How Much of the Condo Do I Own?
If you're interested in purchasing a townhouse or a condominium in your probably looking at two different types of properties; condominium style townhome or zero lot line.
These zero lot line style of townhouses are becoming more and more popular throughout Portland especially in the suburbs with new communities and neighborhoods popping up. The term "zero lot line" technically means that at least one wall of the property sits directly on top of the property line itself. If the property description specifically states the term "zero lot line" then you probably own a PUD style of townhouse. The wall that is shared between two separate townhouse units is the lot line of the property of which you own. Because of this, many associations may not even have homeowners dues or fees associated since you actually own the property and not just the interior walls.
A condominium is quite different in that you only own what is inside of the house and not the exterior wall or the property (land) on which it sits. In a condominium association you will typically have fees that will pay for common area or common element maintenance such as driveways, entryways, lobbies and any amenities that the Association or complex provides, such as swimming pools, fitness centers etc.
There can be a fuzzy line between what you own inside the house and take responsibility for and what the Association is responsible for. This is why each Association has their own covenants, conditions and restrictions called CC&Rs. This document, which could be several hundred pages, outlines all of the rules and ownership responsibilities for the tenants or owners of the condominium. A potential buyer would receive this document during the home purchase process in order to review it for any discrepancies and ask any questions. Because this document is so large many potential buyers may have their own real estate attorney review this document or you may simply ask specific questions directly to the Association.
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There are unique circumstances where maintenance could be the responsibility of both homeowner and association. Plumbing and wiring that goes from the inside of the house to the outside may have common responsibility. However, if the plumbing issue happens externally that affects damage to the inside of the condominium, the owner may not be responsible. These are detailed and tedious questions that should be asked prior to purchase.
Every condominium complex is different and whether you're purchasing in a townhouse subdivision or condominium building, make sure you understand what you're buying and what you are responsible for before signing on the dotted line.