The Declaration sets the rules that owners must abide by. These rules include establishment of monthly maintenance amounts, limitations on animals and pets in a unit, parking restrictions, rental of units, Annual Meeting, election of a Board of Directors and other issues associated with condominium life.
If you have a large dog, the Rules may limit the weight of any animal. If you have a 70 pound Shepard and the rules provide the maximum weight is 30 pounds, then you may want to look for another condo.
If you intend to rent the condo to a tenant, the Rules may limit the number of units that may be rented at any one time. If the maximum number of rental units has been reached, then you may have to wait prior to renting your unit.
If you fail to timely pay the monthly maintenance fee, then you could incur interest and penalties for late payment. If the Association files a lawsuit to collect, then you may be liable for the attorney fees and costs incurred by the Association. The Association may file a lien on the condo until the amount is paid.
If the building has balconies and you like to grill out, then check the rules. Is charcoal permitted? Is propane permitted? Can you park your bike on the balcony? Can you hang your swimsuit and towel on the balcony railings to dry? If you are on the Board and there are violations, then the rules must be enforced in a uniform manner.
Periodically, updates and improvements need to be made to Common Elements, such as the roof, exterior of the building, interior hallways, windows, doors leading into the unit, balconies, parking areas, swimming pool, fitness center, etc. The Common Elements are for the use, enjoyment, and benefit of all owners. In general, repair and maintenance expenses for areas that are outside of a unit or generally available to be used by all owner are the responsibility of the Association. In general, repair and maintenance of areas that are inside the unit or only accessible by one unit are the responsibility of the unit owner. However, the Declaration should be carefully reviewed to confirm who is responsible. In some cases, the Declaration may provide that repair and maintenance for improvements such as windows or balconies that are accessible by a unit may still be the responsibility of the Association.
A portion of each monthly assessment should be allocated to the Reserve Account, which is generally used for repair and maintenance of Common Elements. If repairs and maintenance are needed, then the Board may allocate funds from the Reserve Account to pay for the repair and/or maintenance. If there are insufficient funds, then a Special Assessment may be needed to fund the expense. The Declaration should be reviewed to determine whether the Special Assessment may be imposed by the Board at its discretion or whether there must be approval by a certain percentage of the Owners.
If you purchase a condominium, then go to the Board meetings! Consider running for the Board. Attend events! You want to meet your neighbors and become familiar with them. Knowing your neighbors will make it easier to reach a resolution that is satisfactory to everyone if issues ever arise.