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What Is a Common-Interest Community?

Common-interest communities include condominiums, co-ops, retirement communities, and timeshares. Common-interest communities are also known as common-interest developments or CIDs. CIDs are comprised of individually owned units with an undivided interest in common areas. A subdivision developer creates a CID by recording a subdivision plat and a set of legal governing documents. In a CID, every owner has a form of ownership with exclusive rights to certain parts of the real property. But owners are often limited in what they can do to their own condominium units.

Unit developments are governed by a community association's board of directors. The board is made up of individual unit owners. The board's job is to follow and enforce the community's articles of incorporation, bylaws, and CC&Rs (covenants, convictions, and restrictions). If the community is big enough, there may even be a master association. A master association governs separate sub-associations within the community.

One of the advantages of living in a CID is the ability to enjoy certain common elements. These elements can include a tennis court or swimming pool. To maintain these common-interest amenities, residents pay a monthly common expenses assessment fee. This fee usually includes real estate taxes and insurance premiums.

For more articles and resources related to common-interest developments, see FindLaw's Owning a Home section.

Homeowners Associations

CIDs are managed by homeowners associations (HOAs) or condominium associations. HOAs and condominiums associations serve the same purpose. The main difference between the two is the type of property they represent. Both HOAs and condominium associations make decisions about monthly dues, maintenance priorities, and other considerations affecting the community as a whole.

There are many ways in which HOA rules may regulate a common-interest community:

  • Pets
  • Shingles, siding, and exterior paint
  • Fences, shrubs, and hedges
  • Landscaping
  • Swing sets, basketball hoops, and other structures for children
  • Mailboxes
  • Noise
  • Tool sheds
  • Home-based business

The developer must incorporate the HOA before selling any individual units. After the developer sells all the units, the homeowners association takes over the management and care of shared spaces.

HOAs have the authority to levy fines or file lawsuits against property owners for nonpayment of monthly dues. They also have the power to enforce HOA covenants on members of the association or to seek reimbursement for damage to common areas. Generally, property management companies take on the more technical aspects of the homeowners association. This includes vendor management and administrative office duties.

Differences in State Laws

Many states adhere to the Uniform Condominium Act (UCA) and the Common Interest Ownership Act. These Acts serve as a comprehensive body of law for planned communities and real estate cooperatives. Make sure you understand how your state laws govern the creation and management of CIDs. It is also important to understand how local zoning and land use restrictions may affect your community.

Discuss Your Common-Interest Community Questions With a Lawyer

The various types of living arrangements and housing arrangements can get confusing. If you have legal questions about living in a common-interest community or have general questions about real estate laws, you should speak with a real estate attorney in your area.

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