Common Interest Developments

Understanding Common Interest Developments

“Common Interest Developments” or “CIDs” is a broad term used to identify condominiums, cooperatives, planned communities, or other housing developments where more than one owner shares in ownership or control of property. Chances are, you or someone you know lives in a CID. In 2006, there were approximately 57 million people living in some form of a CID. While news coverage of CIDS typically focuses on overbearing board members or angry owners, CIDs do offer advantages. Owners often share the expenses of utilities, maintenance and replacement of common property or facilities and in some communities, owners don’t have to worry about maintaining their yards or the exteriors of their homes. Gated communities offer security and high-rise condominiums offer a unique and enjoyable social setting. Most importantly, purchasing property in a CID usually comes with the benefit of knowing that your property value will be maintained.

With the increase of CIDs, most states have adopted laws which govern the operations and creation of these communities. Most states have very specific laws containing the requirements to form and operate a condominium, and there has been an increase in the number of states which have adopted legislation governing planned community developments in which owners own their lot and structure, but have a collective ownership interest in common property such as a recreation center or golf course.

It’s important to know the type of CID in order to know which statute may apply. A condominium is a form of legal ownership (not an architectural style) whereby owners own the “sheetrock inward” of their unit and are joint owners of the remainder of the buildings and structures, often referred to as “common elements.” Condominiums may take the form of a high-rise building, a townhouse style development, or even an office complex.

A cooperative is similar to a condominium, but in a cooperative a corporation holds title to the units and the common areas, and owners or members receive an exclusive occupancy right for his or her unit through a lease agreement.

Planned communities, on the other hand, are developments where individual owners own their land in “fee simple”, but are obligated to pay assessments used for maintaining common property typically owned by the homeowners association.

Both types of CIDs usually have recorded documents which bind the owner to certain obligations and restrictions. These documents are often referred to as “CC&Rs”, an acronym for “Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions.” This document may restrict owners from painting their homes certain colors, requiring approval by the board prior to building fences or other structures, or prohibiting loud or obnoxious noises or behavior.

Most CIDs also have Bylaws which may or may not be recorded depending on the jurisdiction. The Bylaws contain the provisions on how the CID is to operate, such as how many individuals serve on the board of directors, when and how to hold the annual owners meeting, and the required number of votes in order to approve certain actions. If the CID association is incorporated, which many states now require, the CID will also be governed by its articles of incorporation.

Boards of Directors, with authority from state law or its governing documents, may also adopt rules and regulations. The rules and regulations must be consistent with the other governing documents, and are often used to interpret ambiguous language or set forth procedures for issues like violations of governing documents or failure to pay assessments.

CIDs are typically governed by a board of directors. The board is elected each year by a vote of the entire membership at an annual meeting. Although the board members may volunteer owners in the community, the law requires these board members to exercise “fiduciary duties.” This means that board members must act in the best interests of the association and the membership at all times, avoid conflicts of interest, and ensure that common property is maintained, repaired or replaced when needed.

Owners also have obligations to the association. The primary obligation is the payment of regular assessments or “dues.” These assessments are used by the association to purchase and maintain insurance, pay for common area landscaping, maintain recreation facilities, and for professional management of the association.

Most states and governing documents allow the association to place a lien on the property which may be foreclosed upon if an owner fails to pay these assessments. Although foreclosing on an assessment lien may sound harsh, it’s important to remember that when an owner fails to pay his or her assessments, the rest of the owners must make up that difference in order for the association to continue to operate.

Other owner obligations may include avoiding activities that may be a nuisance to other owners, and maintaining their unit or lot so that the aesthetics of the community remain consistent.

Ultimately, the goal of a CID is to foster a community, preserve property values, and create an enjoyable place to live.