A condominium, commonly referred to as a condo, is a large building that is divided into single family units that are sold individually. Ownership includes shared community property such as the parking lot, hallway, elevator and the central heat and air conditioning unit.
Before purchasing a condo, you should do some research so that you understand exactly what you are buying before signing on the dotted line. The laws of condo ownership are not exactly the same as they are for buying a typical single family home. Following are 6 questions every LGBT person should ask before buying a condominium.
1. What are the condo association rules and regulations? Before purchasing a condo, you should ask for copies of the condo’s bylaws and read that document. It outlines the rules and regulations that govern owners and tenants and how the association operates. There may be some rules that could impact the lifestyle you choose to lead that would be important for you to know before purchasing the condo.
Condo associations may enact rules and regulations as they deem appropriate within the confines of the law. Each state has its own statutes on what may or may not be included in those documents. For example, California Civil Code §§ 1350 – 1378, the Davis Stirling Act, dictates the authority that an association can exercise and what can and cannot be included in an association’s bylaws and rules and regulations. Because of this, you may want to review your state’s laws before looking for a condo to purchase. It will give you an idea of whether owning a condo is the best choice for you.
2. What fee does the condo association charge? Most associations charge monthly fees that are applied to the upkeep of the common property including the land surrounding the condo, the exterior of the building and any amenities such as swimming pools or banquet rooms. For example, snow and ice removal, lawn maintenance, siding and roofing. You will also want to find out if any increases are imminent and, if so, how much.
3. What maintenance does the monthly condo association fee cover? For items not covered in the fees, you will want to find out what how often special assessments are initiated and for what type of repairs. A special assessment is money that an association needs to pay for a project that is not included in the annual budget. For example, the septic system becomes damaged and must be replaced. A special assessment may be initiated to pay for the replacement. The assessment may take the form of a lump sum payment from all members of the association or an additional amount added to your monthly fees. This information will impact the amount of money that you will need to budget each month for your condo expenses.
4. Ask to look at the minutes from the condo association board meetings. Reviewing the minutes will let you know what the members are complaining about, how the association responds to those complaints, how well the association is taking care of the building, and whether the seller has been truthful about any upcoming projects that may cost you money in the form of a special assessment if you buy the condo. Not all associations will provide their minutes and most state laws do not dictate that they have to.
Even if you are allowed to read the associations minutes, you should also talk to some of the neighbors in the condo. Ask them how they like living there, what problems they are having and what they think about the condo association. Talking to the neighbors will also give you an idea of whether they are the type of people that an LGBT person or family would be comfortable living next to.
5. What does the condo association insurance cover? You will need to purchase a separate insurance policy to cover items not included in the association’s insurance, such as the inside of your condo and its contents. Some association bylaws dictate what minimum type of insurance coverage owners must purchase.
6. How much money does the condo association have? This is an important aspect because if the association has no reserve funds, they cannot afford to pay for repairs, and that cost may be assessed to the condo owners. If the condo has a bad roof and the paint is peeling and the condo has no funds in its coffers to repair the building, it is a major red flag that there are problems within the association or with its members.
The best way to purchase a condo is to hire an LGBT real estate agent who knows the neighborhood that the condo you are interested in is located. An experienced agent will also know the ins and outs involved in purchasing a condo and will guide you through the process while looking out for your best interests.