If you are thinking about buying a condominium, here are some things you should know.

Condominiums are shared ownership communities that share certain obligations. A condominium association is a private democracy designed to govern the inevitable questions that arise as a function of group ownership, governed by a set of documents that creates both rights and responsibilities, through the use of covenants and restrictions. All owners of units automatically become members of the community association when they buy a unit. Every owner is required to pay assessments to cover the cost of maintaining, repairing, and replacing the common property areas and of operating the association. 

The association manages and governs the buildings, and it is responsible for maintaining most of the common elements—but it does not own the common elements. As members of the association, you and your neighbors each own an undivided interest in the common elements. So nobody owns anything—and everyone owns everything.

The biggest challenge to the successful operation of community associations is the lack of education among the consumers who are buying units within the community. What are your rights? What are your responsibilities? How will you fit into the scheme of the community?

Because you share the property with your neighbors, you inherently give up certain rights that are considered sacrosanct by traditional homeownership. The time-honored principle of “my house, my rules” goes out the window when you share your walls, floors, and ceilings with other owners, all of whom want their own rules applied. And make no mistake: Nothing creates hard feelings more than sharing the property with others.

In a condominium, instead of owning the physical building you essentially own the air within it. You own a box of air the size of your unit, bordered by exterior walls that may or may not be shared. More specifically, you own everything from the inner surface of the perimeter walls inward, and from the inside of the ceiling to the top surface of the floor. You don’t own the walls themselves, but you own all the airspace inside the walls.

In a condominium, everything inside the walls—the pipes, the wires, the fluffy pink stuff—is generally owned by the unit owners in concert. That means if a pipe is leaking inside “your” wall, everybody pays to fix it. That also means if a pipe is leaking inside your neighbor’s wall, you’re on the hook for your fair share, but the repair is part of your maintenance fee.

But what specifically determines who owns that? Does your unit just end where the walls end? Actually, it’s not that simple. The unit boundaries are determined by the Declaration! The Declaration generally lays out what you own individually and what everyone owns collectively and what you’re responsible for fixing and what the association must repair.

Now, what rules govern how the association runs the condominium? The Declaration and state laws. In Florida, look to Section 718 of the Florida Statutes (the Condo Act). You, as a buyer and owner, should be thoroughly knowledgeable. The Florida courts have ruled that once you purchase a condominium you are familiar with the following, the condominium Declaration, By-Laws, and the adopted Rules and Regulations of the Association. These are all available on the Punta Rassa website. If there are any questions before your purchase please feel free to call the condominium Association office.

The Board of Directors is responsible for adopting an annual budget to maintain and repair the common elements, enforcing the provisions of the Declaration and the Rules and Regulations of the Association. In addition, providing building insurance and flood insurance. There are seven (7) members elected to serve.