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Limited Common Element vs. Common Element in a Homeowners Association

In any Condo, HOA or Planned Community at some point you will have to refer back to your Declarations and Bylaws.  The US has a constitution and a bill of rights, the HOA has Declarations and HOA Bylaws – somewhat the same.

In general, a common element is owned by the HOA and maintained by the HOA.  This could be a park, a community room, or just the hallway on each floor of a high-rise HOA.

A limited common element is owned and maintained by the HOA, but for your exclusive use. Think of a balcony or even a parking spot that is not deeded to your unit.

Stacking a house on top of wooden blocks.

In an HOA there are always exceptions, and these are usually found in the community association’s governing documents – the Declarations and Bylaws.  The HOA Declarations may say that a parking spot is a limited common element, but the HOA has the right to reassign your space.  Why would they do that?  If someone with a handicap needed a spot close to the elevator the HOA is required by law to make a “reasonable accommodation” which could mean you would lose your prime parking spot and be moved somewhere less convenient.  That’s the “limited” part of a limited common element in an HOA.

Since HOA Declarations are often contradictory and poorly written most HOAs will at some point have their attorney draft a “maintenance and insurance chart” It will have four columns.  HOA Maintains, Owner Maintains, HOA Insures, Owner Insures.  In a limited common element, the HOA may maintain your balcony, but you would have to insure it.  If your HOA does not have a maintenance and insurance chart and there is a claim – fire, wind, hail – all parties could be uninsured.  When you get insurance for your unit, commonly called a HO-6 policy, make sure your agent has a copy of the Declarations.  Then if they miss insuring something called out for in the HOA Declarations, usually around a common element or a limited common element you may have cause to go back on your insurance agent since they wrote the policy – not you.

I love to talk about HOA issues, but I am not an attorney and cannot give legal advice.  Give me a call anyway!

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