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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. 

House stacking on 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!