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What is a Common-interest Community?

Common-interest communities, also known as common-interest developments or CIDs, include condominiums, coops, retirement communities, vacation timeshares, and other housing developments comprised of individually owned units, in addition to shared facilities and common areas. CIDs usually are created through a set of legal documents drafted by the developer, which may change according to the community's needs. Typically, these types of communities are governed by an association made up of the individual unit owners, most often through an elected board.

One of the advantages of living in a CID is the ability to enjoy certain amenities (such as tennis courts or swimming pools) that otherwise may be too expensive for one individual household to acquire. But in order to make sure these common-interest amenities are properly maintained, residents typically pay a monthly fee and often are limited in what they can do to their own unit.

For additional articles and resources related to CIDs, see FindLaw's Owning a Home section.

Homeowners Associations

In the case of condominiums and some neighborhoods with single-family homes, the management and funding of the shared facilities and common areas (such as playgrounds, parking lots, and swimming pools) are facilitated through homeowners associations or HOAs. An HOA makes decisions about monthly dues, maintenance priorities, rules for pets, rules for the appearance of units, yard maintenance, and other considerations affecting the community as a whole.

There are many ways in which an HOA may regulate a common-interest community, including the following:

  • Pets
  • Shingles, siding, and exterior paint
  • Fences, shrubs, and hedges
  • Landscaping (what flowers can be planted, for instance)
  • Swing sets, basketball hoops, and other structures for children
  • Mailboxes
  • Noise
  • Tool sheds
  • Home-based business

The developer must incorporate the HOA prior to selling any individual units, but its purpose is to take over the management and care of shared spaces after the developer has sold all of the units and is no longer involved. HOAs may change their rules through the voting process.

HOAs -- which consist of resident representatives -- also have the authority to levy fines or file lawsuits against property owners for nonpayment of monthly dues, to obtain injunctive relief to enforce HOA rules, or to seek reimbursement for damage to common areas. Generally, property management companies take on the more technical aspects of the HOA.

Differences in State Laws

More than a dozen states (including Texas, Washington, and Pennsylvania) adhere to the Uniform Condominium Act (UCA), which was drafted in 1980 and adopted by states individually. The Act was intended to serve as a comprehensive body of law for housing developments in which units are owned individually but certain facilities and grounds are shared. But, while most CIDs operate in a similar manner from one state to the next, make sure you fully understand how your state laws govern the creation and management of CIDs.

Have an Attorney Evaluate Your Real Estate Law Questions for Free

Contemplating the various types of living arrangements and housing arrangements can sometimes get confusing. Consider speaking with a real estate attorney if you have any legal questions about living in common-interest communities. You can get started today with a free legal evaluation by a real estate lawyer.

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