. One way is to treat them like basements -- 20% of square footage.

This needs to be done upfront. Unfortunately we had to publish projected condo 
fees before construction was completed and some Limited Common Elements never 
got built or were built in such a way that the owners no longer wanted them. So 
the condo fees do not reflect the SF numbers but the original plans. Changing 
it has been a nightmare of spreadsheets and statistics. This was exacerbated by 
having a developer who had his own lawyer and architectural firm none of whom 
had never done a condo before.

Talk to other condos about these issues, not just a lawyer. You need to 
understand the problems of each choice, not just the law or the lawyer's view 
point. They may never have lived in a condo, which are uncommon in many areas. 
You need to hear from people with living experience. How much individuation in 
design is worth the hassle? What are the maintenance issues? How have residents 
interpreted various restrictions? How do you design the community so it is 
clear what is Common and what is Limited?

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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