Condominium Boat Docks are a Special Breed of Cat

Every real estate lawyer knows that because you know real estate, you don’t necessarily know condominiums. For instance, condominiums have a special category of real estate called a “limited common element”. A limited common element is typically a piece of a condominium property which is used solely and only by one condominium unit. It is not “common area”, and it is not part of a “unit”, it is something different. An example is the patio of a ground floor unit which is built on what would otherwise be common area of the building, but by declaration is to be used only by the owners of the unit to which it is attached.

Not all limited common elements are attached to a unit. The most common example is a wet slip or boat dock which is sold with and intended to be used by a specific condominium unit. A storage area or parking space can also be a limited common element. But be very careful. These limited common elements, according to the declaration of some condominiums, can be conveyed separately from the unit. For instance, many condominiums don’t have enough storage areas or boat slips to go around. So the documents provide that they may be conveyed separately from a unit. Because of that, one unit owner may have several boat slips, or none.

I have recently been requested to convey the title to a parking space within a multi-level condominium. As we checked the title to the unit, we found that the unit had been conveyed by deed which described the unit and its limited common elements. But before that deed had been conveyed, the parking space was conveyed by separate assignment to another purchaser. For that reason, even though it appeared from the record that the owner of the specific unit also owned the parking space, no one really intended that. Fortunately, everyone agreed that the owner of the unit had no intention to take title to that extra parking space and he signed an assignment to correct the record.

The moral of that story is that the conveyance of these limited common elements has to be treated with all the care and formality of the conveyance of real property. Even though they may not have the value of the whole unit, they are just as much trouble for a title examiner and can be important to the enjoyment of the unit by its owners. The association may also be expected to treat the ownership of these limited common elements with as much formality as it treats the unit. The Association will be expected to keep a record of limited common area owners exactly as it keeps record of the ownership of units. If limited common areas are to be conveyed separate from units, their conveyance should be recorded in the public records exactly like a deed.