A limited common element is part of a condominium that is owned by a homeowners association and used by at least one condo-unit occupant. Importantly, not all occupants may use these areas.
Learn how limited common elements affect condo ownership, who’s responsible to maintain these areas, how they differ from regular common elements, and more.
Definition and Examples of Limited Common Elements
A limited common element is a term related to condo ownership that refers to areas used exclusively by one or more owners, but not the entire community. It’s a subset of the umbrella term “common elements,” which refers to any public areas shared by all residents of a condo association.
- Alternate definition: A limited common element refers to a portion of a condominium’s common elements. It is allocated in the condo declaration, the legal document that establishes condo ownership and property rules.
Limited common elements can vary, but they always will be listed in the condo declaration. Examples include balconies, parking spaces, porches, patios, or even exterior doors and windows.
So, for example, all residents with units on the second and higher floors of a condo building may share the limited common element of balconies, while the ground-floor units might share a patio area. Or an owner might have their own porch listed as a limited common element because it’s outside the unit but also exclusive to that resident.
Another example might be related to parking for the condo. If a parking lot or garage is a common element, that means it is a general parking area that can be used by all the residents. But if it is designated as a limited common element in the declaration, each unit owner may have at least one assigned space. That space likely will transfer with ownership of the condo to a new owner.
How Limited Common Elements Work
Listing the limited common elements in the condo declaration is critical. This way, everyone is clear on who owns what and which party or parties are responsible for maintenance.
Areas designated as limited common elements belong to the homeowner association, but they can be used by one or more condo-unit owners (depending on how they are situated).
Changes to limited common elements can only be made through an amendment to the declaration. This may sometimes involve transferring or reapportioning areas between different unit owners.
Common Element vs. Limited Common Element
|Common Element||Limited Common Element|
|All areas outside of the condo units||A restricted area used exclusively by one or more, but not all, residents or tenants|
|Shared by all||Used only by one or more resident|
|Equally shared||Not always equally shared|
|Examples: a community pool, tennis court, or clubhouse||Examples: a porch, balcony, or patio used by one or just a few units|
|Condo association is responsible for all upkeep and care||Condo association usually maintains these areas, unless otherwise specified in the declaration|
What They Mean for Condo Buyers
Understanding limited common elements (as well as common elements) is important because, as part of your condo declaration, they can come into play in several ways. One may be limitations on the types of cosmetic changes that an owner is allowed to make.
For instance, if a patio area is a limited common element, the unit owner probably will not be allowed to remove grass and add pavers because they don’t own that area. Or if an electric-vehicle owner wants to install a charging station, that option may be modified or prohibited in a limited common element area.
An aspect of limited common elements to be aware of as a condo buyer or owner is responsible for the upkeep and paying for repairs. Typically, the homeowners association will handle things like repairing cracks, painting, or keeping grass trimmed. However, that’s not always set in stone.
You must look carefully at the condo declaration for your building, as it might shift a portion of duties tied to limited common elements to the unit owner(s). For example, the declaration may say that maintenance costs will be paid by those using the limited common elements. Understanding what that entails can help you avoid getting a surprise bill.
Ultimately, having clearly defined limited common elements can help condo owners and associations avoid confusion, disputes, or even lawsuits.
- Limited common elements are an important consideration when purchasing a condominium unit because they define areas owned by the condo association but used or shared by some of the occupants. Examples include porches, balconies, and patios.
- Unlike regular common elements, limited common elements are not shared by the entire community. They might only pertain to one owner or a few that are in close proximity.
- The limited common elements will be clearly listed and defined in your condo declaration, so look over that document carefully to identify them. Limitations and maintenance duties for your condo’s limited common elements will also be stipulated.