Full-Time Condominium Living: Are You A Prospect?
By David F. Daniell, Condo Owner Magazine, Volume 19, Issue 2
The nature of condominium ownership has changed dramatically over the last decade along the coast. As the area develops and more conveniences are available on the Northern Gulf Coast, more and more individuals are evaluating the prospect of full time condominium living.
People purchase condominiums in this area for many reasons. Many have purchased a condominium hoping to utilize the property as a second home until retirement, and thereafter, relocating to the coast.
Full time residency in a condominium can provide 24-hour-security, social outlets, tennis courts, pool, beach services, less time normally dedicated to home maintenance and a chance to live in a safe and secure environment. However, before deciding to adopt a “condominium residency,” the benefits and drawbacks should be weighed based upon individual circumstances.
- Living next to neighbors where only walls separate the living areas.
- Having to use an elevator to retrieve mail or carry groceries from the car.
- Submission to a board of directors.
- A financial obligation to the common element.
- Rules! Rules! Rules!
- Pet inconvenience.
- Additional free time.
- Amenities on site.
- Maintenance responsibilities assumed by the association.
When considering condominium living, maintenance and the possibility of special assessments must be taken into consideration. Condominium ownership is based on the concept of “common elements” versus “private elements.” In addition to the “private elements,” which are essentially “air rights,” a condominium owner also owns a share of the common elements, such as the building structure, parking lot, pools, tennis courts, etc. This permits the maintenance cost to be spread out among the owners as common expense.
It is wise to find out all available information concerning an association’s finances before acquiring a condominium. If managed properly, the association maintenance fees should match the annual operational cost of the building. Looking further, one should inquire about inspections that may have revealed deficiencies, and common elements such as roofs, elevators, weatherproofing, etc. Each of these elements must be maintained and replaced over the life of the building. Does the association maintain adequate reserves and have a plan going forward for restoration and maintenance of these items?
Condominium living is a compromise just like any other activity one may undertake. Living habits that may not be suitable for condominium life include:
- Hosting late night parties;
- Draging chairs across hard floors at odd hours of the night;
- Owning a large or barking pet;
- Owning multiple vehicles or commercial vehicles;
Rules, and the equitable enforcement thereof, are absolutely necessary for healthy condominium life. A perspective purchaser should obtain a copy of the association’s Declaration, Articles of Incorporation and Rules so that a clear understanding of the rules is part of the buying process. Prospective buyers should also attempt to find out everything possible about the association and how that particular board of directors operate. Poorly managed associations make enjoyment difficult. Once electing to purchase a condominium for full-time residential use, the purchaser has agreed to become a member of the association and abide by the rules established by the board of directors. One must also be mindful that a member of the association is jointly responsible with neighbors for funding the maintenance of the common element for the good of all of the membership.
Condominium life can be very rewarding. However, a little research sometimes can make the difference between a good and bad experience.
David F.Daniell is a member of the Baldwin County-based law firm of Daniell, Upton & Perry, P.C. The attorneys in this regional law firm practice in the fields of condominium, construction and insurance law in coastal Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. Contact the firm at P. O. Box 1800, Daphne, AL 36526; Phone: (251) 625-0046; Fax: (251) 625-0464; www.daniellupton.com
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